Poutine Week: Picks of the Poutines

Burgundy Lion Poutine. Photo Cory McKay Burgundy Lion Poutine. Photo Cory McKay

Just when the snow and cold are starting to wear us down, Poutine Week is here to provide all the delicious fat and carbs we need to get through winter. Lasting until February 7, the event has almost fifty restaurants around Montreal unveiling special limited-edition signature poutines.

Although this year’s lineup is sadly missing some of last year’s standouts (who could forget the delight of eating Imadake’s okonomiyaki poutine served by anime waiters dodging saké bomb splashover!), there are more than enough returning heroes and promising newcomers to make up for it.

La Dan Dan. La Banquise. Photo Esther Szeben.

La Dan Dan. La Banquise. Photo Esther Szeben.

La Banquise heads up a good showing by Montreal’s poutine perennials, with their mix of sausage, bacon, corn, mushrooms and onions, plus a dollop of sour cream just to keep things light. The surviving fancy burger places are also well represented, with good leadership from ART:BRGR’s Caveman Poutine. Just the right pile of merguez, ground beef and smoked ham one needs to hunt woolly mammoths, all wrapped up in filo to keep it safe from marauding sabre-toothed tigers.

Some of the most interesting poutines introduce variations on the core elements of fries, curds and gravy, rather than just piling on extra toppings. Chez Boris is happily back with a new variation on their doughnut dough fries, this time topped with beets, beans and chipotle peppers. Fabergé opts for waffles instead of fries, although otherwise keeps it fairly old school with duck gravy and cheese curds. Almost unthinkable, however, is Copper Branch’s “healthy” poutine, featuring air-baked potatoes covered with vegan “cheese” and gravy.

Biiru leads a relatively packed field of Asian-inspired poutines. Although we’ll have to wait until Tuesday to try it, their Poutine de Hyottoko looks like it’ll be a standout, featuring an izakaya fusion classic in the making of sweet potato fries, Teriyaki pork, tempura and nori. Even neutered pan-Asian chain Sésame is in on the action, with their Oranji of panko-encrusted beef, carrots, Thai basil pesto and a worrisome “orange sauce.”

Probably my favourite poutine so far is the Burgundy Lion’s culturally inappropriate but delicious “Colonial Poutine.” The Lion’s usual tasty fries are topped with nicely seasoned tikka masala chicken and raita, with crispy chicken skin added for texture. I would have preferred a fresh paneer over the cheese they chose, but nonetheless a real standout, and the victor over nearby challenger Rasoï’s goat vindaloo poutine.

If all this seems to deviate too far from poutine’s traditional Québécois roots, have no fear, Poutineville has the poutine de souche for you. Their Cabane à Sucre will bring back happy memories of high school field trips with its potato pancake piled high with cheese, ham, bacon, omelette and maple syrup, with a nice helping of fèves au lards on the side.

My doctor heartlessly tells me I need to keep my poutine dosage under two a day, so my biggest challenge will be to triage where to go next. I know Bar Brutus’ burning Jägerfirepoutine will be hard to turn down. Then, if I’m not yet sufficiently poutine drunk, a trip may be warranted to Lola Rosa for their Raspoutine, served with a raspberry vodka shooter to help wax nostalgic about undergrad meals in days of yore.

Information on all these poutines and more can be found HERE . The site features a voting function, so you can use the (questionable?) wisdom of the crowds to guide your journey of poutine enlightenment. I’m a fan of happy little surprises myself, though, so you may prefer to strike out on your own into the uncharted poutine wilds. A word of warning, though: beware the orange sauce.