Well, since a certain "Pierre Poutine" has been in the news of late, I have finally decided it is time to give in to Bob's persistent exhortations to write about this gooey delight we know as poutine
I say "we know" rather loosely, because I suspect I am about to introduce you to some incarnations of poutine that do not resemble the dish you might love to "dis". Oh yes, there are many forms of poutine, and I suspect that the ones seen beyond the borders of Québec are but pale imitations of what they might be. This is a story of what might be.
Yes, every small greasy spoon and hamburger joint here has its version of poutine that follows a pretty basic recipe: fries, gravy and some kind of cheese (curd if you're going to be authentic, grated if you're not). But you have to step over to the specialists if you are to appreciate the variety that can be poutine.
One such specialist is La Banquise. A staple of the Plateau Mont-Royal (one of the coolest neighbourhoods on the planet, we are told), La Banquise offers no fewer than 28 versions of poutine on its menu, often drawing a crowd such that you will need to wait in line to get in. Believe me, it is worth the wait, as the poutine taquise (with guacamole, sour cream and fresh chopped tomatoes) will attest.
I recently discovered a new kid on the block, at least one that had recently opened a branch on a block more easily accessible to yours truly. Poutineville bills itself as "poutine reinvented" and you will see why when you visit their lovely website. My recent visit led me to bring out my creative side to make my own poutine from the checklist menu, while my companion chose from the pre-set selections. A little mix-up gave me the form of potatoes he had ordered, and vice-versa, but I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my creation of "patates écrasées" with chicken, brie and a lovely wine sauce. Oh yes, this experience took poutine up a notch.
Higher up the old cuisine chain would be the higher-end restaurants and their forays into poutine. Le Canard Libéré and Au Pied de Cochon serve classic-looking poutines, but the fries are cooked in duck fat, making them particularly special. There was even a rumour once of the chef of Toqué! having put together a lovely poutine featuring foie gras, but you won't find this on their regular menu. Not even the little sister of Toqué!, the Brasserie T! in a box on the sidewalk next to Place des Arts lists poutine, despite many dishes accompanied by fries.
Still further up the chain, an experiment by award-winning chef Martin Juneau of La Montée de lait. I haven't tried this and it looks like the restaurant may indeed be closed, but I have managed to capture a still photo of his "poutine jenga" and a link to a short video of him explaining his creation to Urbania magazine. Even if you don't speak French, I dare you to watch his short video and then tell me you wouldn't want to have a taste of whatever he wants to dish out.
So the question, my friends, ends up being not "Is poutine worthy of my appetite?", but "Is my appetite worthy of poutine as it can be?"