CLOSED IN 2012 – replaced by a Syrian restaurant
Straddling the line between gentrified and trashy, cutesy and snooty, girly and cheeky, highbrow and lowbrow, La Cantine is one of those places that left me unsure whether I should love or loathe it. The menu is full of creative takes on standard diner food that would warrant praise if they weren’t trying so damn hard to be cute and funny. The decor is kitsch-chic, looking like a 70s department store cafeteria redefined by someone who has spent too much time reading Wallpaper magazine and hanging out at cupcake shops. The background music complements the decor by being a mix of 70s Tijuana Brass and 90s Shibuya-Kei music. At times, it all seems laid on a bit too thick, with a trowel, too staged, lacking authenticity.
I was intrigued by the poutine with szechuan peppercorn sauce. It arrived in an old-fashioned Mason jar on a plate, which made for an interesting presentation. But this clever presentation also proved to be the poutine’s undoing.
Fries: The lightly coated and seasoned fries are astonishing. Unfortunately, I have to cut off a few points as they did not withstand the assault of the hot gravy steaming away at the bottom of the jar. 26/30.
Gravy: Deliciously rich and unctuous gravy with just enough peppercorns to keep things interesting without overwhelming the taste. This is the best tasting gravy I have had on any poutine in Montreal. The only problem being the fact that it was too hot, which plays against the other elements caught in the bottom of the Mason jar. 43/50.
Cheese: Extremely generous with the cheese, but a bit too much on the melty side to have the necessary squeak. The chunks could be a bit bigger. The ones drowning at the bottom would be written off as a total loss if their flavour didn’t blend in so well with the gravy. 16/20.
TOTAL SCORE: 85/100
Verdict: A great blend of flavours that get a little too mushed up by the scalding gravy eating away at the other ingredients in an inappropriate container. Here’s an idea : transfer the contents of the mason jar to your plate IMMEDIATELY upon receiving it and you may just have a taste of poutine heaven. But only a taste, as portions are small.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 17:30 to 23:00.
Value: Below average – $7.00 for a poutine that is too small for a meal but too big for an appetizer.
Location: 212, Avenue Mont Royal Est, a 4 minute walk east from Mont Royal metro.