New Orleans, Louisiana – Cochon

Restaurant: Cochon
Cuisine: Southern/Soul/Cajun/American
Last visited: May 22, 2012
Location: New Orleans, LA (Warehouse District)
Address: 930 Tchoupitoulas St
Transit: St Charles at St Joseph
Where I stayed: Le Richelieu Hotel (Taxi recommended)
Price Range: $30-50+ ($15-25 mains)

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 5.5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Chefs Donald Link & Stephen Stryjewski
  • 2012 Outstanding Chef Nominee (James Beard Award)
  • “Top 10 Best”/award winning restaurant
  • Specializes in the pig
  • Gourmet Southern/Cajun cuisine
  • Neighbourhood restaurant
  • Good for groups/sharing
  • Small plates/mains
  • Local favourite/Very busy
  • Comfort/soul food
  • Some exotic meats
  • Charcuterie/butchery
  • Sister to Cochon Butchery
  • Sister to Herbsaint
  • “Moonshine” menu
  • Wine/Cocktails/beer/flights
  • Reservations recommended
  • Mon-Thurs 11 am – 10 pm
  • Fri-Sat 11 am – 11 pm
  • Closed Sunday

**Recommendations: Wood-Fired Oyster Roast, Fried Alligator, Louisiana Cochon, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, The Swinekiller, Catdaddy Moonshine

Oh crap. Why did Follow Me Foodie to New Orleans have to start at Cochon!? It set the benchmark really high for the rest of the trip. I had to come down from the hype before starting this post or I might have just given everything 5/6 or 6/6. I was probably most excited to try this restaurant out of my NOLA dining itinerary. I had high hopes going in and it still managed to exceed my expectations. It was definitely one of the gastronomical highlights of my New Orleans food trip.

The restaurant was nominated for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation in 2007, and was listed as “one of the top 3 restaurants that count” by the New York Times. Chef and co-owner Donald Link was already named Best Chef of the South in 2007 by the James Beard Awards, and was a nominee in this year’s James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef of the Year in the US. He has a few restaurants in New Orleans and I was lucky enough to be invited to try Cochon and his flagship restaurant Herbsaint. The restaurants are different styles, but I enjoyed Cochon even more because it featured New Orleans cuisine which I can’t really get anywhere else like this. It was love at first bite!

I think I almost fainted when I discovered that my seat was the best seat in the house (according to me at least). It was smack in front of the kitchen right in front of the forno oven. This is always my favourite spot, and when you’re dining alone it’s great entertainment. I already had an idea of what the restaurant served and pretty much every single thing on the 33 item menu sounded delicious to me. After serious consideration I still had at least 8 dishes I wanted to try. I just knew by looking at the menu that it was a place where you don’t leave just trying 1-2 things. For one it was called “Cochon” which implies a culinary celebration of the whole hog. It’s not a place where you mess around and it’s really all about the food.

Yes, I can hold my own and eat my fair share as you’ve seen numerous times, but sometimes I need a bit of teamwork especially with heavy and rich dishes like these. So I did something very random. I ended up asking the person next to me to help as a dining partner. You won’t do the place justice without having a feast. The portions weren’t huge and actually very fair in size, but they were indulgent and the experience will be better with a team. The liquor menu is just as intense so you should prepare for a cab because you’ll want to make a dent in the drink menu too.

Oh good lord, or I mean lard, this is a place that does the pig right. The forno oven is used for almost half the menu items and it pumps out pigs and seafood and not pizzas. If you like places like Pied Du Cochon in Montreal, Whole Hog Dinners at ReFuel or offal dinners at Campagnolo Roma in Vancouver, Charcut in Calgary, or Traif in Brooklyn, then this one is a no brainer… although pig brains are in the headcheese.

I love pork and eat the whole thing, so this was like Christmas without the family, but I thought about them in between my “omg!!! ___ would love this!!” moments. For some dishes I literally had to tap the random stranger next to me and say “you gotta try this!” That’s how into it I was! I made a couple people try things they would have never ordered and they loved it! I think that just topped off my whole experience!

