On my last night in Montréal I crossed another goal off my bucket list. Dinner at Martin Picard's temple of sin, Au Pied de Cochon.
This restaurant is notoriously difficult to reserve. Rumour has it that they give preference to les Quebecois, but even so you have to phone weeks in advance and pray to god that someone returns your call. So on my last night I tried my luck at a solo walk-in 15 minutes after opening, fully expecting to be laughed out the door. But it worked! I was immediately seated at the rail and promptly ordered a cocktail. This was gonna be good.
The cooks were just finishing up their prep and readying themselves for the imminent onslaught of tickets as customers continued to pour in. This calm before chaos, as experienced in any busy restaurant, usually involves beer and dirty jokes. Cooks have a particular brand of dirty that usually goes over the heads of diners like you and I, but if you listen you might catch a nip of it. I certainly did, and one of them noticed this and promptly locked eyes with his frying pan for a solid ten minutes.
My server brought over a menu, which I briefly examined and was overwhelmed by the options. Blood pudding tart? Head cheese croquettes? Pickled tongue!? How is a girl to choose?! I am notoriously indecisive when it comes to pleasurable things.
So I just asked the kitchen to send me anything they wanted, as long as they were mindful that I was a tiny person and I had no one to share with. Nix the roasted pig's head, please! As lovely as that sounded, I fully intended to leave the restaurant alive at the end of the night.
At this point things were in full swing and the cooks were rocking it. I munched on house made bread and butter until the arrival of my first course, fresh and creamy sea urchin.
The house was packed and the rail was hot. A lady next to me fanned herself with the menu as her husband pleaded with the server for a proper candlelit two-top as refuge from the heat. Meanwhile the cooks were pounding out orders and one nearly dropped a boiling pot of oil on his legs. The service versus the served. Moments like these are what drawing is all about.
A young suit, slightly inebriated, chatted up the Sous in an attempt to impress his girlfriend with some witty banter. Right in the middle of service. Meanwhile, I buried my face in a plate of duck carpaccio.
The room was on fire. I dug into my tongue dish with reckless abandon. Someone rang a cowbell from across the kitchen and the line pushed harder than ever.
Then they brought out the big guns. A gleefully perverse plate of seared foie and lardons perched atop a pillow of buckwheat pancake, potatoes and cheddar drenched in maple syrup. They called it Plogue a Champlain. If you could encapsulate what it means to be Canadian into a single dish, this would be it. And that's where I tapped out, entirely satisfied.