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Feb 27, 2008 01:14 PM

Couchon one of Frank Bruni's top 10 new "Restaurants that Count"

For those who are not familiar with him, Frank Bruni is the restaurant critic for the New York Times. We won't know for a few weeks where he ranks Couchon, but since he covers numbers 9 and 10 today, we know it's one of the top 8 new restaurants nationwide "that counts." Luke was a contender but did not make the top 10.

Here's a link to the article:

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  1. Wow. I think it's good and eat there quite often, but I had no idea it would rank that high on any scale. But then again, making it into the top ten out of a total of 15 restaurants isn't that great either.

    Glad for Link and Co. though. Kudos.

    10 Replies
    1. re: N.O.Food

      But 15 of the most acclaimed, ambitious, proclamied and intriguing restaurants, not just random places. This is a great thing for cochon and a great honor and well deserved.

      1. re: malenky

        I agree, and I didn't mean for my original post to seem so harsh. I'm really glad for those guys, and I really like Cochon.

        I guess being from louisiana, I don't find what they do - updated cajun fare - that exciting. Yes, they are fairly unique in New Orleans - nobody else is doing what they're doing. The problem is, there's tons of places around S. Louisiana that have been doing for decades the things Cochon is doing.

        For instance, Cochon does a lot of cajun meats. I know a great place in French Settlement that has better head cheese than them. I know several places around Lafayette that have better boudin than them. I know places that make better sausage than them. Etc. Etc.

        Again, I really like Cochon - I can't emphasize that enough. I just don't know that I would place them at the top of any countrywide list. But like I said, maybe that's because I'm from Louisiana and even though I love it, I don't find cajun fare - even updated cajun fare - that exciting.

        1. re: N.O.Food

          I think you are being too kind. Good publicity for the city aside, Cochon is at best above-average southern fare in a modern setting, at least based on my four meals there, and its almost laughable to describe it as "liberat[ing] Cajun cooking from its deep-fried clichés." Exactly what clichés are those? Fried turkey? Beignets? Apart from seafood, I rarely see fried items on a local menu in Cajun Country. I'll take the dirty rice, crawfish etouffe or rabbit stew at T-Coons over anything at Cochon. And that's limiting my choices to one place on Jefferson St. in Lafayette. As for menu items with "cochon" in the title, give me Walker's any day of the week.

          But I agree, this mention is not random. This is the fourth time in recent memory that the NYT has mentioned Cochon. Ingratiation has its reward. I don't know how you ingratiate yourself to warrant this type of publicity, but Cochon does it very well.

          1. re: pilaf

            T-COONS!!! Ha! I love that place! Also love the rabbit at Norbert's.

            1. re: pilaf

              See the thing with Cochon is they are taking Cajun food that you can find it joints scattered around Southern Louissiana and sanitizing it considerably for the masses within the city limits of New Orleans.

              The late R.W. Apple Jr of the Times also raved about it but I don't think he included it as one of the top restaurants in the country.

              Oh, and there is fried alligator on the Cochon menu, So what is Bruni saying about there not being any fried items on the menu.

            2. re: N.O.Food

              yes, I understand that as well. I'm from Crowley and nothing I ever get in any restaurant can stand up to what my mom cooks. But that being said, I enjoy cochon for what it is. I like to be able to take people there that don't have the opportunity to experience the food from where I'm from and to watch their faces. I also don't get much time to get back home so it is a good treat for myself as well. So, I can see the reasons it is top nationally. Not everyone is as lucky as we are to experience food from the heartland.

              1. re: N.O.Food

                Yeeh, I hear ya. We're on the same page on this one....I'm happy that travelers can sample a variety of my culture's specialties in one place (and on oblong plates, at that, can't get that at T-Coon's), but I have a long list of places that excel at precise things featured on their menu. My absolutely favorite thing at Cochon is the homemade pickles! All that said, I am happy that they're expanding into a butcher shop operation....we need more specialty meats in NOLA proper.

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  Amen. I would love a place in town where I could get good sausage/cajun meats. Good meat lies at the heart of any great gumbo, red beans, etc.

                  1. re: N.O.Food

                    Is Cochon expanding into a butcher shop too? And at the same location?

                    Hopefully they'll serve some Cajun beef jerky too.

            3. re: N.O.Food

              Well, it is in the top 10 in the whole country. That's kind of a big deal

            4. It's worth pointing out the distinction that Cochon (not cOUchon) is among the top 8 "nationwide" with excluding NYC & other great new restaurants which have been given their own feature NYT article in the past year.
              Nevertheless the place is great.
              NOFood, do you know a place in S.LA that combines all those great items in a single restaurant? I'd love to check it out.

              4 Replies
              1. re: rocuronium

                Not in new orleans. In Lafayette, you have t-coon's, riverside inn, norbert's, cafe Kimball, Ton's, etc. Cochon is essentially doing what these guys are doing (1) in new orleans and (2) more upscale.

                As for the Meats. Check out Porche's in French Settlement for head cheese and the best sausage in s. la. in my opinion. Go to Bourgeois' in Thibodaux for awesome beef jerky and crawfish boudin. Hit Billeaud's in Broussard for boudin and cracklin. There's a place in Maurice - the name escapes me - that has awesome stuffed chickens. It's on the right when you're coming into town.

