It’s sugar time. The PDC on Duluth Avenue may not be Mirabel’s cabin, but maple products are nevertheless very much in the spotlight, from cocktails to dessert to the famous “plogue à Champlain”.
Au Pied de Cochon’s contribution to Montreal’s culinary reputation is no secret. The late Anthony Bourdain said Chef Martin Picard’s restaurant, which opened in 2001, was one of his favorites in the world. This is one of the reasons why, for several years, the majority of the clientele has come from all over the world – “80% tourists”, estimates the young chef Michael Picard, nephew of Martin.
Do Quebecers, and Montrealers in particular, still have an interest in attending this institution? Certainly ! Local customers are always welcome, whether to feast or take a quick seat at the bar with a glass of wine and a dish of the day.
When Martin Picard opened Au Pied de Cochon, with his right-hand man Marc Beaudin, he had just arrived from the Club des Pins, a fine, mostly Provençal restaurant on Avenue Laurier Ouest. As well say that he made a 180 degree turn, abandoning the song of the cicadas to practice a cuisine closer to his roots.
“Is there a trend? wrote the late Françoise Kayler, food critic at La Presse, in her review of the year 2001. We talk less about gastronomy, these days, than about culinary culture and, in everything, we refer to the terroir. Without digging deep, staying only on the surface of the table, some clues suggest that the climate may be changing. He is warming up. »
For many years, it was Emily Homsy (now co-owner of Bar St-Denis) who led the kitchens of the urban “Pied”. When he left seven years ago, Michael Picard ascended to the leadership. He was only 23 years old. Respectful of the family heritage, he bows to the great immutable classics while making his own the proposals of the day, according to the arrivals.
There was no question of disembarking at Pied de Cochon after a very long hiatus to eat salad! (That said, the one with endives, goat cheese, pear and walnuts is exquisite.) It was an early Saturday night and we were ready to attack – at four – a number of classics.
But first, a little aperitif. A glass of cider, perhaps? The house produces its own, using fruit from the Mirabel orchard and apples grown near the cider house. At my table, the cuvee Eating dandelion by the roots, a Russet apple juice dosed with dandelion honey from Anicet, is unanimous. It’s fresh, with a little bitterness that whets the appetite even more.
Unfortunately, we will have less success with the wines that evening. It’s not that the PDC map, powered by Alexandre Meilleur, is lacking in fine bottles. It fills eight pages of fine print, with nearly 500 references. Burgundy occupies a lot of space. Italian reds too. A great lover of sharp Riesling, the sommelier always puts one by the glass. The failure, that evening, is more in the communication. I ask to be surprised, giving many qualifiers and examples of favorite wines, but we are brought boring bottles. Damage.
Maybe it’s because Quebec has been beset by hundreds of equally “slutty” versions over the past 22 years, but the foie gras poutine seems almost anecdotal in 2023. Next, the two temakis filled with rice, duck tartare and matchstick potatoes act as a “freshness” and pleasant reminder that “Montreal gastronomy” is a matter of fusions and influences.
Afterwards, the main courses will all be stronger than each other. Just because you order the brook trout doesn’t mean your liver will be any better off! The very beautiful fish (whole), which comes from the Kenauk fish farm, is bathed in a rich white sorrel butter.
If you make it to dessert, well done! At our table, professionalism requires, we ordered the chômeur pudding and the pecan pie, with four forks. This section of the menu deserves some love. Of course, we are in the house of excess, but why not offer at least a more digestible… and refined sweetness.
At the end of the day, it’s better not to eat at Pied de Cochon every week – which would also risk breaking the bank, as our meal for four cost nearly $700 all-inclusive with two bottles of wine (under $100 each) and two glasses of cider. But you can certainly keep this emblematic table in your address book and be proud to bring the visit.