La Banquise – 994 Rue Rachel Est, Montreal, Quebec

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Eating the poutine served at la Banquise with three of my pharmacy classmates has inspired us to open up a Vancouver version of this poutine shop. We walked in at 2:00 pm on a work day and the place was still jam-packed with people (my friend Jason figured the shoulder-to-shoulder tables had to be a fire hazard).

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There were 3 taxis parked outside, even though la Banquise is located a distance away from the downtown core. Basically, business was booming, and we could easily see how a restaurant like this would be a huge hit in Vancouver. What made the poutine so damn good? Pictures really do tell a thousand words.

We were originally going to order one poutine each, but after seeing the massive, steaming bowls coming out of the kitchen, we did the smart thing and decided to split two large portions. “La T-Rex” was an easy choice, loaded with four kinds of meat. We took pity on our arteries and ordered “La Taquise”, topped with guacamole, sour cream, and tomatoes as the second serving.

When it comes to poutine, most people aren’t looking for super fancy ingredients or extravagant toppings that may take away from the straightforward enjoyment of having fries, cheese curds, and gravy together in a bowl. The way la Banquise does it’s poutine is spot on in my book: a great base of fries, smooth cheese curds, and perfect tasting gravy supplemented by an absolute load of simple, but well cooked toppings.

La T-Rex; topped with ground beef, pepperoni, bacon, and hot dog sausage ~ $9.10/13.95

La T-Rex; topped with ground beef, pepperoni, bacon, and hot dog sausage ~ $9.10/13.95

La T-Rex turned out to be aptly named. We couldn’t even see the fries or cheese under the mountain of meat heaped on top. The meats were very tasty and salted just enough to not overwhelm the rest of the bowl. There was a perfect ratio of meat, to cheese, to fries so that literally every bite would have just the right amount of all three. It was nice to not have to fork-fight over scarce toppings.

A nearly empty bowl of poutine is a sad sight

A nearly empty bowl of poutine is a sad sight

La Taquise: sour cream, guacamole, and tomatoes ~  $8.95/13.60

La Taquise: sour cream, guacamole, and tomatoes ~ $8.95/13.60

La Taquise turned out to be very tasty in its own right, and a refreshing break from the greasy goodness of the meat poutine. Large dollops of guacamole and cream cheese lay atop a pile of fresh tomatoes, which was a surprisingly good complement to cheese curds and fries. Again, the quality of these simple ingredients shone through and helped to elevate a potentially average poutine to a great one.

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Both poutines evaporated in what seemed like minutes, leaving all four of us full and satisfied. The icing on the cake was the value we got out of sharing two large portions: the bill came to about 8.50$ each after tip, which was amazing value considering the amount of food we ate. I can’t think of any restaurant or food cart in Vancouver that could come close to that bargain.

I loved the eclectic decor, and the crowded, busy feel of the place seemed appropriate for a restaurant that specializes in poutine. More standard fare like hamburgers and pasta were also on the menu, but I didn’t notice a single diner eating anything other than poutine. And for good reason; they serve poutine that’s good enough to have taxis permanently parked outside to shuttle hungry customers to and from this wonderful little joint.

Oh, and it’s open 24h a day. So you can feed that poutine craving at 4:00 in the morning.

Complaints? None at all with the food and value, but the wait staff was somewhat hard to flag down for service.

Overall impressions: If you’re in the mood for poutine, I can’t think of any other place I’d recommend. Next time I’m in Montreal I’m having a full size T-rex all on my own.

H’s Verdict — 4.5/5 stars.

Restaurant website: http://www.labanquise.com/

Resto la Banquise on Urbanspoon

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