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May 28, 2013

Au Pied de Cochon

photo by P. Amand
Since Au Pied de Cochon is one of Montreal's most well known restaurants, you might be concerned that it could be overrun by tourists and surfing on its reputation. After all, why go to a place that is past its prime?

In fact, a lot of tourists do go there, but it is not what I would call a tourist trap, and Au Pied de Cochon is most definitely not past its prime.  The food and experience are worth the trip, whether or not you come from out of town to go there.

Reservations and arrival

Au Pied de Cochon is nearly always crowded, and reservations are essential.  Don't show up without one.

When you arrive, it is possible that the first impression may be negative.  Quite a few reviewers complain about the attitude of the hostess, and I have to agree that my own experience has been that getting past the front door is a little bit like running the gauntlet.

The fact of the matter is that the hostess has to deal with hoards of sometimes demanding people night after night and your interaction with her will likely be very short.  My best advice is to try to have some sympathy and to approach the hostess stand exactly on time with your entire party present.

Food

Au Pied de Cochon is a great place to dine with friends.  The food is not exactly healthy or full of vegetables.  The menu focuses on foie gras and pork and is generally not shy on fat or salt.  While the dishes are delicious, they tend to be somewhat one-note, so sharing is the way to go.  Prices are reasonable for what is offered, and the bill can easily be split up for groups.  The restaurant's point of sale system can even handle assigning fractions of individual dishes to different checks.
 
On my most recent visit, we had four people in our party.  We started with the marinated herring, served on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes and accompanied by pickled onion and sour cream, and the tomato tartlet, one of the few vegetarian dishes on the menu.

photo by P. Amand

photo by P. Amand

The herring and tomato tartlet provided a refreshing way to ease into the meal, which only increased in richness as the evening went on.  The bison tongue in tarragon sauce, tender and well-balanced in flavor, was a favorite of the table and was polished off almost immediately.

photo by P. Amand

We also ordered the PDC's Melting Pot.  Brimming with various meats set on mashed potatoes, it offered something for everyone.

photo by P. Amand

It would be a shame to go to Au Pied de Cochon and not order one of the stellar foie gras dishes.  This time we opted for the simplest one, called "tout nu", and it didn't disappoint.  The balsamic glaze complemented the generous portion of foie gras perfectly.  We wish that we had ordered two. 

photo by P. Amand

Since two people in our group were visiting Montreal for the first time, I felt obligated to introduce them to the wonders of poutine.  In addition to the famous foie gras poutine, Au Pied de Cochon serves up a perfectly acceptable regular (and less expensive) version as well.

photo by P. Amand

Already being in glutton mode, we decided to end the meal with a flourish and each ordered a maple syrup milkshake.  Although I was already full, my milkshake disappeared quickly.

photo by P. Amand

Ambiance

Au Pied de Cochon is not the type of place I would recommend for a quiet, romantic evening out.  It's vibrant and full of activity with a large open kitchen and friendly, professional staff.  I always feel like I am joining a party when I go there.  It's so casual that you have to pass behind the bar to reach the facilities.

Go have fun

Praise for Au Pied de Cochon is wide but not universal.  My feeling is that people who go in with the wrong expectations are the most likely to be disappointed.  If you are looking for highly refined, neatly plated food served in a formal atmosphere, go elsewhere.

Au Pied de Cochon may not look like an upscale dining experience, but don't let the rustic cuisine and laid-back atmosphere fool you.  Au Pied de Cochon provides an over the top gastronomic adventure.  Go with a group and let loose.  You'll have a good time and some great food.

Au Pied de Cochon
536 Duluth East
514-281-1114
Metro: Sherbrooke
Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Price: Allow $45 - $55 per person, including tax and tip.

Highlights: Any of the dishes with foie gras.  Fun atmosphere.

Au Pied de Cochon on Urbanspoon

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