With the dying vestiges of August, me and my buddy John found ourselves heading east for a gastronomic adventure in Montreal. This trip really was all about food, but for me it was just as much an Anthony Bourdain pilgrimage. We had three reservations, and the Airbnb we stayed at just happened to be above Liverpool House. The first night we dined at Foiegwa, the foie gras kingdom near Atwater Market. This was followed by a booking at Au Pied du Cuchon (or PDC for short) on night two, and Liverpool House on the final night (because despite trying we still couldn’t get into Joe Beef). We interspersed this with some cafes (is Olimpico really that good?). Look, we survived, but just barely.
Note that if you don’t like gluttony, I wouldn’t read any further. This was an exceptional experience which we don’t do that often. But if you are in Montreal, these restaurants offer a true rendition of what Quebec, and Canadian cuisine has to offer.
This was our first time at Foiegwa – I had wanted to go another time, but they only take bookings for two, and no one under 18. On the flip-side it is open until 2am. The restaurant is deceptively small, from outside it just looks large because of the wall of mirrors inside. It has a diner style menu, where foie gras can be added to *anything* for $9.95. The atmosphere is great, and the food is awesome. I had the zucchini flower stuffed with foie gras for an appetizer, a fried chicken for entree, and apple tarte tatin with vanilla creme fraîche for dessert.
Stuffed zucchini, fried chicken, and tarte tatin.
Our second night was at PDC. This was my third visit. Now Bourdain’s 2006 episode on No Reservations that introduced me to the food of Martin Picard. The first time my wife and I went we sat at the counter, watching the kitchen. Now PDC is not for the faint-of-heart, and what I mean by this is that portions are generous, and the food is rich. This is not a tasting-menu kind of place. We could tell there were a lot of newbies eating there, likely people who had watched No Reservations, or maybe The Layover. Many ordered the ubiquitous “Duck in a Can“, which is exactly what it sounds like, a duck breast cooked with foie gras, and various other vegetables in a can. It is served with a ceremonious can opening, and then turned upside down on a plate. From the minute it lands on the plate, you know full well that many a diner is overwhelmed. I have both Picard’s cookbooks – and likely would never even try to cook most of the food in them – better to leave that to the professionals.
The food is rich, but that means one has to think a little before ordering. Servers suggest ordering family style, and if your party is 3-4 people, I would (strongly) heed their advice. Dishes like the boudine and foie gras tart are *heavy*, and anything with the word “shank” in it will not be a light dish. John made the mistake of mishearing “pork shank and risotto” as lamb shank and was surprised when the dish arrived. To his credit he finished the pork shank (with a tiny bit of help). We shared two starters. The first was Cromesquis de Foie gras, which basically translates to croquettes of foie gras. These exploded as you bit into them. The second appetizer was Plogue a Champlain. This is basically a small buckwheat pancake, layered with melted cheese, roasted fingerling potatoes, bacon, all topped with a slab of seared foie gras and drizzled with maple syrup. Did I mention how awesome this was?
Cromesquis de Foie gras and Plogue a Champlain (top); Quenelle and Pork shank with risotto (bottom)
For the main I had the Quenelle made with sturgeon. It is hard to describe how tasty this was. John had the pork shank and risotto – a *whole* pork shank accompanied by an uber-rich cheese risotto. We were originally going to nix the dessert, but something refreshing was in order, so we both had the maple ice-cream and raspberry sorbet. Overall, you can’t fault the great service at PDC, and the food is exceptional. Some of their produce is now grown at the gardens at the Sugar Shack, so it truly is local food. If I would give some advice, I would say to avoid eating too much bread… don’t get me wrong, it’s phenomenal as well, but you don’t need to fill up on it. Secondly choose what you eat wisely… check to see what others have ordered, and check the dish sizes. For example the photo of the pork shank could lull you into a false sense of security – because it seems a reasonable size next to the fork – but the fork is a serving fork, with 3″ tines.