Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Review: Cochon

It's all in a name, and Cochon means "pig". What comes to mind: earthy, substantial, intelligent, playful, perhaps a bit raunchy, and perhaps unexpectedly, noble. I'd say these all apply to the restaurant as well.

Cochon is a relatively small BYO in the space at Passyunk & Catherine that used to house the stealth pastry shop called Sud. The interior is simple, with a pretty small open kitchen and just two waiters to handle the dozen or so tables. (It's also a bit dark this time of year, which explains the lack of pictures in this post.) This was our second visit, and we were part of a somewhat rowdy party of eight celebrating our friend J's 35th birthday.

The menu is just the right size: seven or eight appetizers and the same number of mains. In addition, they're now offering a four-course prix fixe menu that for our visit consisted of a squash soup, salad Lyonnaise, Kobe beef tips, and a chocolate orange torte. One of our companions went for that, but the rest of us took the a-la-carte route.

My appetizer was escargot, served out of the shell and matched with parsley butter, tomato, and addictively crispy pancetta. L went for the arugula salad which sported a fantastically orangey vinaigrette. Other highlights from around the table were the whole-grain mustard that accompanied the house-made pâté, and the fried chicken livers with a sweet raisin and balsamic glaze.

For her entree, L once again went for Cochon's signature dish, which is braised pork shoulder served with lentils and roasted brussels sprouts and topped with a poached egg. L will not permit me to omit her opinion that the first time she had this, it was "so good it made you close your eyes when you ate it". This time, it was very good, but from my taste it fell a little short of the way it was made on our last visit: the pork seemed just a little dry and not quite as fall-apart tender. My entree was the incredibly moist and tender pan-roasted chicken breast, served with mushrooms, green beans, potatoes Dauphinoise and a slightly salty jus. Birthday boy J went for the lamb shank, which he declared he would have picked up and gnawed on, were it socially acceptable.

The only misstep during the second course was H's gnocchi. Apparently they got lost in the shuffle of our large party's order, so they didn't show up until what seemed like ten minutes after the rest of us got our entrees. Unfortunately, they were not really worth the wait: kind of grainy in texture and in a pretty unremarkable sauce. The lesson here is to stick with what Cochon does best: rustic, succulent, simply but expertly prepared meats. Next time, though, I would like to see how they fare with seafood, as there was a nice-looking trout dish on the menu.

Aside from an espresso for me and the torte that came with friend R's prix fixe meal, we skipped dessert, as we had a pumpkin pie L and I made waiting for us. You're probably better off doing the same, as on our last visit they were nothing to write home about aside from a very nice creme brulee.

It may be going out on a limb to say this having not been to all of the options, but I think that for the money, Cochon might be the best bistro in town. It's certainly worth a try and a repeat visit. You might say it represents some terrific, radiant, humble thig-a-majig of a pig.

Cochon on Urbanspoon

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