Capital Cooking Contributor
I recently had the opportunity to visit New Orleans to enjoy its renowned Cajun food and live jazz music. A must stop for any foodie in this city is Cochon. Cochon is located in NOLA's Warehouse District and focuses its menu on traditional Cajun Southern dishes like boudin, wood-fired oysters and fried alligator Executive Chef Donald Link and Chef Stephen Stryjewski create their culinary masterpieces with locally sourced pork (hence the French namesake of the restaurant) and fresh seafood while using traditional cooking methods to create comforting, authentic Cajun flavors. Recently noted by Bon Appetit as one of the 20 Most Important Restaurants in America, Cochon is a dining experience in NOLA not to be missed.
We visited Cochon on a Monday evening with reservations (a must) at 8pm. While I realize it is tourist season in New Orleans, I was taken aback when I walked in. The restaurant was packed, the bar was overflowing, and there were people dining at tables outside in the low 60 degree weather. Clearly, everyone else in the city knew where to go to find good food.
The layout of the restaurant reminds you that you are in the Warehouse District of New Orleans -- high ceilings give way to light colored wood and brick walls, tables tightly organized in the space with an open kitchen in the back featuring a wood fire oven. Simple, clean and efficient, a definite contrast to other restaurants in the city. As soon as you enter the restaurant you are met with the aroma of succulent roasted pig and my tummy immediately grumbled for some food.
We were seated shortly after we arrived and perused the extensive bar menu featuring specialty cocktails, bourbons, and artisan beers (among other beverages). I opted for the Honeysuckle Rose Cocktail which consisted of Prosecco, honeysuckle vodka, orange bitters, and grapefruit juice. It was a fun cocktail with a sweet and fruity finish but it was too sweet for my tastes.
Determined to find my match, I ordered another cocktail -- this time, going with something that sound like it had more of an edge -- The Swinekiller. This cocktail was a light and bitter mix of gin, rhubarb bitters, and limeade and it was delicious, a perfect blend of the sour limeade and a hint of sweet from the rhubarb. An excellent cocktail.
Now it was time to get down to business and eat some food. To start, we ordered the fried boudin with pickled peppers. The boudin (which is generally meant to describe different types of sausage) was rolled with rice into little balls, fried until crispy, and served with stone ground mustard and the pickled peppers. The result was a dense and filling meat ball with a crunchy shell -- it was yummy.
We also tried the wood-fired oyster roast which was absolutely outstanding. The oysters were cooked to perfection and topped with a slightly spicy sauce that tasted of peppers and vinegar. They were delicious and the sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the oyster. I could have eaten another plate of these... they were that good.
For the main course, I ordered one of the specials -- the flounder with a beurre blanc grapefruit sauce over roasted cauliflower and beets. It was really hard for me to order the flounder at a restaurant called 'cochon' (which means 'pig' in French), but I was intrigued that flounder was offered as a special so I had to try it out.
OH MY! I have never had a flounder taste that good. It was flaky and light with a salt and pepper crust -- simple and delicious. The beurre blanc grapefruit sauce made the dish, it was the perfect balance of the bitter grapefruit with a smooth butter finish. Turns out, the Link Restaurant Group is opening a new seafood grill in April 2013 called Pêche. Given how wonderful my flounder tasted, I can only imagine what delicious items will be served at this new restaurant.
Cochon also offers a variety of different side dishes to accompany your meal. When I spied a macaroni and cheese casserole on the menu, I couldn't say no. Turns out, I'm glad I have zero willpower.
Cheesy, gooey and delicious, this macaroni and cheese casserole was the epitome of comfort food. Just look at that crusted top layer! I was in heaven, and I was ready to curl up in a ball and take a nap with the spoon in my hand. But... it was time for dessert.
We opted for the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake served with lime sorbet and dulce de leche. The cornmeal cake was spongy and sweet with fresh pineapple chunks, a great pairing with the sweet creme. To finish the meal, we enjoyed a shot of moonshine which had a slight vanilla and nutmeg flavoring. We were in the south after all...
It was the perfect way to end an outstanding meal at Cochon. It is a dining experience you must try if you are in NOLA -- excellent cocktails, superb oysters and Cajun cooking at its finest. I can't wait to head back down to try out their newest creation, Pêche!