Yes, the Gros Porc
Our national dish used to be so simple. Fries, cheese curds, gravy. Boom. There are plenty of poutine purists out there who refuse to even contemplate adding another ingredient. Why mess with perfection, right?
I’m not one of those people. I go a little overboard whenever I hit Poutineville, the build-your-own restaurant chain with multiple options for fries, gravy, cheese and toppings. Endless toppings. Admittedly I’ve built a few monsters there. So I appreciate a poutine joint that offers expert opinions on reliable combos. I like the poutine-meets-nacho-platter from la Banquise and, because I’m pescetarian (but fish poutine scares me), the veggie option at Chez Claudette, with red peppers, peas and onions.
But I couldn’t quite believe it when the girl behind the counter at Little Italy’s new Poutine Centrale (an expansion of a franchise that started in Hochelaga) told me that her pick of the menu was the Chou-chou: poutine with coleslaw. No, surely not. How can that possibly work?
That happened on my first visit, and I didn’t take her advice. I opted for the straight-up Végé, with mushrooms, onions and corn. It was simple, fairly minimal and, crucially, very strong on all three main ingredients: the fries were well cut and well cooked, the curds were tasty and proper in their consistency (and quantity) and the gravy was thick and silky. Upon opting for the vegetable poutine, I was warned that the gravy was beef-based — this doesn’t bother me, but strict vegetarians should take note that they don’t have a veggie option.
Meanwhile, my guy got la Gros Porc, which, as promised, is “plein de bacon!” Meat lovers have plenty of choice at Poutine Centrale, which offers 21 beef, pork or chicken variations, among them maple-syrup-braised beef, Thai chicken and Chinese BBQ pork. Yeah, these guys get a little wild with their meats.
But there are only two veg poutines. So on my second visit, I had to try the Chou-chou. And honestly, that girl was right — it was great. The coleslaw was mayo-based without being overly creamy, complementing the richness of the gravy and cheese with a blast of tang. The more I ate, the more the coleslaw sauce blended with the gravy, making for a juicier poutine experience than I’m used to. You don’t want so much gravy that your last dozen fries are swimming in it (an amateur error that’s all too common in crappy casse-croutes) but the infusion of a lighter, sharper sauce to a reasonable quantity of sauce brune was welcome.
For the poutine-hater in your group, Poutine Centrale also offers homemade pogos, burgers, hot dogs, sloppy joes and pulled pork sandwiches. But to all the lovers of our low-brow national dish, I mean it: the Chou-chou is a taste sensation that you should totally stick in your mouth. ■
Vegetarian-friendly: Two options (albeit with beef gravy)