The great Toronto poutine challenge: the sweet potato fries poutine
So far so good on the health front - ok I know, I'm only two deep with 18 more to go, but I'm just looking to stay positive while I can. I have the sense that things will turn dark very quickly here. A poutine is a blessing until it becomes a curse, and I fear many of these will eventually feel like curses.
Anyway, Harbord House is a quaint little gastropub just west of Spadina. It's got a friendly "everybody knows your name" kind of feel, but when I quizzed them on mine they came up blank. I forgave them though -- I'd never been in before.
They mix things up here with two additions to the traditional dish, first is the addition of some sautĂŠed onions. Next, they mix in some sweet potato fries along with the Yukon Golds. Overall, top notch - here are the specifics:
As I said, these are a mixture of sweet potato fries as well as the more traditional Yukon gold. Personally I'm calling foul. I kind of hate those little orange imposters, but I'm going to let it slide because I know most of the world has gone bonkers for sweet potato fries - I just can't understand why.
The upside to these fries is they got the size just right. About the size of a Wendy's fry (as a base for comparison), they balance out perfectly on the surface area to strength metre. Holding up well to the jus in crispiness, unfortunately they're a little overdone which gives the sweet potato fries the flavour of burnt sugar and leaves the regular ones hollow and hard. 3/5
This is where Harbord house gets it completely right. This is a sauce you could eat like a soup; it's complex and beefy - downright amazing.
The instant stuff always seems passable until the real thing comes along and you can't believe you ever settled for anything less. This is gravy the way it should be, not gravy at all - "jus," which means no floury, gelatinous mess. Even with such big flavours, it remains delicate, deep, textural and meaty. The addition of sautĂŠed onions gives it a level of sweetness that provides even more depth. And because it's slightly thinner than traditional gravy it doesn't sit on top of the dish either, but is evenly distributed throughout. They even do a great job of masking that odious sweet potato flavour. 5/5
Tender and buttery with a trace of sourness. These are excellent, gooey curds, but there could be more of them. 4/5
Two sizes here: small and large. The small is the correct choice, it's just big enough to leave you happy and wanting to come back for more. The large is the inevitable choice since it's so freaking good. 4/5
Final Score: 16/20
A top-notch showing at Harbord House. They take their poutine seriously here and it shows. If it weren't for the slightly burnt fries they'd be in "A+" territory for sure. In addition to the traditional tastes: bitter, sweet, sour and salty, it's been proposed in the last decade that "savory" be added to that list also known as "umami." This is less of a taste than it is a sensation, but the Harbord House makes a great argument for adding it with this poutine.
Keep checking back on the site over the next three weeks to see where my great Toronto poutine challenge takes me next.
Day 1: The vegetarian poutine
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