You know, despite being a self-proclaimed foodie and a Montrealer, I've yet to try the so-called 'greatests' that Montreal has to offer, such as La Banquise and Schwartz's. Yes, yes, ready your rotten tomatoes, aim, and fire. I had been meaning to try them for a really long time now, but the line-up in front of Schwartz's never fails to make me cringe, and La Banquise always seemed like a hassle to get to. Luckily for me, an opportunity arose when a few friends (with a car!) from out-of-town came to visit and wanted to check this place out.
Accessbility - Grade: B
I think it's a 15-20 minute walk from Mont-Royal metro, but since I didn't get there via public transport, I'm not entirely sure. It doesn't look too difficult to get to according to Google Maps, though.
Service - Grade: C-
The service was pretty abysmal, and the lack of professionalism was a little astounding.The waitresses didn't smile much or interact with us much, which usually sits alright with me, but they also showed a total lack of disrespect for their customers, which is just not cool. One of the waitresses didn't believe us when we told her the poutine didn't come with enough gravy and told it was an extra $1 for more. She then proceeded to openly discuss her encounter with us with a coworker while standing next to our table, because she assumed that since we were Asian, we didn't understand French. Aiyaaaa.
Food - Grade: B-
Honestly? As far as poutines go... meh.
For those of you who don't know what a poutine is, it's a Quebec-invented dish consisting of of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. I know it doesn't sound terribly appetizing when I put it like this, but it's one of those things that you have to try and judge for yourselves. In any case, La Banquise is known in Montreal for having (alledgedly) the best poutine in the city.
I can't say I really understand what the hype is. I mean, the concept behind putting toppings on a poutine is pretty cool, but La Banquise didn't quite deliver, or lived up to my expectations.
|Pizza Poutine (sliced onions, peppers and pepperoni)|
I don't know if we went on a bad day or if the restaurant has always been like this, but our poutine came out warm; they were barely hot enough to melt the cheese. There was also very little gravy. The plates were almost overflowing with fries, so it was hard to mix the poutine. At least the fries themselves were pretty good, all crisp, sweet, and bite-sized starchy goodness.
|Dan Dan Poutine (sliced pepperoni and onions)|
For me, the best part of eating a poutine isn't the cheese or the gravy. It's the cheese WITH the gravy. Pipping hot gravy that practically liquifies the cheese into a goupy, stringy mess of dairy, all wrapped around a sweet, crisp piece of fried root. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the best part of a poutine. Unfortunately, I didn't get a single bite of stringy cheese in my poutine, and by the time I was halfway through the plate, my poutine was really just a plate of fries.
As I said previously, the toppings were a good idea, but I think La Banquise could have gone a step further with the concept. I think I was expecting them to have different types of cheeses and gravy to complement the different toppings they had, but instead, the poutines just tasted like a regular poutine with random things thrown on top. The flavours from the toppings and the flavour of the poutine remained strangely seperate.
Final word? It's not the worst I've had, but it's certainly not the best either.
Price - $
To be fair, the prices are pretty good. We all had a regular-sized poutine (not the gigantaur ones), and it averaged out to around $10 a person, before tip. Depending on what topping and what size you get, the prices vary, but I can't imagine anyone spending more than $20 on food there. Now drinks is another matter entirely...
Overall, my friends and I weren't very impressed with La Banquise. However, the majority of my friends are firm believers in this restaurant's prowess and ability to deliver amazing poutines, so I wouldn't be averse to giving this place a second try. Hey, maybe we were just really unlucky that day and the chef had just broken up with his/her girl/boyfriend, so he/she didn't have the heart to put more gravy in his/her poutines. Eeesh we need a general pronoun in English, but I digress... Like I said, I like the idea of being able to spice up your poutine with toppings, so, hopefully, La Banquise will be able to live up to its reputation next time I go.
Restaurant La Banquise
994 Rue Rachel E
Montréal, QC H2J
Montréal, QC H2J