It was my first taste of Montreal poutine. Yes poutine has been around for a while and so have I, so why haven’t our paths crossed before? Well, I just can’t get past the concept of mushy fries. Yes some people put gravy on their fries but, I don’t. I like my fries crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, hot and neat. But I was seduced by the creative poutine dishes I was reading on each posted menu down Rue St Denis, I couldn’t help but be swept away by the poutine wave.
I tucked into a corner table on the outdoor patio of Saint Houblon, a microbrewery. I held my breath and felt I was at the top of a gigantic roller coaster, ready to take the big plunge – I order duck poutine with hoisin sauce, soft cheese curds and thin, thin, thin fries. I was already eating it in my mind and was orgasmically loving every bite of it, even though I was never one to order poutine before.
When the bowl arrived I rushed to eat the different flavours. I’d take a chunk of duck with a white blob of cheese curd and a few (gravy) untouched fries on the side. It was glorious! Savoury, rich, heavily meated and slightly sweet duck with silky, stretchy, earthy and elegant cheese curds and crispy shards of uber thin, hot fries hardly touched by gravy. Beautiful flavours, eclectic, exciting textures and overall, I’m hooked! I love Montreal poutine!
What I loved the most was the cheese. Instead of squeaky chunks of twisted, dry cheese, these glorious, silken mounds of white floating in the poutine looked more like soft gnocchi in a brown sauce than cheese curds. The texture was succulent, stringy and satiny soft with just enough of an ‘al dente’ texture to make them impressive. They were eating like a gourmet cheese, more like a superior Buratta, you know the silky, soft innards of a good Italian cheese?
But then what I feared most came true. I finished the few fries on the side and was left with the fries in the middle that had died, suffocated in an ocean of too much gravy. It was a soggy mess and I could eat no more. I suppose this is a characteristic of good poutine but it’s just not for me.
It got me thinking that perhaps someone should invent a deconstructed poutine. Fries to one side, toppings to another and in between, a small crock of gravy not unlike the way they serve their frits and mayonnaise – separately. This way the fries would stay crisp, the toppings intact and the gravy waiting until it was needed. In my case it would become the lonely neglected element of a deconstructed poutine.
As much as I can’t overcome my mushy phobia that also includes mushy peas, bread soggied with tomato bruschetta that was too wet or worst of all – brioche disintegrating under the flow of luscious pan seared foie gras juices, I have to say the flavours of Montreal poutine are divine and the quality – wow, impressive! Montreal poutine, get over it cause you gotta try it!