Cochon is for the carnivore at heart although there are seafood options too. The portions were great and not obscenely huge, the prices were moderate, and most importantly the food was cooked with passion. However you can’t have this food everyday and it is a guilty indulgence, but I would be game for once a month.

It’s one of those restaurants I wish I could just pick up and bring to Vancouver. The menu is considered “adventurous”, but even for first timers they make the food approachable, yet still sophisticated and not dumbed down.

Out of 12 highly rated restaurants I tried in New Orleans, this was in my top 3 and I think I recommended it to every tourist and local I met after this day. I honestly loved it and it’s food and flavour that is unique to New Orleans. It takes a sophisticated approach to Southern cooking while keeping authentic Cajun flavours. The chef is one of the most acclaimed in the city, or even country, and the food didn’t seem mass produced despite the huge orders. Although this blog is more about my experience with food than it is a “review”, I would say Cochon is a must try in New Orleans and I would support the positive reviews it already has.

On the table:

**The Swinekiller5/6 (Excellent)

  • Hendrick’s Gin. Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters, limeade $9
  • I prefer gin to vodka, tequila, rum or whiskey based cocktails.
  • This was refreshing and perfectly balanced with sweet and sour and bitter notes at the end.
  • I think it was the limeade that did it. The lime juice was fresh and tart with simple syrup for sweetness, but it wasn’t dessert like.
  • It was an excellent way to welcome myself to New Orleans.
Complimentary Bread & Butter
  • Every restaurant I went to served complimentary hot and fresh out of the oven bread. Most of the time it was French bread, but here it was dinner rolls.
  • The outside was a bit dry, but the inside was soft and fluffy, but not buttery light like a brioche either.
  • I expected a place like this to serve cornbread, but the dinner rolls were good.
**Wood-Fired Oyster Roast6/6 (FMF Must Try!)
  • $11
  • I think I saw 5 orders going out every 10 minutes.
  • This was definitely a house favourite and they come straight from the forno oven piping hot!
  • A lot of NOLA restaurants seem to have their signature Wood-Fired Oyster Roasts and I could easily spend a month trying all of them.
  • 99% of the time I prefer raw oysters to cooked, but NOLA convinced me otherwise and I fell in love with their baked oysters.
  • The Gulf oysters were medium sized, plump and juicy and they were just cooked to perfection. They were silky smooth and not slimy.
  • I liked that they weren’t pre-breaded, fried or masked with cheese or breadcrumbs. I like those too, but I don’t want my oysters to rely on toppings.
  • Every bite was a juicy burst of oyster juice and they weren’t mushy, firm or gutsy and almost melted in my mouth.
  • I could taste lots of garlic, a good tang of fresh lemon juice and lemon zest which was almost like an aromatic salt for the oyster.
  • It was also spicy from Sriracha sauce, but not overpowering or hot so it never masked the oyster flavour.
  • There is a Vietnamese influence in some of the dishes and Sriracha sauce is much more flavourful than Tabasco sauce. I can’t wait until this restaurant starts playing with Korean Gochujang sauce.
  • The oysters were oozing flavour and they were super oily and buttery, but I couldn’t stop eating them.
  • I’ve shared 70 raw oysters with a friend before, but a plate of these is still a lot. However I wouldn’t want to share with more than 1 or 2 people.
  • These and Drago’s Seafood Restaurant had my favourite wood-fired oysters roasts in NOLA.
**Hog’s Headcheese Plate - 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)
  • $8 (Usually comes with 3 slices)
  • I loved this! I’m not really a fan of most headcheese and usually I find the texture too hard with gelatin, too gelatinous and unpleasantly crunchy, but this was amazing!
  • It was made with leftover pig parts, but I couldn’t taste the pig snout, ears, or feet. There were no crunchy or gelatinous textures.
