Before leaving on my trip to Montreal, I did endless research and read countless reviews about the region’s signature dish…poutine. That deliciously unapologetic hearty dish of french fries, cheese curds and gravy. And through multiple lists, there was one place that was continuously listed (which turned out to be horrible) and a place that was never listed: Comptoir 21
Perhaps because this hipster-approachable joint is listed as a “fish & chips” shop, no one would think they could victoriously execute this Canadian casse-croûte staple that’s only $5.50 for a single serving. But, you’d be wrong. You’d also be denying a beautiful opportunity to consume their fish and poutine combo. But, the combo is a little steep at $13.
You’d also be missing out on this combination that should surely be served at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham reenactments. An overlooked combination of two iconic English and French-Canadian fast food staples introduced in the Mile End. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but I am surprised that the French language police haven’t put the kibosh on this duo.
The white fish has been masterfully fried so that the delicateness of the pure flesh has preserved its integrity, but has been fried to the deepest burnt sienna. Shards of batter that tried to escape are left attached. This poutine put all the poutines we had in Quebec to shame. It’s both a travesty and fortuitous that this was my introduction to poutine. Importantly, Comptoir 21 layers the three ingredients: a little of the raw umber, soft on the inside and crisp on the outside fries, a little of the moist cheese curds, a little of the gravy. Repeat.
While your fork digs down into this incredibly authentic and homemade tasting gravy, passed the curds, passed the fries…they’ve all been gathered into one forkful…strands of melting cheese curds on deck. I later learned how incredibly appealing and necessary the melting quality of the curds were, as I kept meeting Styrofoam curds throughout the region.
The staff is full of super cute boys who like boys. The decor is full on rescued-refurbished-hipster with long wooden tables, bar stools and an ancient looking ceiling. Also, their malt vinegar comes in a tiny spray bottle so that your fish is misted, rather than soaked. Nice touch.
21 Saint-Viateur Ouest [Mile End]
Montreal, QC H2T 2K7