Au Pied de CochonDecember 16, 2006
Sometimes, very rarely actually, a meal just transcends the plane of existence you think you a re living and you feel that you have seen god. OK, that might be a little much but you see where I am going with this. Last night I had such a meal. A meal so perfect in its simplicity and taste that even though I hadn’t planned on writing about it (I didn’t even bring my camera).
Perhaps it is a matter of circumstances, a beautiful series of events and spontaneity that brought me to this restaurant that made it even better. Circumstances are even bad if you think about it but it just happened. I guess my destiny was to eat there that night. That meal ruled the earth, and the rulers are Martin Picard and his staff at restaurant Pied de Cochon in Montreal (536 Duluth East, Montreal, 514-281-1114).
As I was coming home from work I had to do some purchases at this specific store that is the only one somewhat near my place selling the thing (not divulging what it is a Christmas gift).
Circumstance #1: Water main breaks in the train tunnel going to the store.
I have to make a decision fast, I decide to go out of the train early and take the bus to get to destination. I come out of the train station and it is insane:
Circumstance #2: There is a line across the block to take the bus and traffic is insane.
I am not going to waste any time with this crap. I am walking from here, its only 30-35 minutes away anyway. So I begin the walk. I get there do my little purchases and fill my sling bag full of goods. The bag is freaking heavy. I am hungry like hell. There is this cool café near by that I often go to so I decide to head there for a pint and a nice sandwich.
Circumstance #3: There is an office Christmas party in the café! Filled with people with ironic name tags!
I am getting out of there so fast. I am more and more hungry. There is sandwich shops, pizza places galore around but I just don’t feel like it. I am going home. I am barely 5 -10 minutes from the train station so might as well go home and make myself something good.
Circumstance #1 (repeat): Damn train line is -still- closed! They have not repaired the damn water main yet!.
Alright, I am walking home, some 35-40 minutes away. I am about to eat myself alive. Then I think, I am 3 blocks away from le Pied de Cochon. I am alone, it is early on a Friday night so I might be lucky and they might have a spot at the bar for me. I get in. I ask if they have some space. YES! They show me to the only chair at the bar wrapped in deer antlers. The bar is directly on the other side of the very open kitchen. While I am perusing the menu and calling a beer a number of the staff are right in front of me shooting the shit and peeling about 4 pounds of garlic. Martin Picard is walking around the place tasting everything and also shooting the proverbial shit. The atmosphere in this place is exactly what I am looking for: extremely laid back, yet deftly efficient and tons of fun. As I am waiting for my waiter to come back, one girl on the staff starts pouring little glasses of Champagne while the rest of the staff (I am asked to toast with them as they do the same with each other) is finishing up on their Mise-en-Place for the night.
I am ordering venison tartar for appetizer and a foie gras grilled cheese for my main grub. The kitchen is admittedly tiny, two large six burner stoves, one small (a foot and a half wide) flat top, one deep fryer and one warming drawer one one side and a second space with a wood burning oven and a couple of burners. seven people work on the main side and 3 on the wood oven.
My tartar arrives. A large portion of the beautiful meat is disposed as a large quenelle on the plate with a big slice of perfectly toasted bread and a simple mesclun salad with a mustard dressing. The tartar is the best tartar of my life, and I eat tartar all the time in restaurants and I make a few pretty awesome ones myself. The balance of flavour is incredible, the acidity is perfect, the capers are incredibly good, and the spice level is just where I like it, nor overpowering but has a good kick. Incredible.
My plate flies off a couple of minutes after I finished. The service is fast but I do not feel like I am rushed despite the fact that I am pretty sure I am the first of three people sitting in this chair for the night. I am reading while waiting for my grilled cheese and I call for another beer. I hear Mr Picard calling 180 covers tonight and all I can think is how are they going to do that in a kitchen as small as this. The staff don’t seem to alarmed by the warning and continue their work with incredible efficiancy.
The grilled cheese arrives. Now a fois gras grilled cheese is not something you see everyday, but Picard is known for the use of exceptional ingredients in a context that usually are not. I look at this and I have at least half a fois in there, the bread is dense doesn’t look heavy, the cheese is pouring on all sides. I am saying to myself: no way I can eat that with my hands, it’ll spill all over the place. So I start digging in. Apotheosis. The fois is barely cooked, slightly browned on the outside and a deep shade of pinkish-red inside. The cheese is a soft-ripened non-pasteurized cheese with a strong flavour (my guess is something like a Sir Laurier d’Arthabaska or something like that). The combination is incredible, the soft and delicate taste of the fois is counterbalanced with about as much fat but with a much stronger flavour of the cheese yet none of the two overpower the other. Balance. Two bites in I felt like a fatty high and it took me hours to come down. The same mesclun salad also was with the grilled cheese but I didn’t care.
That night wasn’t supposed to be good. I mean I enjoyed a meal alone at the bar of a good restaurant, this is not exactly the best way to enjoy a meal. I mean I would have preferred company but the meal just kicked so much ass, I don’t care at all. And it wasn’t my first time there either, not was it my first fois gras experience. I don’t know why it was so good but once again, I don’t care…
55$ tax and tip in with 2 pints of St-Ambroise Cream Ale.
Tunes: This warrants some rock n’ roll and some punk. Let’s go with The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed [DSD]and Turbonegro Apocalypse Dudes. If you don’t have those two albums, then you need some help. Do it.