536 rue Duluth | Montreal
Metro - Sherbrooke (then a short walk)
That's a weird name for a restaurant, "The Foot of the Pig".
I assure you that I will not be dining on a pig foot tonight. Au Pied de Cochon is a very popular, hustle bustle type of place which you will find recommended in all the guidebooks and online forums. . I arrived tonight at almost 9pm so the place is packed with people dining on seafood, game and, of course, pig.
The atmosphere is simple... big mirrors, the infamous bistro style globe lamps, wood floors and wood tables with black bistro chairs. No table cloths, no sharply dressed waiters or pampering hostesses.
As I look around I see people with triple tiered plateaus massed full with assorted seafoods. That's a lot of seafood this far away from the Atlantic! I also think that the "plateau" costs somewhere around $50 to $140!
This is NOT a relaxing place. It's loud, people are rushing around and the hectic kitchen is right in a front of me. Tonight I am wedged in at the counter right in front of the tiny kitchen. How exciting is that? Well, I guess it's not for the "faint of heart" and would make you think twice about going into the restaurant business. Be careful not to watch too closely.
For my starter I've kept it simple, an endive salad with blue cheese, apples and walnuts (C$8.50). This is sort of a wet dressed salad and the serving is huge. The plate is filled with greens, lots of blue cheese, walnuts and shredded endive. The serving is huge and everything tastes great. Oh, some of the greens are being cut right from a growers flat in front of me and used right in the salad. Now that's fresh!
For my main course I ordered the venison steak with, guess what, frites (C$18). I like fries as much as the next person but it getting to be a bit much. Well, regardless, having "cerf" is always a treat since it's difficult (and expensive) to get at home. Although this wasn't the most refined dish I ever had, it was very tasty. The venison was served medium rare and topped with tons of sauteed onions and mushrooms. The meat was very tender and flavorful. If you never tried venison before this would be a good place to start. It's really not bad, it tastes like a rich cut of beef.
The frites were served in a big paper cone alonside my deer steak. I have to say, sorry but these were the worst I have had in Montreal. They were wet, mushy and greasy. But one plus, they were served with garlic aioli.
Along with my meal I had 2 glasses of French Shirah red wine which was pretty good. I was actually impressed that it was served in the proper glass and I was offered a taste before the glass was poured. Unfortunately at C$9 a glass it was no value and drove up my entire bill.
(Richard, you're on vacation...)
Between courses I got into a conversation with the people sitting around me and after expressing my love for French food thay said I came to the right place but highly recommend that I also try "Le Petit Extra". I think that's my lunch or dinner stop for today! I am now on my 3 meal countdown before I go home.
My counter partner told me that she has a sweet tooth and usually orders "sugar pie" for dessert at Au Pied de Cochon. I never heard of this but I think it's a Canadian thing. Unfortunately the sugar pie is a huge serving meant for 2 people. After realizing this she tells me I must get the "Pouding Chomeur" (C$7). She explains that the meaning is somewhat of a poormans pudding or pudding of the unemployed. My new counter friend also told me that this is the specialty dessert at Au Pied de Cochon and you won't find this anywhere else in Montreal.
I have never heard of pouding chomeur so I decide to give it a try. When this arrives it is obvious, this is sticky toffee pudding Canadian style. How do the make it Canadian? With maple syrup of course! The dessert is a piece of very fluffy cake topped with a mixture of cream and maple syrup, then baked at a high temperature until golden and bubbly. Wow! This is a sugar rush. As my counter mates watched the waitress also joined in to watch me eat it and wait for my approval. This was so sweet my teeth ached from all the sugar. Boy was it delicious. When they asked me how it was I said that this was "Canada in a bowl". It was cakey, gooey and packed with maple syrup flavor.
With the price of maple syrup, I doubt an unemployed person would be eating this!
There was a very large man sitting next to me who had already consumed his creme brulee dessert and when he saw mine he ordered it too. Dude, lay off the desserts! The waitress told him, who cares you're on holiday and besides this isn't a "low fat" restaurant!
Au Pied de Cochon is about as atmospheric as you can get. It's not the kind of place to visit if you want a romantic meal. It's the type of place you come to for good times, good friends and delicious food.
My total bill tonight including 2 glasses of wine @ C$9 each was C$59.24 (without tip). That's US$48 or $40 without wine.
For service they get a dismal 1 heart or maybe 3 hearts. Boy they are slow but the staff all seem to enjoy their job and are ever so friendly. For atmosphere I would say they are either 1 heart or 5 hearts depending on how you look at it because if you sit at the counter it quite a show. For food I guess I will give them a solid 3 hearts (4 for the dessert).
Food here is not elegant or refined. It homestyle French comfort food, prepared and served as you would do it at home. No sprigs of parsley here!
I would say that Au Pied de Cochon should be on anyones list while visiting Montreal.
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