  • The headcheese was almost the texture of cream and I’m not sure which parts of the pig it was made out of. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the head.
  • The headcheese was spreadable like a creamy pâté and there were chunks of pork butt in it too.
  • It was very light, soft and loosely packed together and the texture was very unexpected for headcheese.
  • I couldn’t taste or feel any added gelatin which made me happy.
  • It was almost like creamy meat butter and it was melting as I took a chunk off to spread on toasted bread.
  • It was well seasoned and it reminded me of foie gras due to the light texture, but rich flavour.
  • There was no liver, but it had that umami taste with fresh herbs, garlic, green onions and a nice acidity to cut the richness.
  • The grainy mustard and pickles were the perfect condiment to cut the fattiness of the headcheese.
  • Chef Donald Link is known for his boucherie, so I shouldn’t be too surprised at how perfect this was.
Crawfish Étouffée4/6 (Very good)
  • $12
  • I’ve had crawfish and Crawfish Étouffée in Texas, but this was the only one I had in New Orleans.
  • It’s a New Orleans staple that is found in Cajun and Creole cuisine.
  • It’s typically served with Crawfish, but can include any seafood.
  • There was a lot of tender crawfish which basically tasted like the love child of lobster and shrimp.
  • There was some ground pork or beef in it too and some green onions which is a must in all New Orleans’ soups and stews.
  • This was almost like a stew and the rice was firm and not mushy or overcooked from being mixed in.
  • The roux (butter + flour base) was a dark roux (typical of Cajun and not Creole style roux) and it was buttery and made with a crawfish stock base that I could taste.
  • The roux makes the difference and this one was excellent. It wass cooked for a long time to get that caramelized colour.
  • I could taste the seafood stock in the roux too and the white rice was cooked well and not wet or dry.
  • It was almost like a smoky seafood gravy and the only thing was that it wasn’t spicy and I would have liked some spice.
Braised Gizzards4/6 (Very good)
  • Roasted mushrooms, pickles, liver & bacon jus $12
  • I’m a fan of chicken and duck gizzards and they taste like dark meat chicken, but with a naturally chewy texture.
  • This is a very heavy and meaty dish and of course you need to love offal and strong meaty flavours to enjoy this.
  • It reminded me of a beef and kidney pie with the flaky puff pastry shells.
  • The liver was pungent as it normally is and served in large chunks, so you have to be a fan of pork liver to appreciate this.
  • The gizzards were perfectly cooked, big and plump. They’re not gelatinous, but bouncy.
  • The gizzards were braised in a rich meat gravy made with I think browned butter and bacon drippings. It was quite oily and saucy.
  • I think the gizzards or liver were sauteed with some pork lardons before serving because the lardons were fried almost crispy.
  • The roasted mushrooms had a similar texture to the gizzards so it was a nice play with ingredients. It also lightened up the dish a bit.
  • There were cubes of crunchy pickles which gave the dish some much needed acidity.
  • I would have loved some slices of pickled cucumber on the side as well because I still found it heavy.
  • As good as this was, it’s something I would want to share because it’s a lot.
**Fried Alligator6/6 (FMF Must Try!)
  • With chili garlic aioli $8
  • This was one of my favourite dishes from my whole NOLA trip. I’m still thinking about them.
  • I’ve tried grilled alligator in Thailand before and it tastes just like white meat chicken.
  • Alligator is another New Orleans protein and if you’ve never tried it, this is an easy way to warm up to it – deep fried.
  • It was battered and deep fried pieces of alligator generously coated with a chili garlic aioli and topped with onions and cilantro.
  • It tasted like spicy garlicky popcorn chicken and the batter was crunchy and I think seasoned with Cajun spices.
  • Despite being heavily dressed, they weren’t soggy and the chili mayo tasted like Srircha chili mayo so it was sweet, tangy and then spicy.
