Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday, September 7th - Le Resto Banquise - Baby, Poutine and Me

Poutine Mexicaine - le Resto Banquise
We were staying at a friend's place in the plateau at the end of our extended stay in Montréal.  Whilst D was dealing with some heavy family stuff, I had lil T to myself.  It was much better to be on my own with lil T in the plateau than the East End suburbs, I'll tellya.  Nothing in walking distances for km's and oppressive humidity keeping me from meandering further.  That said, the only unfriendly thing about the plateau is the exact thing that gives it so much character....the stairs.  If you have ever been to Montréal or received a postcard, you will be familiar with my predicament.  Most brownstones in the city have two to three stories with flats on each.  Each flat is usually accessible only, by an external set of very precarious, albeit ornate, stairs.  Our kind friend A, who was on a cruise in Italy, lent us her second level flat near Parc LaFontaine.  It was gorgeous.  The building featured 10 ft high ceilings, which of course meant even higher access stairs.  Well, that meant, that any excursion with lil T was a committment to wending my way down these death defying steps with a stroller and a baby.  Building codes be damned around these parts!  The last three stairs at the top were half the width of normal stairs and were cut in a strange L shape to accomodate the flat next door.  I can't do it justice and I only wish I had taken a photo just so you could appreciate the brave men that moved A's piano into her place!!!

I therefore planned the day carefully so that I would only have to deal with the down and up once and be out for most of the day.  I prepared everything for the excursion so we could bolt as soon as I had fed lil T.  I mentally, planned my walking route so that I would be on the move near the end of T's patience with the stroller so he might fall asleep.

Luckily, where I wanted to eat lunch was quite near her place, Banquise.  It was all over the food boards as one of the more popular restaurants, including Urbanspoon.  That is quite amusing since it's all but a greasy spoon almost directly out of the set of Friends or something. With it's garishly, bright painted walls, mismatched chairs and hipster waitstaff, you'd hardly think it would rank ahead of some the culinary haunts of this most European Canadian city.  Well, that's what kind of draw Poutine has on the visiting public and the locals alike. 

The first thing you have to accept is the type of fry you will see in Montréal.  By any other standard, Montréal fries look either burnt or cooked in dirty oil.  Either or both may be the case, but that is the type of fry you will see all over town.  I reckon, that they do not do the par frying in the lower temp before crisping but put the spurs to the oil right away.  What results is a darker fry that is more creamy in the middle than floury.  The exterior is more on the soft side than the crispy except on the extremities.  From La Fleurs on every corner to Outremont, you will see the same.  It's a style that few establishments choose to deviate from and Le Resto Banquise is not an exception.

My first visit here (yes there was more than one in two days), was just me and lil T.  First thing to note on my new Baby Friendly rating (quite common in #Montreal EVERYWHERE) is the #inaccessibility.  Seriously, it's bad.  The entire metro system except one station in the obscurest station does not have platform to street elevators.  You will encounter stairs at every station except one.  This is also an issue with restaurants.  Most restaurants are NOT equipped with ramps or automatic doors or propping doors.  Alot of restaurants have very inconvient stairs right before the door which do not allow a single person to safely lift a stroller to the top, rest and open the door because the door opens outward onto the narrow top step.  Banquise is such a place.  If it weren't for the staffer smoking outside who held the door for me after I stood there regarding the door and planning my entry for two minutes, I would still be standing outside fuming today.

Once in, the mood lightens, the staff are very friendly and try to find the best table for you and your stroller.  Though in the 'hip and trendy' part of Montréal, open 24 hours, they are equipped with 4 high and booster chairs.If you'd rather keep the baby in the stroller, they'll move the chairs away for you.  Awesome. As well, shockingly, their large bathroom is equipped with a massive change table! Yeah, it was tagged but there it was, woohoo!  They're quick with the water and taking your order, well aware that with baby in tow, your stay will likely be abbreviated. 

