Following is a transcript of the video.
Herrine Ro: One of Canada’s most iconic dishes is poutine, but Montreal is the city to get the best.
We visited three famous restaurants, Ma Poule Mouillée, La Banquise, and Au Pied de Cochon, to find the best poutine in town.
No, my pants are wet.
Based off of the comments last season, we are in Montreal to find the best poutine.
Erin Kommor: Yes! And if you do not know, poutine is a Canadian dish that’s, like, fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. What qualities are we looking for?
Herrine: We are looking for – OK.
Herrine: So, we are looking for fries that have a crispy outside and a nice plush inside, and the cheese curds should be flavorful and fresh, nice and melty. People say that the fresher the curd, the squeakier it is.
The gravy should be thick and flavorful, and there should be enough of it to coat all the fries and curds.
At each location, we will be asking which poutine we should get and judge based off of that.
Erin: Let’s bundle up and get going!
Herrine: It’s so cold.
Erin: I got you. I got you. Come on.
Herrine: So, we’re going to La Banquise, and this place is probably the most associated when it comes to poutine and Montreal.
And we’ll be trying the classic, but they have, like, 30 kinds here.
Erin: Of poutine?
Herrine: Of poutine.
Erin: I’ve heard about this one the most out of all the places.
Herrine: Yeah, I did too, so let’s go see what all the fuss is about it.
Erin: Let’s do it.
Customer: I heard about this place from a local that I met on the airplane. I think I love the cheese and the gravy. That mixture together is really tasteful.
Annie Barsalou: A classic poutine is french fries and cheese curds and a gravy on top.
We use red potatoes because it’s sweeter. We cut them by hand.
Chef: You wanna just, like, blanch them first, ’cause that’ll just, like, soften up everything. So when you drop it in fryer oil after, it’s gonna get all crispy on the outside but stay fluffy on the inside.
Herrine: Why this thickness and shape and size?
Chef: If you go too thin, like the little stringy fries, then there’s not gonna be anything really fluffy on the inside. It’ll just be, like, too crispy.
Annie: And we do the fries and do the precooking. We need to cook them about six minutes at 285 degrees. It’s very important to keep that temperature, because it’s gonna cook all the inside. When we’re ready to do the poutine, we’re gonna cook them at a higher temperature, at 325. It’s gonna be golden outside, but not too crispy.
And after that, we put the cheese curds. That must melt. It has to be at the temperature of the room and do a squish-squeak in your mouth. It’s very good.
The gravy must be, like, golden, have some texture in it, not too liquid. It’s got to be a bit spicy, too. That’s the thing that differentiates us from the others. We keep it as a secret.
Herrine: Everything visually looks…
And the cheese has melted. Let’s dig in.
Erin: So melty.
Herrine: I got the squeak.
Erin: I got the squeak too, and I thought I wouldn’t like the squeak. It was like, “merp, merp.”
Oh, look at the steam. And it’s so cold out. This is so satisfying.
Herrine: So, right off the bat, we know that the curds here are fresh. They’re melted because of that piping hot gravy.
I’m gonna try the potato by itself.
It’s not like the fries that you are familiar with as an American, because they’re not so crunchy and, like, salty. I know this is a very poor comparison, but they taste more potato-y than french fries does.
Erin: No, definitely.
Herrine: You know what I mean? And, like, everything is very much kind of like a flash-fried baked potato.
Erin: The potatoes are, like, not too greasy at all. They’re just so satisfying. And it’s so warm and soft. It’s, yeah, it’s not like American fries at all.
Herrine: They’re honestly more like hash browns. The cheese curds here have flavor.
Erin: Oh, totally. Herrine: It’s salty, it’s fatty.
Erin: They provide the salt, ’cause I feel like the fries aren’t super salty at all.
Herrine: Yeah, the fries aren’t as seasoned as I thought they would be. But the curds, I like how they’re this, like, happy medium between, like, completely melted and kind of like, just, like, sitting there.
