A few blocks east of the legendary Maamm Bolduc, on the eastern edge of the Plateau, Les Belles Soeurs has a similar unpretentiously quirky atmosphere. It’s a nice little neighbourhood restaurant, but that’s not what drew me here.
I was drawn by Les Belles Soeurs’ unique claim to offer “cuisine drummondvilloise.” Although Drummondville has a lingering reputation as the armpit of Quebec (there are worse cities), it redeems itself by being the heart of poutine country. A Drummondville restaurant claims to have invented the poutine in 1956, and the city even hosts an annual Festival de la poutine. Having sampled poutines in this part of Quebec, I must admit that they do indeed outshine the Montreal average, which is partly due to the proximity of some great cheese factories dishing out Texas-sized chunks. Surely a restaurant promoting “spécialités Drummondvilloises” must serve up a great poutine?
Fries: Everyone loves potatoes. This is not because of what they taste like on their own. They aren’t exactly bursting with taste. Who gets excited over a baked potato, no salt, no butter?
Potatoes are great because they are versatile. Other ingredients have a way of transforming their mundane starchiness into something worth getting excited about. When it comes to fries, it’s all about the type of oil you use and the seasonings.
This is not the philosophy of “Les Belles Soeurs.” These cooks have a hidden agenda: potato emancipation. The potato needs to assert its independence from other ingredients. The poor spud must speak for itself! Screw the sauce and the cheese, this poutine is all about the potato taking its rightful place. Listen to it scream “I AM POTATO! HEAR ME ROAR,” a floury muffled scream from the depths of its starchy interior.
As you may have guessed, potatoes don’t roar very well. I like my fries to taste like something other than floury potato. A bit of salt, perhaps? A bit of oily crisp? Not these fries. These are libertarian fries, Ayn Rand fries, all about asserting their potato egos. They’re probably healthier than your average fry, but their self-indulgence gets tiresome. You’re not my friend, potato. You don’t play along. Go rant in your own little lonely corner.19/30.
Gravy: These cooks love the potato so much that they’ve encouraged a form of gravy repression. It’s a rare thing to have starch overpower sauce, but this poutine manages to do just that. Where’s the sauce? I can see it, but why can’t I taste it? A faint tingle of spice on my tongue, perhaps. Maybe even a hint of salt.
“I want to help you,” whimpers the gravy to the potato. “Let’s work together to make this a great meal.”
But the potato doesn’t want some weak-kneed tree-hugging communist gravy telling it who it needs to work with. “TOO MANY OF MY FELLOW FRIES HAVE DROWNED IN YOUR MUCK,” screams the fry, regurgitating a mouthful of fluffy whiteness in the process, retching at the thought of its kin reduced to limp powerlessness in boiling sauce. I suppose it has a point. This potato wants to stand on its own, and has thankfully found some pretty wimpy gravy that will let it do just that. I appreciate the inversion of traditional roles from a theoretical perspective. But, in practice, this gravy needs to stand up for itself and speak. 24/50.
Cheese: Occasionally, after eating bite after bite of starch, something creamy and squeaky breaks the monotony. That’s the cheese. It’s fresh, but there’s not enough of it and the chunks are too small. Oddly enough, most of the cheese seems to have taken refuge in the bottom of the bowl. Maybe the potato bullied it into submission. All this hidden cheese is a pleasant surprise at the end of the poutine, a novel one when compared to the usual limp fries and soupy gravy. Unfortunately, my mouth was feeling too starchy and floury by then to fully appreciate the buried cheese. 7/20.
TOTAL SCORE: 50/100
Verdict: If you’re intent on Les Belles Soeurs, try this instead.
Value: Average – $5.50 for a small plate.
Location: 2251 Rue Marie-Anne E, corner Messier.