It’s Poutine Week in Montreal and there are 30 poutines competing for the top prize. Earlier this week, I tried out one of these contenders: the Syrian poutine at Tazah. This is a new restaurant that took over the spot once occupied by La Cantine, which once served the best poutine in town. I wondered to myself if the new owners had absorbed some of that old magic.
The restaurant is divided into a formal sit-down restaurant with an overpriced menu, and an informal café (also overpriced). The atmosphere is charming, and the waiters are friendly and attentive. However, with an abundance of excellent affordable Syrian and Lebanese options in Montreal (think Daou and Le Petit Alep), I’m not sure how so many newcomers manage to stay in business while charging so much. $10 for an appetizer-sized plate of baba ghannouj? Really? That’s a lot of money for eggplant puree.
Despite the hefty price tag, the Syrian poutine sounded original and was worth a shot. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera so I used my sketchbook instead. Here’s the lowdown:
Fries: Golden home-cooked fries. They’re oily and not crispy enough but still manage to taste good. 22/30
Gravy: Too salty. Watery and fatty – probably a lamb jus. Lemony undertones. Kudos for providing a gravy that doesn’t come out of a can, but it would be better if it was thicker and SODIUM wasn’t the dominant flavour. 31/50
Cheese: There’s very little cheese here, but the little bits here and there are good. They use small cubes of akkawi cheese, which is probably the best squeaky cheese substitute I’ve seen – kinda like a softer & less salty version of Cypriot halloumi. 8/20
Extras: Melt-in-your-mouth mildly-seasoned lamb shank. +8 points Way too much parsley, which detracts from the other flavours – I like tabbouleh, but lemony parsley doesn’t work well here. -3 points The pomegranate seeds look nice, but they don’t add much to the overall flavour of the dish. +1 points
Verdict: Nice try, but you’re probably better off sticking with the Syrian classics than paying close to $20 for fake poutine.Seeing as there are some affordable Syrian/Lebanese restaurants in town that make outstanding food, I would go elsewhere.
Price: Extortionate – it came out to $19.82 with tax + tip for a small bowl that was barely enough for one person. I never paid so much for poutine.
Location: Tazah, 212 Mont-Royal est, 4 minute walk west from Mont-Royal metro