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Food

Poutine Week in Review: Macaroni Bar

Posted by Bryan / February 2, 2013

2013-02-01 20.49.52.jpgThe word "supperclub" brings to mind a number of places in Montreal that feature beautiful people, loud music, a sexy atmosphere and mediocre-quality, overpriced food. Can a supperclub like Macaroni Bar successfully re-invent a Montreal classic? I stopped in last night to find out.

Macaroni is reasonably spacious inside, with low tables, a high ceiling and a surprisingly nice atmosphere for dinner. Don't let the red icicle lights in the window fool you into thinking that this is one of those places that really should have been a club and simply happens to serve food. Sergio Mattoscio, the head chef, takes his food seriously and it shows. His reinvention of poutine is creative, authentic and, above all, delicious.
2013-02-01 21.11.36.jpgMacaroni Bar has two poutines on offer for Poutine Week. Both are available in the sampler size ($5) or full size ($10). To have the full experience, we got full-sized poutines. The featured poutine is the "Porky Pig" (pictured above). This poutine is made with sweet potato fries, porchetta and covered in grated Fontina cheese. This is one of those dishes that you taste with your nose and eyes before digging into it. As soon as it was set down on the table, we could smell the rich aroma of the slow-cooked porchetta and the meatiness of the gravy. Mattoscio's choice of Fontina cheese is a nice touch; it has enough of a tang to be similar in taste to curd cheese though Fontina melts much more evenly than its Quebecois cousin. A forkful of this poutine brings along many nice little cheesy filaments. 2013-02-01 21.17.35.jpg To be honest, I was wary of the sweet potato fries. They've gotten somewhat "trendy" lately, meaning that most restaurants will now buy them frozen, resulting in a soggy and flavourless fry. This wasn't the case with the "Porky Pig". The sweet potato was hand-cut and had a nice balance between its crispy exterior and soft, fleshy interior. The choice to use fresh sweet potatoes meant that these fries were bursting with flavour. The fries' sweet earthiness married well with the deep meaty flavours of the porchetta and gravy, while the cheese gave a nice, yet subtle, lactic kick. The Fontina cheese and porchetta pay tribute to Mattoscio's Italian roots, while the sweet potato gives the dish a nice new-world touch. This is the perfect poutine for a cold winter's night.
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While at Macaroni, we had to try Mattoscios poutine-claim-to-fame: the gnocchi poutine. Even if I didn't know about the dish beforehand, it stands out on the menu: gnocchi, St-Guillaume cheese curds and veal demi-glace sauce. (For those who aren't familiar, a demi-glace is a traditional french sauce made by mixing veal stock with espagnole sauce and simmering it down until it's thick, rich and full of flavour. Not exactly the easiest to make at home, but Julia Child came up with a few workarounds and shortcuts). The poutine exudes a certain cuteness without verging onto the precious. The gnocchi pieces are tiny and nearly spherical, lightly browned from pan-frying. They sit in an burnt-orange coloured sauce dotted with white cheese curds that seem enormous in relation to the gnocchi. This is not poutine as we've come to know it. However, it winks slyly at the original dish through the browned gnocchi that resemble fries, the use of curd cheese and a solid amount of gravy. This was a dish that was fun to eat: the fresh gnocchi gave a little crunch before yielding to a smooth, soft interior. The curd cheese was what one expects from curd cheese. The real star of this dish, though, was the sauce; not only did it have a rich and syrupy meaty flavour, it also had a little sweet kick to it which went nicely with the saltiness of the curds.

These two poutines both beg the question: how far can you go with poutine until it becomes something else entirely? Most sources agree that the origin of the word "poutine" is the English "pudding", which became "pouding" in Quebecois french and finally "poutine". Others think that the etymology of "poutine" can be traced back to the provencal "poutite" which means "hodgepodge". In any case, the traditional Quebecois dish, as we all know, needs good fries, good gravy and good cheese. Some Montreal chefs add all kinds of things to their poutine (foie gras, anyone?) with mixed success. What's refreshing about Macaroni's take on poutine is that the dishes are still an authentic mix of three ingredients and manage to be creative without going overboard. In my book, these are still "authentic" poutines and among the best in the city; though they're not exactly what you'd be craving at midnight after a night out. Thankfully, at Macaroni you can have your poutine and party too. We noticed the music start to get louder and the lights begin to dim around 9:30, which was our cue to go before it became too much of a club and less about supper.

One disappointing note is the beer selection. Both the wine list and cocktail menu are nicely curated and affordable. Their beers, however, leave much to be desired. The only beer they had that was not part of the Molson-Coors flavourless lineup was the Italian Moretti beer, though they were sold out. It's disappointing to see such great inventive food be undercut by a poor beer selection. Considering the rich microbrew culture in and around this city, Mastoccio ought to take a note from Tom Colicchio and curate his beer list with as much care and passion as he does his wine and cocktails. I guess this must be where the "club" aspect of Macaroni takes precedence over the "supper".
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Macaroni Bar

4448 St Laurent

Open Weds-Thurs: 6pm-1am
Friday-Saturday: 6pm-3am

Reservations Necessary

514.287.8734

Discussion

8 Comments

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