Now I Only Want Lobster That's Covered in Gold

Au Pied de Cochon.  The foot of the pig.  So, so much has been written about this landmark of the Montreal food scene, as well as its creator, Chef Martin Picard.  Most of this writing involves superlatives, and after our visit to the restaurant, I can understand why.

It was one of the richest meals I’ve ever eaten; one of the most unapologetically fat-laden and extravagant; undeniably the most outrageous display of meat and offal and foie gras-covered everything.  Au Pied de Cochon is loud, the service is friendly, and we had the excellent fortune of being seated at the bar - a front row seat to the open kitchen.  

This restaurant is meat.  It’s nose-to-tail.  A carnivore’s dream.  The chefs’ aprons are covered in hunters’ camouflage, and we wouldn’t have been all that surprised if Chef Picard had dragged a freshly-shot deer through the back door and dumped it in the kitchen.  

From our perch at the long wooden bar, we watched the organized chaos as each meal was prepared, including a pig’s head. 

The fully intact tête – golden brown and glazed – was laid on a platter of mashed “potatoes” (they were mostly just cream) and stabbed with a large, yellow-handled knife.  Next, the pig’s mouth was opened wide, and a whole steamed lobster was shoved into it.  A few more sides were added, and before it headed to the table, it received a hefty shake of shredded gold leaf.  

A gold-covered pig’s head with a lobster hanging out of its mouth.  I nearly shrieked as I watched this – such insane culinary entertainment.

Between the four of us, we dined on housemade patee; pancakes with roasted corn, mushroom ragout, and seared foie gras; foie gras poutine (when in Montreal); and the star of our show: Au Pied’s famous Duck in a Can.  It went as follows:

Our server arrived with a plate and cork serving platter, on which was a can opener, knife, and a sealed tin can. 

As she opened the can, she told us what was inside: half a duck, foie gras, gravy, buttered cabbage, roasted garlic, and thyme.  She then used the tip of the knife to pry the lid open, grabbed hold of the can, and in one dramatic and skillful movement, emptied its contents onto a plate of mashed potatoes.

This was the first (and I imagine the last) time I’ll ever see this at a restaurant.  It was a show, and we were as happy to watch it as we were to eat every braised and duck fat-rich bite.  

Behind us, a table ordered one of the evening’s specials – risotto - which was cooked inside a halved wheel of Parmigiano, tableside. 

The partially hollowed out wheel acted like a giant bowl, and the dish gained more salty Parmigiano with each stir of the ladle.  Eventually, a very cheesy rice dish was presented to two very impressed ladies.

In addition to Au Pied de Cochon, Chef Picard has also opened Sugar Shack (Cabane à Sucre).  It's a rural, cabin-like restaurant named for Quebec's sugar shacks, where maple sap is collected each spring and turned into syrup.  The food is also crazy, and reservations are highly-coveted, so book ahead.  WAY ahead. 

If meat, cream, butter, and/or noise appeal to you, you should plan to visit Au Pied or Cabane à Sucre.  Just don't plan to do anything but sleep afterwards, and if you can, find some formal-looking stretchy pants.  Trust me on this one.