There is a full range of diner type foods from breakfast to burgers but the reason for their fame is there list of 25 different authentic Québecois Poutine!  One thing they do not make clear, and to rest assured, all their poutines come with those lovely squeeky fresh cheese curds and a gravy (unless a different sauce is specified).  I wasn't sure so I asked.  As I said, I was here two days running.  The second day I came with D, after I raved about the Poutine so I'll share the three Poutine's I've tried and I'll mention one I almost ordered and having seen it arrive at another table, I wish I had.

The first day, I ordered the Mexican (sorry, Mexicaine, Poutine is feminine :^P).  It was heaped with Cheese curds.  They do not skimp like in so many places, usually outside Québec, where you seem to have alot of cheese but only on top and after a few forkfuls, you're left eating plain soggy fries.  Nope. Fork after fork, right to the end you will have Cheese Curds.  As well, a magical amount of gravy so as not to completely drown your fries or sodden them yet, not leave you wanting.  Perhaps that's the wonder of the darkened fries, the ability to repel the gravy long enough to last through a poutine. :^P  The Mexican was served with Cheese Curds, Gravy (Vegetarian Peppercorn Sauce optional), fresh Tomatoes, Black Olives and sliced Banana Peppers.  I also added smoked pepper sauce that was on the table and as a tribute to my high school days, a dash of ketchup on the side. The awesome thing about a dish like poutine is that once lil T tired of playing with his stuffed elephant and his teething ring, I could pick him up to stop him from howling and still continue eating.   The only complaint I would have about the Mexican is that since the fresh Tomatoes were cold, the Cheese did not melt into stringy goodness.  But that was my choice so I will choose differently next time.

Poutine Rachel - le Resto Banquise
Well, next time was the next day.  I ordered the Rachel.  The Rachel is served with Gravy, Cheese Curds, Sauteed Onions, Bell Pepper and Mushrooms.  MMMMM It was like a guilty pleasure on a plate.  If I were still pregnant, the Rachel, with a dollop of Sour Cream would have been dinner at least twice a week.  I was quite close to ordering the Taquise with Guacomole, Sourcream and Tomatoes but I was worried they'd skimp on the Guac and wanted to have a melty Poutine this time.  Well, meltiness aside, I shouldn't have worried about the skimping.  The family next to us ordered one and there were two icecream sized scoops of Guac and Sourcream heaped on top of the Poutine. Drool.  Is it possible to have Poutine envy whilst eating your own Yummo Poutine?  Well, I did.

By the by, I ordered the 'Regular' sized poutine both times.  It was quite sufficient.  That's saying something reader!  The large was easily 50% more or more.  If the table behind us, of a dozen college students are good statistical sample set, only 1 dude ordered the Large and finished it and almost all the girls and 1 guy, had to ask for takeaway containers for their 'Regular' Poutines.  I personally think they weren't trying.

Poutine B.O.M. - le Resto Banquise
D ordered the Poutine B.O.M, ready for it?, Bacon, Onions and Merguez Sausage.  D loved it.  It had his name written on it, really.  He agreed on the portion size and he's a big guy.  Just right.  Yes, I eat as much as my foot taller than me husband.  What can I say?  I'm Korean and have a very warped sense of portion control and I'm breastfeeding which justifies my eating anything, wooooohooooo!  Overall, we loved the poutine but have to say, though we accept the dark fries of our heritage and past, we prefer a lighter crispier fry, soz, la belle province.  Still it was fantastic poutine that I will return for when home for Christmas!

Ambiance: diner
Cost: $-$$
Staff: helpful, friendly
Baby friendly: mixed; Inside: staff and facilities are good. Outside: access is hampered.
Notes: Licensed, Open 24 Hours, Cash and Debit Cards Only.

Resto la Banquise
(514) 525-2415
Plateau Mont-Royal
994 Rue Rachel E
Montréal, QC H2J
Resto la Banquise on Urbanspoon
for greasy spoon


1 Leave a / Read COMMENTs:

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

At least you got a lot of exercise with all those stairs...and therefore you could eat to your hearts content. I lived in Canada for a year, but never sampled Poutine...I may have to fix that during my next visit!