Who would have thought a dish typically composed of fries, cheese curds and brown gravy could be so inspiring? Poutine is offering area chefs the chance to make some playful interpretations. "It's been one of our most successful dishes," says Bradley Balch, executive chef at The Sycamore. "I was going to take it off the summer menu, and there was a huge backlash." Diners looking to help the trend continue can enjoy these creative takes on the Canadian comfort food.

Who would have thought a dish typically composed of fries, cheese curds and brown gravy could be so inspiring? Poutine is offering area chefs the chance to make some playful interpretations. “It’s been one of our most successful dishes,” says Bradley Balch, executive chef at The Sycamore. “I was going to take it off the summer menu, and there was a huge backlash.” Diners looking to help the trend continue can enjoy these creative takes on the Canadian comfort food.

The Technique

Preventing poutine from disintegrating into a mushy plate of potatoes requires some finesse. “The key is to wash out the starches and blanch them,” says Daniel Scalzo, co-owner of Angry Bear Kitchen. Balch does the same: “We soak them in cold water overnight to release the starch, blanch them [in the fryer] at 300 degrees, freeze them, then drop them in the fryer to order.” This ensures a crisp potato that stands up to gravy and soft cheese curds.

The All-Pleaser

At Till Dynamic Fare, co-owner Cristin Austin sees poutine as a crossover dish between vegetarians and meat-eaters. Their version is built from smoked portabella mushrooms in a red-wine reduction. Thick-cut sweet potatoes are dusted with cornmeal and lightly fried for a tempura-like quality. “It’s still french fries and gravy, and the smokiness of the mushrooms is superb,” Austin says.

The Riff on Gravy

While you can find classic renditions at Tatoheads food truck and Yellow Brick Pizza, many restaurants are using poutine to showcase various cuts of meat. Angry Bear Kitchen uses shredded beef tongue reminiscent of pulled pork. “People who are timid about the tongue are amazed,” Scalzo says. Balch’s take at The Sycamore comes as an open-faced sandwich topped with beef cheeks and gravy with Snowville cream, herbs and chicken stock.

Other variations seen around town include The Pearl’s and Little Palace’s, both of which are topped with shredded beef short ribs.