Pigging out at Cochon
If I was to only visit one restaurant in New Orleans, it would be Cochon.
And if I had one regret from my recent trip to NOLA, it would be that we left Cochon to our last night.
You see, New Orleans is a food city. It’s impossible to visit and not eat well and copiously. And that we did. So much so that by our final dinner at Cochon, I was unable to try everything on the menu that I wanted to.
The Angelenos out there will understand when I say Cochon is like the Animal of the south. A celebration of not only the pig, but of all things meat. For the rest of you, Cochon is Chef Donald Link and Chef Stephen Stryjewski’s modern Cajun restaurant that has been the buzz of New Orleans in recent years. Housed in a converted warehouse in the Warehouse District, the contemporary-rustic space is all handcrafted wooden tables and chairs, exposed brick and concrete floors. It boasts an in-house boucherie, Cochon Butcher, that turns whole pigs into boudin, andouille, smoked bacon, and head cheese, and a wood burning oven turning out roasted oysters, beef brisket and suckling pig. Rounding out the produce are locally caught seafood and regional bourbons and beers.
Need more convincing? How about the 2007 James Beard award for Best Chef: South for Donald Link and Best New Restaurant nomination for Cochon? How about oyster and meat pie, fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly toast, wood-fired oyster roast, fried alligator with chili garlic aioli, fried boudin with pickled peppers, spicy grilled pork ribs with watermelon pickle, fried pigs ears with cane syrup mustard, paneed pork cheeks with pickled green tomatoes?
Choosing only five plates from the menu is like walking into a brothel with only 50 bucks. An exercise in frustration.
But a mouth watering frustration, nonetheless.
Choose we did. We started with the oyster and meat pie and the arugula salad with pumpkin calas, pecan and tasso bacon. The oyster and meat pie was more what I’d think of as a pasty than a pie but, semantics aside, it was good. The baked shell had a good crunch and the filling, although not strong on the flavor of oyster, was satisfyingly meaty. A great snack with a beer.
Which, luckily, I had on hand. Lazy Magnolia’s Indian Summer Spiced Ale. The orange and coriander notes were pronounced, making it quite a floral beer. I have to look out for this in LA. Delicious.
I conceded one dish to a salad for the girl. The aforementioned arugula salad with pumpkin calas, pecan and tasso bacon. I let her eat the arugula. I ate the deep fried pumpkin fritters. I like to compromise.
Next up was the fried alligator with chili garlic aioli. The last time I had alligator was in a Vietnamese restaurant and it was heavily sauced. I don’t think I’d ever had a true taste of alligator. I can report back that it tastes like chewy pork. Still, it’s hard to go wrong with even deep fried chewy pork with a sweet chili garlic sauce.
We followed that with, unsurprisingly, more deep fried meat. The fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly toast. Now, I’m a big fan of liver, mainly in the form of chicken livers, duck livers and, of course, foie gras. These rabbit livers were far more mild in taste than chicken or duck livers. Dressed with onion and cilantro and served on a thin slice of crispy pastry-like toast with a sweet pepper jelly, this was my favorite plate of the night. Again, a great interplay of fried crunch, gamey flavors and a sweet sauce.
We rounded out our small tasting with the paneed pork cheeks with pickled green tomatoes, apples and peas. Tender, as expected, and lightly breaded and pan fried. The pickled green tomatoes and apples added tartness, the peas and rice the cheeks sat on the starch. The most substantial of the small plates we ordered, and perhaps the most complete dish.
Unfortunately we left no room for dessert but the pineapple upside down cornmeal cake with coconut-lime sorbet and dulce de leche sounded tempting. Next time.
Besides, the night was still young (well, by New Orleans standards) and we had more adventures planned for our final night.
More local delicacies to sample.
Now, where was that 50 bucks?Cochon
930 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70195