Tag Archives: Designer

Poutine Review: Cinko Tempura Green Bean Poutine

Cinko is one of a slew of $5 restaurants popping up around town. They serve cheap food that is a notch above your usual fast-food fare, and make up for their slim profit margin with comparatively pricey cocktails. Cinko has an original menu, nice colorful interior design, and the place mats have been replaced by old vinyl records (in my case Genesis’ And Then There Were Three, an early glimpse at some of the horrors that Phil Collins would inflict on us during the 1980s–it was a pleasure to render it unlistenable by scratching away at it with my utensils). The actual background music was even less inspiring than my 70s prog rock placemat, consisting of the same dated 4/4 MC Mario beat that did not change for the entire duration of our meal. Thankfully, the volume was kept low.

There are two poutines on Cinko’s menu: one made with sweet potato fries that has become less interesting now that it is no longer served with the braised beef gravy it used to be served with, and the bizarre tempura green bean one that I review below.

Cinko
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Poutine Review: Cantine de la Gare

P1260856

Rimouski, located six hours northeast of Montreal, is a small port city with 45000 residents. A lovely salt water breeze wafts through the town. Unfortunately, its fine seaside setting has been ruined thanks to the work of some shockingly bad urban planners.

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Poutine Review: Bacon Poutine at L’entrepôt Mont-Royal

Poutine au Bacon - L'entrepot Mont Royal

L’entrepot is one of several new $5-a-dish restaurants that opened up in Montreal over the past year. The interior has a ramshackle ski chalet look with snowboards hanging from the walls. In fact, it is pretty much a perfect replica of the decor at Le Bureau de Poste in Quebec City, not to mention the same menu. I did some investigating and found out that it is the Montreal branch of a west-coast chain that started out in Whistler, and also has six restaurants in Vancouver. Whereas the west coast branches use mozzarella in their poutines, a similar strategy in Quebec would be suicidal. Proper cheese curds it is.
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Review: Camion au Pied de Cochon (Food Truck)

Pied de cochon poutine

Although poutine was once regarded as a national embarrassment, Martin Picard is famous for giving the dish its “lettres de noblesse” over a decade ago. He reinvented the cholesterol-heavy dish by adding a chunk of fancy foie-gras, making it even unhealthier. This had the added effect of simultaneously blurring the lines between high and low food culture. Kudos to Picard. It was a clever reinvention.

Unfortunately, this led to an increasingly tiresome wave of copycat chefs reinventing poutine by slapping some additional novelty ingredient on top – everything from duck confit, to roast beef & stilton, to Vietnamese bahn-mi toppings. Many of these designer poutines would not taste very good if you reduced them to the three base ingredients – they rarely use squeaky-fresh cheese, for instance – but adding that slab of foofiness distracts us from the poorly-executed base. I don’t like the idea that you can only elevate poutine by adding some expensive bling to it. Bling is easy – although this added chunk of fatty foie gras felt clever a decade ago, it is looking increasingly bling these days.

I think it’s time to go back to basics. The real chef’s challenge is getting that base perfectly right: making sure the fries have enough crisp and taste, sourcing a place that will provide big chunks of day-fresh squeaky cheese instead of the usual crumbly industrial foodservice distributor crap served up in Montreal restaurants (hint: go to the Bois-Francs), and whipping up the perfect home-made gravy with drippings to make those other ingredients shine. I have tasted many celebrity-chef poutines and have yet to see a chef get those three things right.

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Syrian Poutine at Tazah (CLOSED)

Syrian Poutine
THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED

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.
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Vietnamese Poutine in Los Angeles

The Gorbals

After winning on reality show Top Chef a few years back, Ilan Hall opened up a well-reviewed restaurant in Los Angeles’ edgy downtown. The Gorbals takes its name from the old Jewish neighbourhood in Glasgow where Hall’s father came from. He describes the cuisine as “tasty, oddball food.” The menu includes such items as bacon-wrapped matzoh balls and octopus-tofu sandwiches.

Although I generally wasn’t a fan of the L.A. sprawl, downtown is a different world – it’s worth visiting the city if only for the interesting revitalization of beautiful old buildings taking place in the art deco streets around The Gorbals. The restaurant is curiously located down a long hallway on the ground floor of an apartment building. There’s a speakeasy feel to the location.

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Review: Méchant Boeuf

Méchant Boeuf

Mechant Boeuf offers another variation on the Pied de Cochon theme of shamelessly unhealthy comfort food revamped with quality ingredients. This dimly-lit Vieux Montreal gastropub looks better than most of the overpriced tourist junk in the surrounding streets. Despite the lounge-chic atmosphere geared to wealthy young professionals, Méchant Boeuf was refreshingly different in that it didn’t have those changing colour backyard pool lights that seem to be a mainstay in this kind of place. You know what I’m talking about, right? The lights are red one minute and then they slowly shift to purple. One of my neighbours installed some of these damned things on his art deco triplex, the colours shifting at disco speed, a crime against architecture. Some idiot in the municipal government also decided it was a good idea to install them in city park fountains. The novelty of those things wore off after five minutes when I first saw them ten years ago. I’m glad this place didn’t have any.

Méchant Boeuf
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