131 Albert St.
When Smoke’s Poutinerie announced it was opening a Winnipeg location, members of the culinary community rejoiced.
Even more enticing was that Smoke’s offers a wide array of poutine, ranging from bacon cheeseburger to pulled pork.
In this way, Smoke’s takes the basic idea of poutine (fries, cheese curds and gravy for the un-poutine educated) and applies a stir-fry-like mentality to the dish with its elaboration on the basic form.
Since its May opening, I’ve seldom seen it quiet when passing its Old Market Square location.
It’s clear that Winnipeggers are reveling in the restaurant’s concept of a mostly take-out, late-night munch spot.
I made the mistake of visiting Smoke’s on the opening night of the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival at Old Market Square. The line was a dozen-people long, the temperature was hot and it was an all-around uncomfortable space to congregate in.
Nevertheless, service was swift.
Along with its lumberjack style wallpaper (paying homage to poutine’s Canadian roots, perhaps) is a chalkboard where patrons can record thoughts about their meals. Laden with positive reviews, my hopes were high as I started to chow down.
Surprisingly, I was disappointed. Blame falls on expectations that were too high and gravy that was unappetizing.
First, I tried their original poutine. Instead of blowing my mind, it only reminded me of better poutine I’ve had in dingy Montreal diners.
Kudos to Smoke’s for importing their cheese curds from Quebec, but the over-salted flavour of their homemade gravy didn’t sit well with me.
Their fries, on the other hand, were great and would be suitable on their own.
Next came the Nacho Grande poutine, complete with homemade chili, tomato salsa, guacamole, sour cream and jalapeño peppers.
Although it could have used more meat, it’s a prime example of how Smoke’s elaborations on poutine work.
I was left with only a few toppings sans fries at the bottom because of a good ratio of cheese to gravy to nacho components.
A poor choice was the Curry Chicken poutine. Along with not being spicy, its uniform flavour bored me after a few bites.
It would have been nice to see curry fries used instead of a curry gravy.
Don’t be fooled by the little brown boxes they package the poutine in. The large size is massive, and I watched several grown men struggle to finish.
Ultimately, for $9.99 and under, Smoke’s is a good deal.
Their weekend hours are ideal for the after-bar crowd, and if you’re drunk enough, you might just forgive their lacklustre gravy and focus on their unique twists on this Canadian classic.
Published in Volume 65, Number 27 of The Uniter (June 29, 2011)