Erin: It’s so flavorful.
Herrine: So, the gravy itself, it’s not so, so thick.
Erin: It doesn’t, like, coat your mouth. It just complements the fry.
Herrine: I disagree. I feel like I’m not getting, like, a beefy flavor, or like a hearty, like –
Erin: It is more just, like, salty and fun.
Herrine: I think it is great on its own. And the cheese curds here I think is the MVP.
Herrine: Yeah. But the other places we’ll be going to have, like, added elements.
So, we are going to Ma Poule Mouillée. I think I pronounced that right.
Erin: You did.
Herrine: And this place is a Portuguese restaurant, and we’ll be trying their fusion take on the poutine.
Erin: I’m so excited. It looks so good.
Herrine: It’s supposed to be a lot of bold flavors going on here, so I’m excited.
Erin: Let’s do it!
Michael Antunes Alves: Ma Poule Mouillée is a takeout restaurant with the grill of the charcoal. We work mainly with chicken.
The most popular at Ma Poule Mouillée is the poutine. The poutine is the mixing of Quebec and Portuguese, with the fried chicken in the charcoal and the local cheese. And I’m mixing with the São Jorge from Portugal.
Virgilio Rodrigues: We have to stock a lot of potatoes. Our potatoes are presliced. We cook halfway. We put it on the fridge. When they are cold, we fry them.
We season our fries with the homemade spices. We know that the fries are ready because they make a little music.
We’re gonna top the fries with a local cheese, then the Portuguese cheese São Jorge.
Michael: It’s very strong. I put just a little bit.
Herrine: See, but I don’t think that that’s like… I like it.
Cameraman: Yeah, it smells good.
Herrine: Oh, but it has a scent.
Virgilio: Yes. Yes, yes.
This is a charcoal grill. It’s a Portuguese chicken, and we grill it around half an hour. The seasoning, it’s garlic, paprika, and salt with also black pepper. The charcoal gives the chicken a smoky flavor, and inside it’s very tender.
And now we’re grilling the Portuguese sausage, chorizo.
Michael: The meat is different. It’s not like just cheese. The meat is delicious. Put some life in the poutine.
Virgilio: We chop the chicken and the chorizo fresh to order, and finally the gravy.
Herrine: Oh, my God.
Virgilio: It’s a homemade sauce. It’s another secret. And the fresh parsley. And it’s the best poutine in Canada.
Herrine: I’m very excited to try this one. The gravy looks so much more dark.
Herrine: And thick and viscous. The meat, I’m a huge chorizo fan.
Erin: Me too, I love chorizo. And the chicken looks so good. This looks epic.
Herrine: I know. It’s, like, loaded up. This is honestly a bit much. I just drooled.
Erin: Oh, my God. That is a lot of flavor. You wanted flavor in the gravy, and that, my friend,
Herrine: This delivers.
Erin: is flavor.
Herrine: I can see –
Erin: And the spicy sauce –
Herrine: Yeah, yeah, that’s what I was gonna say.
Erin: I want to drink that spicy sauce.
Herrine: I think it really does serve a purpose of, like, cutting through all that richness, that spice.
Erin: Yeah, a little kick.
Herrine: Also, these fries are a lot crispier than La Banquise.
Erin: Oh, and I didn’t realize how much, how important that would be, because the crispiness of the fries with the gravy, like, that’s a perfect duo.
Herrine: Because the chorizo and the chicken is, like, cooked on that charcoal grill, you get that nice smokiness.
Erin: And the char.
Herrine: That paprika seasoning really does shine through. And you do get this lingering heat that’s, like, very nice. This visually looks very overwhelming.
Erin: Like a lot.
Herrine: But, like, flavor profiles are very bold, but it’s not too much.
Erin: I don’t think so either.
Herrine: Like, everything works together, and I think there obviously is a reason why Michael wants to keep everything a secret, because if secret got out, like….
Erin: I would take over the world with this.
