Call me jaded, but I don’t take many people’s word about restaurants. Not even Frank Bruni, whose recent compilation of his favorite (I can’t believe he means they’re the best) places to eat in the country, inspires in me one hundred percent confidence. But I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and follow in his footsteps. Tonight, I ate at No. 3, Cochon, the restaurant started by the same man, Donald Link, who’s the chef at Herbsaint. To sum up my reaction to my first meal, it was really good, reasonably price, and completely comfortable.
Committed to not completing any dish I ordered, I choose four courses.
- The first, fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly toast, was very good, but did not overwhelm me. The toasts and the jelly (flavored with watermelon?) were delectable. The liver would have been better, more flavorful if it hadn’t been fried in batter.
- For salad, I order grilled beets and pickled pig’s tongue salad. It turned out to be greens, with a few wedges of red beets that I couldn’t tell had been grilled, crumbled goat cheese, with small slices of pickled pig’s tonguer in a basil-garlic remoulade. Individually, each component was great, especially the tongue, but somehow it didn’t meld into ecstasy as I hoped. Still, I enjoyed it very much.
- For my main course, I ordered the cochon, which turned out to be pulled pork formed into a patty and fried, resting on a bed of sauteed cabbage, sprinkled with finely diced roast turnips, and accompanied by crackling. Great! And the smothered greens were delicious, slightly spicy, and deep.
- I ate half a slice of Lemon Debargue cake: moist, luscious, with a thin chocolate veneer.
So, this first meal of four courses and two glasses of Pio Cesare’s Dolcetto d’Alba came to $68 before tip. I have to admit I was favorably surprised when I saw the bill.
My neighbors were visiting NOLA from NYC. They had a copy of Frank Bruni’s article with them and ordered exactly what Bruni ate. I envied them the roast oysters. At the table behind me, the sous-chef was celebrating his birthday with family and friends. The servers carried out plate after plate, culminating in a huge platter of suckling roast piglet, boned and sliced.
The choice of this restaurant endears Frank Bruni to me. But I don’t know that I’d rank this as high on my list of favorite New Orleans restaurants as Lilette. Still, it’s pretty damn good.