QUESTION: I don’t miss the winters. I don’t miss the ice fishing. I don’t even miss the good beer. But as a man who long ago fled Montreal for the palm trees and clear light of California, I do find myself missing the unlovely cholesterol bomb known as poutine.Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Poutinewould probably be the national dish of Canada if we went in for that sort of thing.
—Craig, Los Angeles
ANSWER: Until a few months ago, poutinewas on a longish list of foods, from creole cream cheese to real Tuscan lardo,that were simply unavailable in Los Angeles. Even if there were a place in town that sold the cheese curds that are a necessary component of poutine,the implicit heaviness of a dish composed of French-fried potatoes smothered in gravy and molten curds seems more appropriate to the endless gloom of Quebec winters than to Surf City, USA. But the newish Canadian Cafe, in Monrovia, is a divey temple to all things Canadian, walls emblazoned with moose and Mounties, pennants and maps. The café specializes in Canadian-style rotisserie chicken, and it is possible to snack on raisin-stuffed Canadian butter tarts, Tim Horton coffee and a tasty sandwich called a “bacon buddy,” which is made with cured, unsmoked pork loin rolled in cornmeal, which I gather is the real Canadian bacon.
I’m no expert on poutine— until recently, the only example of the breed I had ever tasted was at the high-end Vancouver bistro Lumière, which is the rough equivalent of having experienced one’s only cheeseburger at Campanile. But the poutineat Canadian Cafe seems authentic enough: fries; shiny, clotted brown gravy; and gooey, runny cheese curds that the restaurant supposedly imports from northern Quebec. Poutinemay not be as useful a Montreal import as Eric Gagne, but it’s nice to know that it’s around. 125E.ColoradoBlvd.,Monrovia,(626)303-2303.