Herrine: Yeah, exactly.
Let’s see if the cheese curds squeak.
Erin: Squeak, squeak. They squeak.
Herrine: Not as squeaky as La Banquise, though.
But the Portuguese cheese here, I’m not gonna even pretend to pronounce it, has that nice little pungency and, like, sharpness to it that I think, honestly, I would want more of. Do you have any qualms?
Erin: My only qualm, I liked how melty the cheese was at La Banquise, and this cheese I feel like could be a little meltier, but I don’t really want more of it, ’cause there’s so much going on. I feel like with more cheese, I would be overwhelmed.
Herrine: I feel like we haven’t done the hot sauce justice. We haven’t done the spicy sauce justice.
Erin: We haven’t. That’s the best spicy sauce.
Herrine: So, what is your favorite part of this dish?
Erin: I think this is definitely my fave grave.
I should be a writer. I don’t know.
Herrine: It’s gonna be very difficult to beat this gravy and beat the proteins here, but we have one more place, and they’re supposed to have a very rich topping.
Erin: I’m pumped, ’cause this blew my mind.
Herrine: I know, this is gonna be a really hard one to beat.
Erin: I love Canada.
Herrine: So we are going to Au Pied de Cochon.
Herrine: And this place is a Montreal landmark. They are famous for their elevated, modern take on Quebecois food.
Erin: So, what makes the poutine here special?
Herrine: So, the poutine here is supposed to be really, really rich and decadent because they use a lot of foie gras.
So I’m very curious to see if this poutine, this famous poutine, is gonna be good.
Erin: I’m nervous. Should we go?
Herrine: Let’s do it!
Michael Picard-Labelle: Au Pied de Cochon, it’s The Pig’s Foot.
We do use a lot of foie gras in our restaurant, and it’s probably an obsession, I would say. By the time they leave, the people who don’t like the foie gras, they are converted for sure.
Everyone knows what ingredients are in the poutine, but the direction that we took is to put a nice product, the luxury product, the foie gras that we love to make, and to put it on the poutine to make it, like, accessible to everyone.
It’s a delicacy, for sure. When you have it in the mouth, it’s soft, and it’s an explosion of flavor.
The fries is first blanched in the duck fat for, like, four minutes, and then we take it out, so it’s the precooking of the fries.
The duck is fattier, so we can render out the fat and reuse it to deep-fry the french fries, and also give a nice taste into it.
After that, it’s blanched to the order at 375 until the coloration is nice, golden, and crispy.
The gravy, it’s basically a regular gravy sauce. We don’t want to break the structure of what the poutine is, so we incorporate the foie gras inside the sauce, and we bind it with the egg yolk and a touch of cream.
Our cheese curds are a nice balance between the saltiness and the richness of the cheese.
The trick was to not denaturalize the poutine. We have the sauce, we have the fries, we have the cheese curds, but also you want the texture of the foie gras in your mouth. If you miss one ingredient, you break everything, so you need to be structured with your product.
And then we put the foie gras on top, and then goes the regular gravy for decoration, a touch of fresh herbs, so chopped parsley up top.
Erin: I’m very skeptical, Herrine. I just, it’s new to me.
Herrine: This place is a destination. Like, truly, people around the world have come here to try this famous poutine, so, like, being a person who does not like foie gras and for someone who’s never tried it, I’m really curious to see if we’re gonna like this.
I’ma just go right in for it. I think that is foie gras.
The gravy here is, like, a lot more creamy and thick in consistency. Not as thick as Ma Poulée…Mouillard? Shall we?
Erin: I’m so nervous, Herrine, but yes.
[relaxing piano music]
Oh, my God.
Herrine: That honestly is one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. Like, genuinely, genuinely speaking.
Erin: So, people say, “Oh, like, this steak melts in my mouth.” “This melts in my mouth.” They were lying. This melts in your mouth. I didn’t even chew. It just went, “bloop.”
