The great Toronto poutine challenge: the lamb poutine
Actually, a merguez sausage poutine with Brie and veggie gravy care of Utopia Café on College Street. I'm sure more than a few people will be upset with the significant lack of curds, but what can I say? There it is. No curds today. Not a one.
So, the question begs. Do you penalize a poutine that replaces its curds, not to cut corners, but out of culinary creativity? In this case, I think not. I appreciate the experimentation involved and in the case of this lamb sausage poutine, it really works.
I know, I know "but what about Caplansky's?"
First of all, poutine criticism is not an exact science. Hell, it's barely even a thing. That being said, I'll admit I was overly hard on the delicatessen. I still wouldn't put them at the top of the list, but it was a good dish, I admit.
In any case, today isn't about Caplansky's - it's about Utopia. So let's see how they did:
The fries were good, but nothing special - and that's a good thing. In a great poutine the fries shouldn't be something special, they shouldn't stand out. The french fry should disappear into the flavours and textures of the rest of the dish. Its role is to be but a vessel, and when the vessel becomes more than that it means there is disharmony in the poutine. It means the rest of the dish isn't pulling its weight, and in this dish, it's pulling its weight. 4/5
While this particular poutine may not be vegetarian, Utopia uses vegetarian gravy and has two other offers on the menu for the herbivores out there. It's good veggie gravy too, low on salt with a lovely complex flavour. The addition of merguez sausage just gave the gravy even more depth. With a subtle spiciness and that tender, herbed lamb, the whole thing comes together in perfect harmony. 4.5/5
So these are not curds of Brie, just Brie, sliced and scattered around this french fry salad. It's still excellent cheese and just works perfectly when paired with that lamb sausage. That mild creaminess mixed with the merguez is something I'd like to try in a variety of incarnations beyond just poutine. 4/5
I needed help from my dinner companion to finish this one, who happily obliged. This is a hearty poutine with lots of big chunks of sausage and cheese on top of all the regular stuff. It's certainly a meal in itself if you're up for it. 4/5
Total Score: 16.5/20
I feel the need to take back something I said from the very first poutine, also a veggie gravy. I dismissed them, claiming gravy without meat just can't compare. Well, I can say that after working my way through 18 of these things over the past few weeks, Utopia's gravy holds up.
It's not the very best of the bunch, but it certainly would be in competition for the top five. If you pull out the sausage and trade the Brie for a handful of curds, you would have a top-notch traditional veggie poutine. Of course, that's not the case here. This one is loaded with lamb sausage and Brie and that is a really good thing.