Chez Claudette used to be my regular 3AM poutine spot back in my 1990s undergrad days. It was your typical Québécois greasy spoon. Claudette herself was often there to greet you. A new inspirational quote could be found on the cash register every day. The standard poutine was okay, but the “bourguignonne” with beef and onions was a perfect late night snack. If you’d stayed out later, you could even replace the fries with breakfast home fries.
Tonight, a friend of mine who just moved back to Montreal from Quebec City wanted to recreate that experience. Another friend warned us that the restaurant “had been bought up by a bunch of Arabs” and that everything had gone downhill since then. I told him that I appreciated his quotability, but that he should try to be more politically correct for the sake of my blog. He replied that many of his best friends are Arabs.
Instead of being greeted by Claudette and her inspirational quotes, the new Chez Claudette welcomes you with a mock brick wall. The colourful walls once covered with posters have been replaced by more mock brick. Instead of looking like a homey neighbourhood greasy spoon, the place now feels like a dingy tavern crossed with a 99 cent pizza shop. It’s grim and charmless. The new owners have tried to liven up the ugly fake brick with laminated posters of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and a wall of hockey players. I was shocked to see a hockey game playing on all the flat screen TVs in the place – isn’t it June already? Aren’t the finals over? The restaurant windows are disfigured with the names of different menu items in mismatched fonts. Pictures of the different poutines offered are also prominently displayed. Anyone fancy a corn dog poutine?
You can also contemplate flat poutines while waiting for your meal.
My favourite, however, was the wall of Chez Claudette reviews where some of the negative press they recently received was proudly showcased.
Our waitress was one of the gazillions of French expats on the Plateau. She asked my friend in a high-pitched voice if he wanted his hot dog “oulledresse-euh” (all dressed).
But what about the poutine?
Fries: Limp and oily. Slightly sweet. My friend claimed they had “moments of crispiness.” They are made with fresh peeled potatoes, to which my friend commented that he prefers “a good frozen fry to a mediocre home cut fry.” These fall in the latter category. 18/30.
Gravy: The sauce has a good consistency and temperature, blending in well with the other elements. The flavour could be interesting but it is way too subtle, especially after you move beyond the sprinkling of pepper that they put on top. The oily taste of the fries almost compensates for the lack of gravy flavour, but not necessarily in a good way. 30/50.
Cheese: Cold, no squeak, not enough. 10/20.
Verdict: A travesty compared to the old Chez Claudette. The poutine is mediocre and whoever put up all that mock brick should be forced to eat corn dog poutine until he/she explodes.
Price: Decent, especially if you’re up for mediocre poutine.
Opening Hours: 24h on Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Location: 351, avenue Laurier E, Montréal, QC.