Hyottoko’s Poutine at Biiru
The 2016 edition of Poutine Week has been underway since Monday, and continues through Sunday, Feb. 7. Roughly 50 Montreal restaurants are participating in this creative and competitive endeavour — see all the details here.
Our team of hungry critics were most curious about the six following poutines. Here’s how they stacked up:
Biiru (1433 City Councillors)
Itadakimasu! Biiru’s Hyottoko’s Poutine is a Japanese take on our classic dish. The spicy chili pepper and sesame mix togarashi, julienned kizami nori and tempura flakes give this poutine a lot of points in presentation and flavour, not to mention its thick-cut and tempura-battered sweet potato fries, which are light and fluffy. While I’ve been leaning towards the pulled-pork-is-passé camp, Biiru’s addition of this meat was minimalist and had a nice spicy pop at the end of a bite, though its “teriyaki glaze” might have been a little too minimalist to taste. The employment of these ingredients make this an interesting departure from what we’d expect in a poutine, but let’s look at the bare bones: Those aforementioned fries were delicious, and while perhaps a little cumbersome to chop up and create a bite that incorporated all the flavours on the plate, were great. No problem on the curds either. No, the bone I’ll reluctantly pick with this one is its white miso gravy, as its salt factor was overpowering and lacked the fermented taste I was hoping for. I’d recommend pairing it with a cup of hot saké. (J.P. Karwacki)
Fish ’n’ Chips Poutine
Brit & Chips (433 McGill/5536 Côte des Neiges)
I’ve always heard good things about the fish ’n’ chips at Brit & Chips, so this was a great excuse to finally check it out, with a poutine twist. Their Poutine Week dish is essentially a traditional poutine and traditional fish ’n’ chips combined: a bed of fries, two heaping pieces of sole, curds and gravy on top and tartar sauce and lemon on the side. The sole is coated in a gravy-based batter for extra poutine flavour, and while the gravy taste stands out in each bite of battered fish, I wished there was more gravy and cheese. It was an intensely heavy meal, but still, I’d suggest asking for extra gravy on the side as a dipper to finish off the heap of delicious traditional chips. (Cindy Lopez)
The Mac Attack
Dirty Dogs (25 Mont-Royal E.)
If there’s any comfort food that rivals poutine in essential cheese-and-sauce over carbs perfection, it’s got to be mac ’n’ cheese. The combination of the two dishes is next-level, sleep-inducing ultra-comfort. So simple, but with such high expectations of food nirvana, one misstep could render it a disappointment. Hearing that Dirty Dogs on Mont-Royal was making the Mac Attack gave me hope, especially since they won Poutine Week last year and they’ve long-since perfected their mac ’n’ cheese recipe.
When my companion and I arrived at about 6 p.m., it was crowded. We didn’t wait too long to be seated in the tiny, brightly lit dining room, but by the time we left there was a line-up out the door and down the block, so take note: if you want to try this poutine, get there early or be prepared to get it to go.
Seeing other patrons with giant baskets of a mountain of fries and mac, we decided to split a large poutine for $10.99, and it was the perfect size to share. (A smaller version is also available.) My companion and I agreed: this was a great poutine. There was enough sauce so that every bite was moist, but not swimming. The four-cheese mac sauce added a bit of tang, and the traditional cheese curds were firm and squeaky just as God intended. The icing on this poutine cake was the addition of perfectly crispy bacon bits and the zip of fresh green onions. Final verdict? The Mac Attack is a lot of delicious poutine for a very nice price. I might go back for seconds. (Lisa Sproull)
Tinga Chipotle Poutine
My trek up to Villeray was originally meant to take me to Gras Dur and their Eastern European-inspired Touski poutine. However, by the time I made it up there, the restaurant was already closed for the night (7 p.m. closing time on a Tuesday?!). The closest participating restaurant was the Frites Alors! at Villeray and Casgrain, whose poutine week offering was the Tinga Chipotle poutine. The list of ingredients on the blackboard was somewhat misleading; though tomatoes, smoked peppers and garlic are listed as ingredients, they’re actually ingredients in the preparation of the slow-cooked, shredded chicken that tops the poutine alongside raw red onions, shredded lettuce and sour cream. While the result is overall enjoyable, it doesn’t really convey much smokey chipotle taste, and the bits of shredded lettuce should probably have been replaced by coriander or a similar spice. It’s kind of a timid take on tinga that’s enjoyable but not particularly special. (Alex Rose)
Medley Simple Malt (6206 St-Hubert)
As scheduling goes, it was hard to get a group of friends together to share the poutine pitcher, but luckily there’s a single portion version available, too. Underneath the novelty of eating and sharing a poutine out of a beer pitcher is a great classic poutine with kick: fries, St-Guillaume cheese curds, single malt Dubbel dark beer sauce and green onions. The fries were thinly cut but crispy, with great helpings of big, squeaky cheese curds — I’ve never eaten or even seen a poutine with such huge cheese curds. The beer sauce was great, most of it ending up at the bottom of the bowl so I could scoop out the final pieces like buried treasure. I found myself using my fingers to clean off the last of the beer sauce — it was that good. Yes, the pitcher version can be shared with two or more people — I saw the waiter double-fisting pitchers to groups that night — but I was kind of glad to have this poutine to myself. (CL)
Poutineville (1348 Beaubien E./1365 Ontario E.)
It must be fairly difficult to think up of a Poutine Week special when your restaurant already specializes in custom poutines that can be as extravagant and as loaded with different kinds of smoked pork as you can imagine. I was a little wary when Poutineville’s offer this year turned out to be Korean BBQ — poutine doesn’t typically react well with Asian fusion. The Korean BBQ poutine adds marinated, grilled beef, green onions and a gojuchang-inspired sauce on top of the requisite curds and gravy. It’s admittedly fairly spartan as an entry where many participants pull out all the stops, but the mix of the thinly-sliced beef, crunchy onions and spicy-sweet red pepper paste (augmented with what seems to me like maple syrup) is extremely satisfying. I could see this becoming an actual menu option rather than a once-a-year smorgasbord offering. (AR)