Poutineville has arrived in the Annex . This Montreal import specializing in that unhealthily irresistible French-Canadian combo of fries, cheese curds and gravy is taking things to another level. The main event here is clearly poutine, and it's poutine done right.
With three locations in Montreal and another opening soon in Quebec City, owners Kosta Kariotakis and Camillo Fresco (brother of Michael of Fresco's Fish and Chips ), along with Montreal transplant/Toronto partner Richard Piliguian wanted this first Toronto outpost to feel a little more upscale than the others. Hanging Edison lightbulbs, faux black leather banquettes, exposed brick and wood accents give the place an industrial chic vibe. There's even a cozy side patio and lounge area.
Mixologist Nishantha Nepulangoda of Blowfish is responsible for the cocktail menu. Citrus Rain ($10), a mixture of Aperol, falernum syrup, grapefruit and Prosecco with strawberries, goes down easy, as does the Poutina Margarita ($10), a concoction containing Cazadores tequila, Cointreau, amaretto, orgeat syrup, lime juice, Angostura bitters and fig juice.
Other alcoholic offerings include a simple wine list with reasonably priced bottles ranging from $24 to $40 and an adequate selection of beers on tap that favour Canadian breweries (Amsterdam, McAuslan, Mill Street, Steam Whistle).
But you're here to read about the poutine.
The aptly named house specialty is the Poutineville ($12), a huge serving of hand-crushed potatoes - they're blanched, crushed and then deep fried ("The crushing process causes carpal tunnel," Kariotakis jokes) - with fresh Quebec cheese curds and mozzarella topped with slow-cooked braised beef and red wine gravy.
Then there's the Montrealer ($12): a heaping plate of smoked meat, sauteed mushrooms, housemade gravy and Swiss cheese au gratin on crispy home fries with a fried pickle on top. The fried pickle is a nice touch but I could've used a tad more smoked meat.
There's also a creation just for Toronto called the Hawgs Town ($12) - julienned fries covered with cheese curds, brie, roasted red peppers, corn, shaved pork and housemade BBQ sauce.
My personal favourite is the Filet Mignon ($18), which consists of a generous amount of the AAA-grade steak cut into cubes, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, cheese curds, a bit of blue cheese and housemade pepper gravy on top of the fries. The meat is tender and tasty and all the flavours combine together perfectly.
Those wanting to tap into their inner foodie Frankensteins can create their own poutines; a regular starts at $7 and a large $9. You fill out a sheet that reminds me of a Scantron card and choose from four kinds of fries (crushed, regular cut, shoestring or for $2/3 extra, sweet potato); a bunch of cheeses (fresh curds, mozzarella, Swiss and cheddar are free; they even plan to have vegan-friendly options like Daiya available); a whole slew of veggies (tomatoes and black olives to grilled zucchini or guacamole); a dizzying array of meats (Philly steak, bacon, Pogo and gyro are just a few options); and five types of sauces. The possible combinations are practically endless, and a little overwhelming.
Speaking of endless and overwhelming, there will also be an all-you-can-eat option ($15) on Tuesdays with smaller tapas-sized portions of five signature poutines; you start with two and work your way through the rest, if you can. (And I can - I have a ridiculously high poutine threshold.)
Another challenge Poutineville poses is The Heart Attack ($100) - a 15-pound behemoth of fries with chicken, bacon, hot dogs, minced beef, ham, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese curds and mozzarella with gravy - amusingly presented by a server wearing a white lab coat with a red cross on it. I'd recommend you share it with a group of friends, but this dude managed to eat the entire thing on his own .
Besides poutine, there are also salads, burgers and sandwiches on the menu, but who are we kidding? I'm here for the poutine.
Poutineville's hours are 11am-11pm Sunday to Wednesday and 11am-4am Thursday to Saturday.
Writing by Christina Cheung. Photos by Jesse Milns.