Food Issue - Around the world: France
French fried folie at Au Pied de Cochon
So convincing is Au Pied de Cochon at imitating a Parisian tourist trap that, upon settling into your red-on-black Louis XV chair, your gracious server will likely ask, "And where are you visiting from?"
Located on the ground floor of the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead, this is the Epcot of French restaurants, Rococo on acid, an explosion of velvet drapes and black-and-white marble and overly bright chandeliers dripping with crystals of every imaginable hue. If you just go with it, Au Pied de Cochon can be great fun — a carte blanche to become the tacky American traveler you aren't. The restaurant is the first U.S. outpost of the famous Parisian brasserie of the same name, which opened in 1946 and literally hasn't closed its doors since. Like its namesake across the pond, Buckhead's Au Pied de Cochon is open 24 hours — the only high-end restaurant in Atlanta to attempt such an ambitious schedule.
One of Au Pied de Cochon's focal points (in addition to its extensive cognac menu) is its raw seafood sampler, with ingredients on resplendent display inside ornate glass cases filled with mounds of shimmering ice. Though you can go for the more modest sampler for a third of the price, the $59 option gives you not just oysters, crab claws and jumbo shrimp, but a half-lobster as well. Skip the cocktail sauce and double up on the champagne mignonette.
From there, the menu jumps from one French classic to the next: the requisite onion soup (delicious), escargots submerged in red wine and parsley (pretty good), braised lamb shank in a rosemary-spiked jus (spot-on).
Though a tad salty, the skate wing entrée is satisfyingly seared, the crunchy exterior giving way to silky, stringy flesh. Nearly the same description can be used to explain the menu's most adventurous dish — its signature roasted pig's trotter. To the uninitiated, that means pig's feet.
Service is charming and highly adept, particularly when it comes to pushing the pig's feet on wary diners. After you down a few drinks, your waiter will assure you, the trotters will absolutely delight. They are not to be confused — he swears — with the huge glass jars of pink pickled hooves found on the counters of convenience stores across the rural South.
For once, I love being treated like a dumb American.