                  1. re: just_ed

                    I just came back from NOLA...some great eats but Couchon was one of my least favorites as much as i wanted to love it. Great atmosphere, good service but food was just so/so. We had 5 apps and 1 main:
                    1) beet salad & deviled eggs=tasty enough
                    2) jalapeno spoon bread=lacking any spice but OK
                    3) fried alligator=tough and flavourless
                    4) mushroom & onion salad w/beef jerky =the highlight. amazing. perfect balance of bright flavours...YUM.
                    5) louisiana couchon=dissapointing. It came out looking like a beef fried croquette (it was deep fried) but instead of being a pulled pork style the texture was that of it being put through the blender....or worse yet like someone had pre chewed it .

                    I forget the other was from the boucherie and not memorable either even though that should be their speciality. I would go back just for the salad....and maybe try their "moonshine" for smelled heavenly

                    1. re: mapleleafgirl

                      I live in northern California and would give my left eye to have a restaurant like Cochon here. Its great that style of cooking can be found everywhere in the south, but you can't get anything like that in many parts of the country. That may be why the NY reviewer felt it deserved distinction. We ate there a couple weeks ago and absolutely could not decide what to order, because everything looked awesome and we could only eat there once!

              2. I agree it is a difference of perception,or experience.

                I took a group there in two different months,last spring,due to the rave reviews.

                We are all frequent travelers/diners in NOLA for many years and consider it our favorite dining city.

                I worked for many years out of Atlanta,while my guests were from the Carolinas,Ky,Tn,and Al.

                We found nothing wrong with the restaurant,or the food.

                Due to our living in the South,we had experienced the many dishes,frequently.

                In the future,we will pass on Cochon,and seek out the dishes that are not as common to us.


                1. Interesting. I thought that it was very good, and all enjoyed their meals, but with some of the other restaurants in NOLA, I'm not sure that I'd rate it above them. Still, good press is something that one cannot usually buy, so the results will be welcome. I do not mean to "diss" Cochon, but wonder what Bruni is going on. Very good, but "Top 10?" I'm not sure about that. Maybe I missed something. I'd rate it in the Top 10 in NOLA, but not the US. Also, I am not familiar with Frank Bruni, so maybe there is something that I am missing.


                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    To be fair, "top 10" was my term, not Bruni's. His article is about 10 new restaurants "that count." He came up with a list of 10 of them, and seems to be ranking them in order of preference, but he is not saying that these are the 10 best in the country. And again, he's focused on NEW restaurants "that count," not ALL restaurants "that count."

                    1. re: Blumie

                      Thank you for the clarification. I probably did not read, as carefully, as I should have either. I now understand the thrust of the article and agree that it DOES count. Glad that they, and NOLA in general, are getting some good press. That is always a positive thing, and will hopefully trickle down through all of the restaurant business in the City.


                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                      Wow, did I read the same article? I don't think he ever said "this is a list of the best restaurants in the country." He very consciously and unscientifically excluded whole cities from the list, and it's clear he weighed other factors beyond just the food when making his decision. He says, "all in all I visited 15 acclaimed, ambitious, promising or intriguing new restaurants from coast to coast."

                      Cochon is all of those things. It irks me when "foodies" are so absolutist about food (and I think the food at Cochon is quite good) that they completely ignore the harder-to-measure values like, in this case, cultural, heck even political, significance. Cochon is the first post-K restaurant to achieve national attention, now on the pages of one of the most widely read and important daily publications this country produces. The "cliches" it avoids are not necessarily *ours* (hand to forehead). But Cajun food is very misunderstood in other parts of the country, where yes, a lot of people think of fried things. We all know they're wrong, which is why the significance of a place like Cochon, which features a range of authentic South Lousiana fare under one roof, in the Louisiana city that outsiders are most likely to visit, is apparently lost on many of us.

                      1. re: HalfShell

                        But you'd think Bruni of all people as a restaurant critic would no better that Cajun food is not all fried. Maybe it's the city slicker in him.

                        1. re: kevin

                          Why would Bruni know better? He was NYT bureau chief in Rome, before that a reporter in DC who wrote a book on Dubya. He's a journalist--a reporter--without any direct experience (other than as a diner) in the food business, or even any experience in the U.S. outside of major metropolitan reporting (DC, NY, SF, Detroit) and he's a NY native. Here's a link to the bio:

                        2. re: HalfShell

                          Actually, I think that Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen's might have been the first, post-K restaurant(eur) to get big national press, though not in the most positive light for NO. I got an article from the NYT, while I was still trying to decipher satellite photos of NOLA and the Coast, to see if my families' homes were still standing. In that article, the author (do not recall who now) interviewed Chef Frank, who stated that he'd probably not return to NOLA and would possibly open his restaurant in Shreveport, where he had taken his family. Fortunately for NOLA, that did not happen, but he was featured in a rather lengthy article on the damage done to the restaurant industry in NOLA.

                          Still, being featured in the national press, in a good light, is great.

                          When it comes down to "authenticity," I'm usually more focused on the food - is it great? than I am on is this 100% true to someone's na'nan's recipe from wherever. However, the fried or blackened everything does a horrible disservice to great cooks and chefs from South Louisiana, especially the Bayou Country. Pretty much the same think as the Georgia "southern drawl" that Hollywood still thinks exists in NOLA.

                          Speaking of Cajun food being misunderstood, how many posts have you seen on this board (these folk ARE food-oriented) that want recs. to all of the great Cajun food in New Orleans? I always have to point out that my wife's preps and recipes are New Orleans and not Cajun. Though there is a bit of heritage there, her fare is not typically Cajun.