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Cochon

December 3, 2011 3 comments

Dining at Cochon began what would become a pig-themed evening, with a nightcap later on at the Blind Pig back in No Libs. It was a coincidence, I assure you. While I admit to intentions of pigging out, I by no means designed the evening to  be so porky. I swear I don’t have a pig fetish (though the Cochon owners may), and I don’t even like bacon much. But some good pig once in a while goes a long way.

The meal could have turned out quite nicely at the pleasant BYO bistro in Queens Village, as the pork tenderloin, pork belly, pork ribs, and pork-inspired wall were all well-received. But the pig-headed waiter regrettably took the theme too far, sucking most of the tenderness out of the meal. You might be inclined to call the assholishness authentic to the French culinary experience, but I was in Paris last May, and all the waiters I had there were quite friendly and even accommodating to our language-challenged group. This guy was much more of a dick.

I got on his bad side with the mere request of a different table than the one he’d selected. He opted for the table right in front of the door, prone to chilling drafts from outside, and adjacent to the electronic kiosk where the staff hovers and punches in the order. Considering there were only two other parties eating in the venue, I didn’t think it a big deal to ask for the two-person setup a few tables back. After I realized that table was the only one not set, I explained any of the other pre-set tables were fine, just not the one by the entrance. With attitude he insisted on the original one I wanted, and slowly went about preparing it as we stood awkwardly, almost to stubbornly demonstrate why he was disgusted in the first place. Pretty ridiculous, but ok, I thought it to be over.

Just SOME of the other tables the waiter could have chosen for us.

From my handpicked table I could now peer out onto one of Philly’s funky Passyunk Avenue “corners” if you can actually call them that. It could be perfect for people watching in the summer, but on a brisk autumn night it proved better for watching cars as they rolled from every which way through the jumbled intersection.

I finally got settled and delved in the menu and eventually the meat. The plates are robust, almost bullying you into testing your pig-eating meddle. It’s not the kind of fare for the faint of heart, and most dishes are wont to induce the undoing of buttons. My dining partner couldn’t help but lose her belt tableside, and I doubt she was the first to do so in that chair.

Would not be surprised if the ceramic dish was actually made of pig parts

The restaurant, named with the French word for pig, knows how to cook that animal. The pork, in each of its forms, was rich with flavor, straightforward and satisfying. Ironically, the delicate gnocchi appetizer stood out above all the animal fat, with its warm melted cheese countered nicely by the cool peas embedded within.

I was interested in some  more details of the restaurant’s concept and culinary influences, but not surprisingly, the waiter deflected my questions with a dismissive tone. Though unwilling to be chatty with me, he would then chat gregariously  with the staff in the open kitchen, audibly enough for me to become super informed of his plan to fix his bike. His distracting chatter basically said “I’m only a curt bastard when I talk to customers at my table.”

I laughed it off and enjoyed the rest of my food in the casual atmosphere which had something of a cinematic aura. The warm-colored walls are decorated with humorous throwback depictions of the pig, and the mosaic floor, left from the butcher shop that once occupied the space, recalled images from some of my favorite French films like Delicatessen and Amélie.

Don't leave without the belt which you will likely be forced to take off during a meal at Cochon

When I asked for an espresso to cap the meal, I was denied. So much for the European feel.  “I don’t have espresso,” the waiter uttered under his brown hipster ‘stache, as I stared at a gorgeous espresso machine across the room. I’d normally accept this, chalk it up to a legit reason like the machine being broken, but this guy had lost all his rights to the benefit of the doubt. Despite all of the inviting flavors of the food and decor, I felt such a desire to get out of there, and I left with a more bitter taste in my mouth than any espresso could have given me.

Naturally my comments on the food seem restrained by those on the staff, but that is indicative of the way the powerful dishes were overshadowed by the service. At least when I shared this experience with the person who recommended the place–a Cochon regular–he knew exactly which waiter I was talking about. It made me feel good that I wasn’t hallucinating his poor attitude. Apparently the entire staff is not comparable, according to my friend and to plenty of online reviews. With interest in new rotating menu items to try (the menu in person was not as it appears on the web site), I think I have a return trip in me. But others, who may get stuck with the French stereotype for a waiter may not be so forgiving.

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