  • The alligator was perhaps slightly overcooked because it was a bit on the dry side and chewy. The alligators I’ve had were more tender than chicken.
  • The cilantro had no flavour and I wish it was chopped up a bit more, but I would still highly recommend ordering these.
  • It was pretty rich with all the sauce so I recommend sharing.
Crawfish Boulettes3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
  • With pickled jalapeño aioli $8
  • It came with 3 boulettes or “little balls” and the pickled jalapeño aioli was a nice change from the typical tartar sauce.
  • It was basically a croquette meets a crab and shrimp cake.
  • The crawfish was all mashed and mixed with celery, green peppers, onions, green onions, garlic, rice (?), herbs and Cajun like spices.
  • The inside was moist, flavourful and a bit mushy though and I almost forgot it was crawfish and wouldn’t have minded a stronger presence of it.
  • It was crunchy and quite heavily battered with a panko crust which also seemed seasoned with Cajun spices.
  • There was a nice back palate heat and lemony tang as well as a sour crunch from the housemade pickles in the aioli.
  • This was basically the seafood version of their deep fried boudin.
Smoked Tomato Braised Pork Cheeks4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
  • With creamy grits & pepper salad $11
  • Give me! I love pork cheeks and these were beautiful.
  • The dish was so rich and comforting, but well balanced with the spicy and sweet bell pepper salad.
  • The shaved salad was delicate and refreshing with a nice crunch and pickled flavour.
  • The pork cheeks were falling apart tender and moist and infused with smokey aroma.
  • The pieces melted in my mouth and sometimes pork cheek can be chewy and resistant, but these were slowly braised.
  • The collagen was broken down likely with the help of some acidity which I could still taste.
  • They came across as chunks of pork shoulder, but richer.
  • The creamy cheesy grits were in a buttery and spicy sweet chili sauce infused with pork drippings so it had good heat and savoury flavour.
  • The grits were really the background to the main focus which were the pork cheeks, but both were holding hands.
  • This is the definition of making a $3 plate taste $20 and it was only $11!
**Louisiana Cochon - 5.5/6 (Excellent!)
  • With turnips, cabbage & cracklins $23
  • This is the signature dish hence the name “Louisiana Cochon”.
  • If you like pulled pork, you’ll love this and it’s nothing too adventurous, but absolutely delicious!
  • It used to be served with peaches and to me that sounds even better, but this was still excellent.
  • This was comfort food, but it actually wasn’t that heavy or rich because there was no starch or heavy sauce.
  • It wasn’t a typical BBQ pulled pork with a thick BBQ sauce, but this was almost a brothy or soupy pulled pork.
  • It was almost like a Carolina pulled pork where the sauce is thin and poured over top of smoked pulled pork and absorbed in the meat that way.
  • Oddly enough the execution reminded me of Chinese style borscht from Hong Kong style cafes.
  • The roasted pork, cabbage and tomato broth were very reminiscent of Chinese borscht.
  • The broth seemed tomato, carrot, onion, celery and cabbage based.
  • The cabbage was Taiwanese Napa Cabbage which is a bit sweeter and more delicate in flavour and texture.
  • The turnips were pickled and tasted like crunchy yellow Japanese Oshinko carrots and I loved the acidity it brought to the dish.
  • The brothy sauce was almost like a vegetable soup, but it was also a bit oily from added pork juices.
  • The cracklin was crunchy and puffy and it was a nice touch to the pulled pork patty.
  • It was pork shoulder and/or pork butt and it was way less fatty than I expected.
  • It actually wasn’t that fatty at all, but it was still moist.
  • The pork shredded away beautifully and it was perhaps pan seared before being soaked in broth.
  • It wasn’t crispy, but would have been great with a crispy charred bark as a crust.
