One of the first things I did after Joann, Keith, Melissa and I decided to go to Montréal was call Au Pied de Cochon to make a dinner reservation. I mean, how is it even possible to resist a place whose name, once translated, means “The Pig’s Foot”?
APC’s space is long and narrow; we were seated at the very front. Melissa and I both sat facing Avenue Duluth, while Joann and Keith took in the view of the dining room… whose mirrored and wood-paneled walls apparently created an incredible sense of vertigo. I can’t speak to that, but I will say that, for some reason, the floor was treacherously slippery underfoot. I wasn’t even wearing heels, like Joann, but rather a pair of reliable and well-loved flats, and still I slid a bit. My natural clumsiness had nothing to do with it, I assure you.
I’m an absolute sucker for foie, and while APC’s menu boasts an entire section devoted to goose liver, the prices there start at $19.00 CAD and rocket up to $35.00 CAD; the one foie dish I was aching to try was the foie-stuffed pied de cochon, but $45.00 CAD was a bit more than I wanted to spend for dinner on this particular night. (Though it may appear otherwise, I actually do in fact take prices into consideration sometimes.) To satisfy our hankerings, Melissa and I both decided to get the foie gras cromesquis ($3.50 CAD) as our starter. The cromesquis is made from the foie terrine ($24.00 CAD for the dish); a small piece is breaded and deep-fried so that the terrine is liquefied inside the crunchy topping.
“You take it like a shooter,” our server explained to us. “Just pop it all at once.”
I’ve had similar items at WD-50 in New York and La Alqueria outside of Seville, but prior experience doesn’t take away any of the fun in something like the cromesquis. After I had placed my cube in my mouth, the pressure of my tongue against my soft palette made the foie’s breadcrumb walls cave — then the liquid foie swept through. The texture all but knocked me down; it was lavishly smooth, and utterly amazing.
I knew I’d be hard-pressed to find an entrée that could follow the cromesquis in intensity and in flavor, but I was determined to try. Keith and I decided to split the pot au feu ($75.00 CAD), which both the menu and our server described as being a dish for two. Regardless of any sort of dizziness that Keith might have been feeling, he saw our pot au feu coming our way from across the room. When it was finally placed in front of us, I thought there had been some sort of mistake. The platter was as long as my arm, and completely covered in enough food to feed the four of us: pork, venison, duck, lard, liver, an entire corn cob, a whole head of cabbage, a bouquet of leeks, and more root vegetables than I could count, all braised in black beer. It arrived with a pitcher of broth to pour over it all. I did my absolute best to try everything, but it was impossible. Keith made more of a dent than I did. Still, we had enough left over for another complete meal.
Before we knew the sheer quantity of food we were about to receive, we had also ordered the poutine ($7.00 CAD) to share. It’s a pretty traditional Québécois dish made of French fries covered with cheese curds and gravy; the APC version is perfect for saltaholics like me, since the gravy, along with the soft and melty curds, was almost unbearably salty. The word “almost” is the most important word in that previous sentence, since I couldn’t stop reaching past Melissa to grab handfuls of it.
Just as I couldn’t deny myself more and more poutine, I can’t deny that APC is most certainly on what could be called the city’s foodie trail. After all, Anthony Bourdain brought No Reservations there; the New York Times ran a recent feature on it and other Montréal eateries; Urban Spoon Montréal lists APC as its top restaurant; Montréal’s Yelp ranks APC second of its most popular spots. As a result, we were surrounded by, of all things, visiting Bostonians, and only one Canadian couple. Does the combination of acclaim and crowds make APC any less enjoyable a spot? No, you won’t be the first to discover APC, but who cares?
Au Pied de Cochon
536 Avenue Duluth Est
Montréal, QC H2L