I finally paid a long overdue visit to Cochon last week, along with a friendly pack of rabid food geeks. Between the number of people, the number of plates being passed rapid fire around the table and the social focus of the evening, there’s no way I could do the meal justice with a full restaurant profile. So I figured I’d just write up some basic impressions, post some pictures (which were tough in Cochon’s low light) and save a more focused look for another day.
As its name suggests, Cochon – French for “pig” – is not safe haven for vegetarians. It’s clearly a carnivore’s delight, focusing on robust, French bistro cuisine and occasionally venturing into the realms of offal and the unusual. One could safely say it’s stepped into the once local shoes of now defunct Pif even more clearly than has Pif’s reincarnation as Ansill Food & Wine.
Our appetites were kindled by a couple of surprises from the kitchen: a fried terrine and grilled pâté combo (at left) and fried frog legs.
The food at Cochon is not subtle. Flavors are not delicate. Portions are not dainty. Yet, aside from one slightly overcooked slice of pork belly, just about everything we ate last week was well executed, cooked to perfection and loaded with hardy, soulful flavor. Service was tight, casual and well paced, befitting the clean lines and open, easy feel of the room as well as the good-value menu. First courses are priced between $8-12 with mains all sitting in a narrow band between $20-24, very fair prices for the quality of cooking and ingredients as well as for the generous quantities being served.
First courses included (clockwise, from top left) fried oysters; frisée salad with blood sausages; sweetbreads; and seared scallops. There was another salad course, featuring pork belly and garlic sausages, but my photo stunk so you'll have to use your imagination.
A pair of Rieslings, the "Reserve" from New York State's Red Newt Cellars along with the "Tradition" (not pictured) of Alsace producer Domaine Barmès-Buecher, stole the show for the evening. As good as are Heidi Schröck's wines, her 1999 Cabernet rosé was definitely past it. The Faiveley was over-extracted and over-oaked and the Clos du Val just plain dull, while Latour's "Morgeot" lived to see another day.
Portion control may have been an issue for a less zealous crowd. Second courses included (clockwise, from top left): the veal chop special; baby rack of lamb; pork shoulder over lentils du Puy; and duck breast.
Non red meat eaters need not despair as the daily fish special – sea bass on our visit – was up to the standard set by the rest of the offerings.
Between the five of us, we ordered just about everything on the menu, enjoyed a couple of off-menu surprises and pulled a few corks. Based on the descriptions of the few options, sweets sounded like they might be a bit of an afterthought. I can’t say though, as we never made it to dessert. That too will have to wait for a more restrained (or hungrier) return visit, one I’ll be sure to make based on the quality of my first.
801 E. Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19147