  • Due to the lack of fat it wasn’t actually as juicy as it could have been, but dipping the meat into the broth worked really well.
  • It was soft and eventually soppy pulled pork and it was slightly mushy but evenly flavoured with some chili flakes giving it a bit of heat.
  • It wasn’t sweet and there were no heavy spices and it really seemed more Asian influenced than Cajun or Louisiana to me.
  • It wasn’t the best pulled pork I’ve had in my life, but it was still excellent and the combination of ingredients and execution was well done.
Daily Special – Pork Belly3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
  • Braised pork belly with sweet corn and chanterelles. Around $25
  • This was the special of the day. I like pork belly, but I wasn’t really keen on the quality of pork belly here.
  • The pork belly was almost 90% fat and I like a better ratio of meat and fat. It was also a really big chunk and it was almost all white.
  • The Asian style pork bellies are usually all fat like this one, but I prefer at least 40% meat ratio (like the ones from Two Rivers Meats as a Vancouver reference).
  • The fat was all creamy, not gelatinous and perfectly braised and roasted, but I just couldn’t handle more than a few bites.
  • The crackling skin was pretty perfect though. I couldn’t even cut through it and it was thick, crunchy and golden brown.
  • The pork belly was “floating” on a classic brown butter sauce infused with sweet corn stock and strong sage flavour.
  • The sauce was made from likely the corn husks and it was great alone, but it wasn’t really doing anything for the pork belly.
  • There was likely some white wine and lemon juice in the sauce, but it seemed a bit disconnected and it was adding calories more so than flavour to the fatty meat.
  • The crunchy chanterelles were beautiful and I really do like all the ingredients, but I would have preferred a different sauce and more meat ratio on the pork belly.
Rabbit & Dumplings4/6 (Very good)
  • $21
  • I would consider this one of the “safe” dishes if you’re not too adventurous.
  • This was definitely comfort food and served hot from the forno oven.
  • It was hearty and I would want to share it because it is a bit repetitive.
  • I love rabbit and it tastes just like dark meat chicken, but a bit sweeter.
  • It was a twist on good old Southern “chicken and dumplings” and it tasted like chicken pot pie, but with rabbit.
  • It was basically a rabbit stew slow cooked in a very creamy, rich and thick gravy.
  • It was roux based with flour, browned butter and heavy cream, but the stew had depth and was likely made with good chicken stock too.
  • There were tender and moist pieces of rabbit and chunks of onions, celery and carrots, just like a chicken pot pie would be.
  • It was wonderfully savoury, but just saucier, thicker and richer than most chicken pot pies I’ve come across.
  • Southern dumplings are more or less just moist and fluffy biscuits.
  • It would have been great as cornbread, but they were almost light and airy cupcakes made with cake flour (?), but not sweet.
  • The dumplings were good dipped into the gravy like sauce, but I wish they had a crispy exterior because the dish could have used some texture.
Macaroni & Cheese Casserole4/6 (Very good)
  • $6
  • The mac and cheese is a shareable side and it’s one of the popular favourites.
  • If mac and cheese is on the menu I almost have to order it. I know I can make it at home, but I like trying restaurant versions.
  • It was piping hot and finished off in the forno oven with a crispy cheese crust.
  • It was very rich and creamy rather than stringy or ooey ooey. It was almost Alfredo like with the sauce.
  • The base with a bechamel sauce made with flour, butter and heavy cream and the sauce tasted more roux based than cheese based.
  • I would have loved it with more cheeses like Gruyère, edam and white cheddar, but I don’t think the cheeses got very gourmet or complex.
  • I would guess it was Parmesan and sharp white cheddar cheese, but I’m not sure.
  • It was a saucy mac and cheese and the noodles ended up getting very soft and overcooked from being finished off in the oven, but the flavour was still very good.

