There were two restaurants in Montreal I had always wanted to visit for a meal – Joe Beef and Au Pied de Cochon. Feeling like my body was ready for more foie gras in two nights than the previous 41 years of my life put together, I started with dinner at Joe Beef the night I arrived in Montreal.
Sadly, my wife wasn’t able to join me as we had planned as she was tending to our sick dog back on the east coast. With me having already moved out to Saskatoon, this was to be a catch-up weekend of some good meals in a city we both love. Without a dining companion, I saddled up to the bar, still eager to sample a few dishes. And what a selection there was. I stared at the evening’s menu on the chalkboard for some time before finally deciding on a plan.
Difficult choices aside, it wasn’t all that hard to commit to at least one pork dish at Joe Beef. The owners are renowned for their delicious pork creations, and this terrine of pork with foie gras and toasted brioche was superb.
Having never tried squab before, that option leapt off the menu for me. It was really delicious. Perfectly cooked, the dark meat was succulent and the sauce of reduced stock with a tart, almost cranberry-like berry was a wonderful accompaniment. Another healthy dollop of foie gras melted into the squab and sauce to add a creamy richness and take away about 4 months of my life expectancy in a way I was ok with as I enjoyed my meal.
Night two in Montreal, and I was off to Au Pied de Cochon. The restaurant itself was jammed, boisterous and filled with the spirit of a laid back neighbourhood joint – a neighbourhood joint that just happens to be one of the best restaurants in Canada. I loved this place. It was on one hand casual in its decor and service, yet offered incredible comfort food that was unmistakably Québecois.
I had a little easier time ordering here than at Joe Beef because I had already settled on my main course long before even arriving in Montreal. With some struggle, I finally settled on the smoked tongue as a starter. Served on toasted baguette with oil, mustard and herbs, it was delicate, rich and just a touch gamey (in a very good way!).
I knew I was ordering way too much food on the night, but I had to try at least a few bites of their take on poutine. I should mention that I was in Montreal to attend a medical education conference, so was happy to be surrounded by physicians after the dietary war I was waging on my body these two days. Hand cut fries, a deep, rich brown gravy and the squeakiest cheese curds I’ve tasted made for a top end poutine.
Before I set foot on the plane to Montreal, Au Pied de Cochon’s “duck in a can” was on my mind. The name alone is intriguing. It’s really the signature dish of the restaurant. They take half a small duck, 100g of foie gras (because, why not?), some duck gravy, a cabbage salad mix, a half a head of roasted garlic and some thyme – jam all of that into a can – then cook it all in that can. A waiter arrives with a large spoon and a can opener, scoops all of that deliciousness onto a warmed plate, and voila! I can’t begin to describe how decadently delicious this was. This dish lived up to all my expectations.
Though I was short my dining companion on this trip, the saving grace might be that she now wants to return to Montreal with me to visit these two restaurants. I think we’ll be making that happen very, very soon.