The great Toronto poutine challenge: the classic poutine
At long last, after nearly a week of variations, today we celebrate the classic. No modifications, no extra ingredients. It's poutine in its purist form. Sure, some will complain that it's beef gravy over chicken, or that the cheese curds don't have their requisite squeak, but when it comes down to it, the Victory Cafe doesn't mess with tradition - just potatoes, gravy and curds here. But is that enough to compete?
The Victory went all right in their potatoes. These are tender fries that don't have a hint of greasiness on them - a generous portion of thick cut, hefty spears fried until dark and golden. The light, airy interior has a faint sweetness from the potato while the outside is crisp and savory. These fries could be consumed with a sprinkling of kosher salt alone and would still be heavenly, but why settle for salt when curds and gravy beckon? 5/5
It has probably become clear at this point that the sauce - the gravy - is a sticky subject for me. It's the most complex element of the dish, one that can make or break the final product. The Victory's take on the poutine gravy? Well it's good. Not great, but good. It's a fairly straightforward, thickened beef gravy that coats the fries well. It's a little over seasoned for my taste - the saltiness definitely sits high in its flavour profile - but it's good. I like a little subtlety in my gravy, richness and flavour. Maybe it's a lot to ask, but I want a gravy that leaves me wiping the last few drops up with my fingers in the end, one that will tend to all my taste buds from sweet to salty to savory, this one fell just a smidgen short. 3/5
The Victory ships their curds in from Quebec, a fact excellent for boasting, but in reality they'd be much better off sourcing from somewhere more local. In order to ensure their firmness and squeak curds need to be fresh. Curds don't care where they're made, and being from Quebec doesn't give them any cache when they're in your mouth. I'll say this though, despite their tenderness, their flavour remained top notch - mild with a hint of saltiness. 3.5/5
A poutine like this deserves to be big and this one is. Think sharing size for a snack or single size for a meal. 4/5
Final Score: 15.5/20
The Victory Cafe makes a decent poutine, no doubt. They start with a good base and go from there. The problem is, there's nothing particularly great about it - it's middle of the road. Which is not to say it isn't enjoyable, I gobbled the dish up happily and thoroughly enjoyed it, it's just that while I was eating I couldn't help but think there was something missing - the gravy just fell a little flat. Perhaps a sautéed onion or a splash of red wine could have livened it up. I know, it's not traditional; it's not the way it's supposed to be done. But authenticity isn't everything. The goal here is not to find to most traditional poutine, just to find the most delicious.