Restaurant Editor Bill Addison is traveling the continent to chronicle what's happening in North America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in North America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
AU PIED DE COCHON
It's wise, particularly in warmer weather, to make Martin Picard's shrine to excess the first stop on an eating trip to Montreal. You need to show up hungry to the point of predatory. The city's dining scene thrives on fortifying food, but Au Pied de Cochon is the most unremitting—fantastically so.
Picard drew attention to Montreal anew when he opened PDC in 2001, reenergizing classic Quebecois protein bombs and fetishizing foie gras. He spurred the appearance of poutine on U.S. menus with his infamous version of fries covered with gravy, cheese curds, and a lobe of duck liver. But that's only the beginning at PDC. There are croquettes, tarts, a terrine, and a burger deifying foie gras; a pig's foot (the restaurant's namesake) is both stuffed and crowned with foie. The liver onslaught works best in dishes that emphasize contrast, like the lobster roll, garnished with hunks of foie, or the "canard en conserve" (duck in a can), another signature. A server opens the can at the table, dumping out a boiled brown mass whose unsightly form belies its deliciousness: Cabbage and a blast of balsamic vinegar slice through the richness of a half duck (boned) and a splatter of foie.