New Orleans Restaurants: Cochon

Donald Link's food perfectly captures New Orleans's unique blend of the down-home and the refined (surely no other menu in the world features both a world-class wine list and fried pig ear salad) in a comfortable, rustic atmosphere. The wood-fired oyster roast is a devastatingly succulent appetizer – five large samples of the famous aphrodisiac resting in an appropriately sultry chili-garlic butter sauce. The signature dish is the Louisiana cochon (French for pig) with turnips, cabbage, and cracklins. The pork is overnight-braised and then formed into large patties sautéed to a light crisp in the morning. The result is a mound of fall-apart tender meat that's topped with long strips of possibly the most lovingly made pork rinds in the world. Though Link says he had grown "bored to death" with the fine dining experience, the flavors here could not be more fine; the question is less whether Cochon is among the best restaurants in New Orleans and more whether it ought to be in the discussion of best restaurant in town, period. [930 Tchoupitoulas Street, 504-588-2123, cochonrestaurant.com]