Having lived in Ottawa for ten years, I find myself sometimes craving the distinctly Quebecois treat, poutine, which can be found in restaurants and at chip wagons all over the place there. For those unfamiliar with this dish, it involves hot french fries, fresh, squeaky cheese curds, and a good helping of poutine gravy, which, if done properly, is actually a mix of gravy and barbeque sauce.
Sounds good, right? Much to my bemusement, friends of ours from just outside Chicago were rather grossed out by the idea of poutine when we sent them a packet of St. Hubert’s Poutine Sauce as part of their Christmas gift last year. I guess it really is a Canadian thing, or at least an Eastern Canadian thing.
Toronto, however, is not exactly Canada’s poutine capital. Sure, you can get some at chain restaurants like New York Fries or Burger King, but I’m not much of one for fast food joints. While a few Toronto restaurants offer really excellent versions (I’ve been told both Utopia on College and the Victory Cafe do right by the dish), and a few others make fancy, gourmet versions (like Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar), no one really focuses on the dish. Until Smoke’s opened, that is.
Smoke’s Poutinerie opened on Adelaide West back in November, to a huge crowd wanting to get their poutine fix. The crowd was so huge, in fact, that they ran out of potatoes on the first Friday they were open, and had to close for the night! Reviews from that first week or so were mixed. Some people I talked to said they loved it, others said it was lacking. A close friend of mine works not far from there, and went over lunch one day with some coworkers. He said the gravy just wasn’t quite right and the fries weren’t hot enough. New restaurant growing pains, or just not good poutine? I had to try it out for myself.
In mid December, Rich and I took the subway down to Smoke’s and both ordered the Veggie Deluxe Poutine. Since we’re both vegetarians, we can’t always eat poutine, as many places make it with chicken or beef gravy. This version offers the usual fries, curds and gravy, and adds in roasted mushrooms, caramelized onion, green peas, and green onion. It looks like this:
Maybe not the most attractive dish, but it’s not easy to make a mess of gravy, vegetables and cheese look pretty! But how did it taste? Well, it wasn’t what I was used to for poutine, but it was really good, and cured my poutine craving. The gravy was perfectly tasty, but it was lacking something. I think maybe they don’t put much barbeque sauce in their version, if any. The fries were lovely, though – fresh, hot and salty, and the curds still had a bit of squeak to them.
To cap off the meal, we grabbed a couple of Pop Shoppe pops. We were pleased to see they had most of the flavours in stock here: Lime Ricky, Cream Soda, Orange, Grape and Root Beer.
We’re debating going back to try the regular vegetarian poutine. On one hand, I’m trying to eat healthier after so much junk food in November and December. On the other hand, the poutine is calling me…
Smoke’s Poutinerie – 218 Adelaide West, Toronto, 416-599-CURD, http://smokespoutinerie.com/
Dying for more places to get poutine in Toronto? Try BlogTO’s list.