IN NEW ORLEANS, THE TASTE OF A COMEBACK
BY SAM SIFTON
The Cajun Factor For those interested in the big flavors that lie at the intersection of urban New Orleans and rustic Cajun country, Cochon, a few blocks upriver from Emeril’s, is a can’t-miss stop. The chefs and owners — Donald Link, who also owns the well-regarded Herbsaint in the Central Business District, and Stephen Stryjewski, a sous chef at that restaurant — opened Cochon in 2006, a few months after Katrina. The dining room looks out through walls of windows, and its brick walls and bare wooden furniture glow in soft light. It is a highbrow roadhouse, a juke joint near Neil Young University. The food is head-shakingly good: delicate fried rabbit livers on toast points with a fiery pepper jelly; oysters roasted in the heat of a wood fire; fried cauliflower with a chili vinegar sauce; a gumbo of shrimp and deviled eggs. This is not bad for starter plates, with a glass of bourbon from Black Maple Hill and a chaser of Miller High Life. Afterward matters get serious. Main dishes include a marvelous soft Louisiana cochon, a kind of Cajun version of suckling pig, slow-cooked and then crisped, served with turnips, cabbage and crackling skin, as well as a perfect sandwich of deep-fried oysters and house-made bacon on white Pullman bread, with a chili-spiked mayonnaise. A fellow could eat that for days. And there is a simple salad: cucumber and herbs in vinegar, lightly pickled. It will be familiar to anyone who has ever eaten a banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich.