Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cochon

You know, as often as we reference Cochon in our blog posts or write about all of the wonderful things going on at Butcher next door, we have rarely written about the food and/or dining experience at Donald Link's Eau du Pork. I guess today is as good a time as any.

I have eaten 3 meals at Cochon over the past 6 months, all of them excellent. I think that the first sentence from my notes on my most recent meal sums up in 4 words what would otherwise probably take me 2 hours to write:

"F*cking love this place."

If I could resist the rest of the menu, I could still leave happy from a meal consisting entirely of the complimentary lard rolls and a bottle of Seghesio Zinfandel. But I can't resist, so I usually compromise by only eating 3 lard rolls and drinking a half bottle of Seghesio. It's enough just self control to keep me going.


There are not many restaurants where I look at the menu and think, "I really want to order everything," but this thought crosses my mind every time I sit down for a meal at Cochon. Boudin balls are light, crisp on the outside, and almost creamy on the inside. Deep fat fried hogshead cheese (above) has a crunchy coating protecting a warm, spicy, gelatinous interior, with a rich cooling ravigote to match. Fried alligator are batter coated nuggets tossed in a fiery chili garlic aioli; put the dish in the center and try to avoid impaling each other with your fork tynes. A summertime special of paneed pork cheeks are paired with baked peanuts to create a buttery, nutty sauce, but it's the turnip and radish salad which brings the dish together with added freshness and crunch. The braised rib is a tender, boneless job, with a nice sweetness from diced beets. The spicy grilled ribs are bone sucking good, and the diced watermelon rind pickles almost taste like candy.

Usually I get so overwhelmed with the small plates and boucherie that by the time I end up ordering my entree, the waiter gives a concerned look and says, "Well, I already have you down for 8 small plates and there only two of you, so maybe hold off on the entree?" Try to pace yourself when ordering, because you do not want to miss out on the oven-roasted Gulf fish.  Served "Fisherman's style" as a skin on filet, the fish is simply dressed with salt, pepper, lemon, a little butter or oil, and a few slivers of garlic. When it's cooked perfectly, the flesh easily pulls from the skin in moist and tender sections. This single piece is alone worth $40 billion in oil spill cleanup costs, but I think BP should subsidize the $24 cost by adding a starch or a veg to the a la carte dish.

Desserts rotate with the season, and most diners fill up their tanks long before it comes time for this final course. But the the strong who survive till the end may be handsomely rewarded with what is (in my opinion) the best dessert in the city. It's a special called the "Peanut Butter Cup Pie" - a rich crumb crust, a thin layer of chocolate ganache on the bottom, and a whipped peanut butter mousse heaped on top.

There are only a few truly "Oh my God" moments in life.  This is one of them.

In the past 5 years, no New Orleans restaurant has received more national and local praise than Cochon. Some think that the accolades are unwarranted, especially the Dean of New Orleans restaurant critics:

"Cochon, even as good as it is, is certainly the most overrated restaurant in New Orleans.... Visitors to New Orleans walk away from Cochon satisfied, as do younger New Orleans diners. Both groups may be eating these dishes for the first times in their lives. Those of us who grew up with the stuff (this requires a certain age) might be less impressed. Beans and ham hocks are good, but can only be lifted so high."

Whether or not the food lives up to the hype is a matter of personal opinion, but regardless, I don't think Father Tom grew up eating poached yard egg with roasted mushrooms over a grit cake.

Cochon - Eagle

10 comments:

bloggle said...

Two lessons here:

1 - Those pictures are food porn.

2 - Tom Fitzmorris is a disassociated, bloated, archaic imbecile.

Feel free to edit, delete or agree.

Awren said...

There he goes again, Fitzy...shooting down new food ventures and restaurants with strange and ambitious ideas. Old Hat restaurants are good but BORING, and I think that, once again, if Fitzy wants to remain even remotely relevant, then he should learn to evolve his taste buds. Oh sorry, too late for that though.

On the subject of Cochon, I've been to the Butcher next door on numerous occasions, but have yet to try out Link's real deal. Might have to go over Winter Break...

-Awren (@HotFootMcCook)

Rene said...

Hot Foot Awren,

A few days ago you were asking about futbol pubs. The one I am most familiar with is Finn McCools. Have also watched some World Cup games at Mid City Yacht Club as well. Anyone else help this lad?

candice said...

I've been to cochon perhaps 3 times in the past year or two. It has had it's issues-mostly in service, but one serious time in food. We must always pick the wrong night.

I want to love the place, but I've pretty much decided to stick to Herbsaint and Butcher at this point.

cathy said...

Sending love right back at ya' dahlin! Share the rest of the bottle of zin with the next table or bring it home!
Funny you should talk pork and Seghesio today as we are in the winery kitchen making about 500 lbs of Grandma's sausage recipe. Wish Donald Link were here.

Anonymous said...

thank god someone else has decided to talk out about fitzy, or as i like to call him...grouper head. i mean that guys neck just doesnt end. its food writers like him that hold the city back. Cochon, along with Boucherie, and Butcher, cook some of the most progressive and contemporary food around. Look at whats happening in Atlanta, Birmingham, Charleston, and other spots in the south, Cochon is right alongside. to say its overrated is short sided and uninformed. That being said i dont think that they are above critique, but what restaurant isnt. Until we as a city move forward away from living in the past we will continue to wallow in our apathy.

Tom said...

Well, it's another prejudice revealed against people who've managed to live and work for a long time, or ageism, as I've heard it called.

All because you disagree with me about one restaurant, I get this?

Me hold the city's cuisine back? By publishing the only list in town of every restaurant open, since Katrina? And a full restaurant review every single day, maintaining 425 of them on line all the time?

I don't give new places a chance?Here is a list of all my current five-star-rated restaurants, and how long they've been here:

MiLa--two years
Le Foret--one year
Stella!--nine years
August--nine years
Emeril's--20 years
Commander's Palace--121 years
Pelican Club--20 years

By the way, I did eat yard eggs when I was a kid. My aunt raised chickens. I still eat yard eggs, from the lady across the street. I also eat wild mushrooms from the woods next to my house, for over 20 years. Grits cakes? Only when my mother got too busy with my little sisters and let the stuff tighten up too much. (By the way, you can't have a grit cake. You need more than one.)

Quit disdaining people because of their age. I celebrate your discovering food that's new to you, and wish you many more such discoveries. But for me what Cochon does is neither novel nor especially dazzling.

Tastefully yours,
Tom Fitzmorris

Damn True said...

My wife and I are big fans of Cochon as well. As Californian's though we don't get to visit nearly often enough. Mentioned it in a blog post of my own here: http://thedamntrueexperiment.blogspot.com/2010/12/truth-about-new-orleans.html

Anonymous said...

No Tom, it's just because you are a smug douche.

Anonymous said...

Cochon is French for Tom Fitzmorris.