Herrine: So, I’ve always hated foie gras. It was one of the few items of food that I just absolutely hated. Chef Michael said that people who come in here hating foie gras leave totally converted, and just one bite has honestly convinced me.
Erin: That’s truly one of the most rich, flavorful things I’ve ever eaten.
Herrine: It’s so decadent. It’s so luxurious.
Erin: So decadent.
Herrine: And, like, you’re not going to be able to get this kind of poutine or flavor profile anywhere else in the world. You would think that the foie gras would be the star of the show, like, the topping, but the gravy really is.
Erin: The gravy. Because there’s foie gras in the gravy.
Herrine: When we said we were looking for a well-seasoned fry,
Erin: Oh, my God.
Herrine: this takes it to the next level, because it’s fried in duck fat.
Erin: Truly. Truly.
Herrine: It’s like, it adds to that extra level of decadence.
Erin: And it doesn’t even need, like, salt, pepper, blah, blah, blah, because it’s fried in such a decadent, rich fat.
Herrine: And the fries, they’re crispy. They’re crunchy. They’re the best potato that we’ve had.
And honestly, because there’s so much going on, the cheese curds are, like, kind of, like, lost, but let’s give them a fair shot here. Let’s try the cheese curds.
Erin: And they’re not as melty as I would wish, but.
Herrine: Oh, yeah, that’s a good point. Let’s see… but let’s see if they squeak.
Erin: It’s OK. Squeak, squeak.
Herrine: They squeak.
Erin: These are very squeaky.
Herrine: I have a hard time picking anything wrong with this dish. It’s, like, honestly, for me, perfection. I am honestly speechless that I like foie gras now.
They managed to get a very hearty dish, make it so much more rich and decadent than it already is, but do it in a very well-rounded way. Like, this isn’t overbearing.
Erin: This is like a treat yourself, night out, must experience this when you’re here.
Herrine: Honestly, Erin, I didn’t think I would say this, but I like poutine a lot more now than I was coming into this whole thing.
Erin: I was a fan, and now I’m, like, a superfan.
Herrine: The three places that we went to were honestly all so, so great. It was so difficult for me to narrow it down.
Erin: They were also very different.
Erin: In their own way.
Herrine: But I do have a winner now.
Erin: I have a winner too.
Both: Three, two, one.
Herrine: OK, tell me why you picked Ma Poule Mouillée.
Erin: The fries were my favorite. They were so crispy, so flavorful, and the gravy was so hearty and rich and thick. And I love the cheese curds there. They didn’t have as much of a squeak as the other places, but I still really liked the way they all paired together.
And the chicken and the chorizo, like, brought it to the next level for me.
Herrine: That chicken and chorizo were like…. I feel like as much as Ma Poule Mouillée was great, Au Pied de Cochon takes the Quebecois French Canadian culture and, like, the poutine to, like, new heights, and you cannot get that anywhere else.
I thought the gravy was truly unlike anything else we tried. Anything else I’ve had ever in my life. The potatoes were nice and crispy. They were well seasoned.
If you’re in Montreal and you had to pick one place to go to, it would be Au Pied de Cochon. Like, that would be my No. 1 recommendation. If you had to pick one place.
Erin: If I had to pick one place, I would pick, I would pick Au Pied de Cochon.
Because it is a unique experience, and it’s like, you’re in Montreal, and it’s so special to Montreal, and, like, you are not gonna get this in the US, anywhere.
Herrine: Or, like, anywhere else, like, in the world.
Herrine: For that reason, is it best in town?
It’s best in town, Herrine.
Herrine: There you have it!
Erin: But I would go, I would go here after!
Oh, she’s not done!
Erin: What do you guys think? Is your favorite poutine Au Pied de Cochon or Ma Poule Mouillée?
Can you say them? I literally get so nervous.
Herrine: Do you think Au Pied de Cochon is best in town when it comes to the best poutine, or is it Ma Poule Mouillée, or someplace that we haven’t visited?
Let us know in the comment section below.