Desserts

Lemon Pepper Poundcake - 4/6 (Very good)

  • With blueberry jam swirled ice cream $8
  • I’ve had sweet blueberries before, but I’ve never had them as sweet as the ones I had in NOLA.
  • The blueberry jam was made with first of the season blueberries and it was honestly the best blueberry ice cream I’ve had to date. I hate saying “best”, but it was so far.
  • It wasn’t the ice cream, but the quality of blueberries that made the difference.
  • They were so ripe and naturally sweet and robust with big blueberry flavour.
  • It was the most intense tasting artisan blueberry ice cream and it wasn’t jam like at all.
  • The silky smooth lemon curd was a nice tart contrast and lemon and blueberries are a classic combination.
  • The lemony pound cake was moist and light and it was more like a lemony Angel food cake than it was a dry and rich pound cake.
  • I could taste a hint of pepper, but only when I looked for it, otherwise it was too mild.
  • I would have loved some thyme in the pound cake and it would have been great if the pound cake was served warm.
  • I wanted the lemon pepper to really stand out or even some ricotta whipped cream in the middle.
  • I think I was expecting the flavours to be more original, but it was still very good.
  • The blueberry ice cream was the best part and it tasted so natural and as if the blueberries were picked that morning.
**Pineapple Upside-Down Cake4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
  • Cornmeal cake with coconut-lime sorbet & dulce de leche $8
  • Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes seem to be really popular in NOLA and I’m not sure if it’s just now or always.
  • I loved the sound of the dessert, but I just really wish the coconut-lime sorbet was a coconut ice cream because the sorbet wasn’t working as well.
  • There was already acid from the pineapples and the sorbet just seemed too light, refreshing and citrusy for the dessert.
  • Coconut is so rich and creamy too so it plays so naturally as an ice cream over a sorbet.
  • The sorbet was more like a palate cleanser than a complement to the upside-down cake.
  • The cornmeal cake was fantastic though and it was served warm.
  • It was almost like a sweet corn bread with a crispy muffin top and the inside was moist and shortcake like with crispy cornmeal texture throughout.
  • The cake was brushed with a syrupy pineapple glaze, but it wasn’t soggy or soaked.
  • It wasn’t too sweet and the pineapples were naturally sweet and simply served fresh.
  • I was hoping to see a nice ring of pineapple baked into the cornmeal cake as well and I would have loved more baked pineapples to balance the fresh ones.
  • The dulce de leche was made in house and it wasn’t too sweet, but would have been even better with some vanilla bean seeds.
  • Another very good version of this I had was at Le Bremner in Montreal, see their Upside Down Pineapple Cake with Candied Celery.
Chocolate Cream Pie3/6 (Good)
  • With salted caramel & malted milk crumbles $8
  • It’s a typical Southern dessert so I had to try it.
  • The creative twist was the salted caramel components and crumbles.
  • The salted caramel thing is everywhere nowadays, but it doesn’t make it less good, it’s just common though.
  • It had a chocolate Oreo cookie like crumb crust and it was layered with a thick and creamy salted caramel/butterscotch/toffee, or salted dulche de leche like layer.
  • On top of that was a creamy milk chocolate cream layer and then last but not least was a very light and airy barely sweetened marshmallow foam.
  • The foam was stiff and sponge like. It was made from egg whites and it was like the meringue on a lemon meringue pie, but not creamy.
  • The meringue was moist and the bubbles would disappear in your mouth like an Aero bar.
  • I’m not sure if the meringue was meant to be spongy like it was, or if it was supposed to be more creamy.
  • There was a lack of sugar in the meringue which caused that texture, but I liked that it wasn’t very sweet because the rest was sweet enough.
  • It reminded me of a salty Skor Bar in creamy pie form and the salted caramel sauce it sat on was well caramelized and not as buttery as expected.
  • The malted milk crumbles were my favourite and it’s likely inspired by David Chang’s Momofuku Milk Bar dessert recipes.
  • The crumbs add crunchy texture like cookie crumbs would, but they taste even better.
  • They’re in between cookie crumbs and cake crumbs, but crunchy, sweet and salty.
  • I could taste the salty and sweet balance immediately, but overall the cream pie was on the more traditional side of things.
  • It was creamy and chocolaty as the title suggest, but I would have preferred the meringue creamy rather than spongy so that the whole thing would be melt in your mouth creamy.
  • I’m glad I tried it and it was good, but I preferred the other desserts.
**MoonshineCatdaddy5/6 (Excellent)
  • $7
  • When I saw “Moonshine” I hesitated. Moonshine is an illegal home made booze and it’s generally known to be crap from poor production.
  • This was the only restaurant I came across with a Moonshine menu with 12 Moonshine flavours.
  • They have flavours like Apple Pie, Blueberry, Cherry and even moonshine flights.
  • It was basically whiskey or “white whiskey” before it gets in a barrel and it tasted like cake batter flavoured vodka.
  • It was very sweet and caramel like with an almond accent and the end burns a bit with a slight minty flavour.
  • It was strong, but perfect as a dessert or digestif. Well it was likely too sweet as a digestif, but I liked it.
  • I would recommend trying one here because I don’t know where else you might get to try it.
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