In Search of Great Poutine at Corduroy

the view from inside

A friend made a recommendation a couple of weeks back that didn’t turn out so hot. Again, he’s steered me somewhere new. Can our friendship handle two differences in opinion, or did he redeem himself in full? Let’s mount a drama llama and go for a ride.

It’s apparent I only have one rule with this blog, and that is to keep things under $10 a head. With this post I scraped that ceiling, and arguably went over. At exactly $10 before tax, the poutine at Corduroy meets that requirement, but the tax kicks it into a higher bracket. Since the recommendation came from trustworthy a friend, I figured I would squeeze its carry-on luggage in for the ride.

I do need to add something else before I go any farther. Being my first post about poutine I have to lay out my personal opinion on fries, gravy and curds.

If you can’t do the simple things right, it’s not worth eating anything built from that base. That’s not to say one can’t add bacon or whatever else makes your nether region tingle to a pile of poutine, but do it after you’ve established that the simple base is good. Otherwise, you’re just covering mistakes with an intensified flavour profile. There are 3 things that I consider when making or expecting great poutine.

  1. Double fried fries so they are crispy and hold up well in a pool of gravy
  2. Chunks of cheese curds. Even if they are the “sub-par” kind that melt under heat I like them heaped on in chunks and throughout the dish
  3. Meat-based gravy Veggie gravy is fine and dandy for those who want it by choice or lifestyle, but keep it away from my poutine. Too many times I’ve had vegetarian gravy morph poutine into potato cheese soup that tastes like flour or cornstarch, depending on how the gravy was thickened. In my experience it has ruined otherwise decent poutines (La Belle Patate for example) with its sacrilegious ways. In my mind gravy is meat juice.

Feel free to disagree, this is just my own standard.

where is the cheese?

I had been told Corduroy’s poutine was “the best poutine I’ve ever had”, so I was pretty pumped. The setting that surrounds your eating experience at Corduroy is interesting enough. It definitely wears its Canadian pub heritage on its sleeve from the decor to the general style thought. Hockey sticks, a big bar stacked with half empty bottles for looks, and wooden benches that run the length of the restaurant work well together. What I was not too keen on was how I had to move around a few times before I could find a seat on said bench that didn’t have crumbs and food on it. It seems as though brushing leftover bits onto the chairs is someone’s habit here. Along those lines, the service was okay, with highs and lows throughout. Even though it was only 5pm in the month of May the place was super dark, and while the music was at an acceptable level when we arrived, it was soon turned up so high I could hardly have a conversation across the table without yelling. Getting back to the eating side of things, the food arrived fast, but we were one of only a few tables open at the place so I can’t speak on how fast the kitchen is at peak hours.

these are french fries

The fries were nice enough, having a crispy edge, but they softened very quickly in the gravy. I know it’s to be expected but this felt faster than usual. The portion wasn’t huge, so I was surprised they lost as much texture as they did so quickly. They were simply seasoned and came across well. I’d likely enjoy them as a compliment to other dishes.

The gravy, described as a “Guinness jus”, hits with a tomato-like acid taste at the start, which gives way to deeper flavours and ends with a very salty sharpness. It’s also meat-based according to the server, which made me happy. After getting through two-thirds of the bowl, however, the saltiness became overbearing. It hits very high notes, but there is nowhere for it to go before or after. Essentially all that the sauce  touched became very oversaturated with the same flavour. This is where big chunky cheese curds could have saved this bowl, as they provide a creamy, milky escape to contrast with the sharp spices of the gravy. Honestly, I feel like this gravy lost its way, and that if it were thinned out and put in a bowl next to a beef dip sandwich it would feel much more at home.

i think i found the cheese

Corduroy’s menu lists two-year aged cheddar as the cheese of choice. This turned out to be one of the most disappointing facets of the poutine as there was just so little of it. When I was first served there was hardly a hint of it on top, and it was only after digging into the pile of fries and gravy that it was discovered. The scant amounts of it, that I can only assume had been shredded beforehand, had melted into the gravy, causing more loss than gain. Where you have an opportunity to add texture and variety to something simple, you have instead forced what little you had together into even less. Did it taste alright? Sure. Did it taste as good as it could have? No.

What makes me sad is that they do one thing well, one thing alright, and one thing disappointingly. Those being interesting gravy (just a bit too salty), average fries, and weak cheese. It also seems fairly overpriced for what you’re presented with on the plate, which adds up to a score too low for even The Lower Crust.


Short Review
Unique tasting gravy, lame cheese and decent fries for a price that seems a touch too high. Keep looking if you’re on a traditional poutine search.

Corduroy, 1943 Cornwall Avenue, Vancouver

2 Poutines

$10 clams each (plus tax)

Corduroy Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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