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Oct 7, 2008 12:00 PM

Eating an entire plate of poutine all by myself at The Alibi Room in Culver City

Day 33: Canada

What the hell do people eat in Canada? Most human beings have no idea. I think I once heard Seth Rogen on a late night show say that the only difference is that out here the portions are a lot bigger. Well the only Canadian restaurant I could find is out of business, so I decided to go a much simpler route and focus on one specifically French Canadian and remarkably heavy sounding dish: poutine. That means french fries with mozzarella cheese curds and gravy. I have at various points called it “poutain” by mistake, which Mr. Meatball was quick to point out means “whore”. But maybe a little too quick if you ask me. I should try to remember to have him checked out for VD. So when I heard that a bar called The Alibi Room served a version not too far from my house, I figured it was worth the risk.

Arriving is slightly more complicated than anticipated as there is a man walking around the parking lot threatening cars with a baseball bat. I somehow forget to ask him why, but luckily the police are interested in doing the same thing. They apparently feel the need to talk to him somewhere else though, and gave him a ride in their car. I think that was very nice of them. Once inside, I sidle up to the bar with “Danielle”, Air Bear, GirlfriendBites and Mr. Meatball, perusing the beer list for something Canadian before deciding “screw it” and ordering a Sapporo. I ask the bartender how big the poutine is. She says “Big.” I ask her if she thinks I can eat a whole one by myself. She says “No.” (She’s very monosyllabic) I decide right there on the spot that if I’m only ordering one dish for such an enormous country, I may as well attempt to develop the testicular fortitude to eat the whole thing by myself. So to set the record straight, nobody is taking a single bit of my dish. If they want poutine, they had better order it their damn selves. I’m feeling confident, excited and downright cocky. Then a big steaming pile of calories gets slid into the service window. I’m still confident, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. GFB starts eating a grilled cheese sandwich and it looks depressingly dainty by comparison.

The first bite is very tasty. Crispy fries, gooey cheese and the remnants of something savory. On closer inspection there isn’t much gravy to the dish at all. I push the hulking mess to the side of the tray and discover a thin, rich and ridiculously salty blackish sauce on the bottom which seems less like gravy and more like au jus. It kind of tastes like what would happen if they tried to make soy sauce in Alabama. Meanwhile, cheese curds are supposed to be, surprise, the fresh curds of cheese and are thought to not be any good unless consumed within hours of being made at your local cheese factory. When fresh, they have a squeaky sound that bursts out of them once bitten. The “cheese curds” on this poutine are really a lot more like salty mozzarella and have no squeak whatsoever. But at this moment, french fries with melted cheese and au jus are pretty tasty anyway and “au jus” sounds French Canadian enough for me.

Okay, I’m starting to get exhausted now. As the dish gets further and further down, the “gravy” is getting all its salty richness soaked into the cheese and fries. Half way through, I’m starting to realize that this may have been an incredibly foolish decision. Luckily, my spirits rise for a moment when, once again, out of nowhere, a folk hero emerges. Folk hero Jason Bernstein arrives with three friends and Super Food Blogger Tannaz. They look at my puffy, sad face, realize what I am attempting and shake their heads sadly. I try to defend myself, but instead stare down at the murky, soggy, now cold container of food and simply slide another flaccid bite into my mouth. This is in no way tasty anymore and is not even particularly indicative of a poutine. So why am I still bothering? I don’t know. Maybe because I’m a moron.

We’ve decided to sit at some tables now. People are talking and having fun around me while I am struggling. The food in front of me seems to have somehow dropped below room temperature, it is now completely saturated with salty black sauce and my heart is wondering if it wants to bother hanging out with me anymore. I grasp at a beer, but find no fluid remaining and somehow manage to thrust my undead body toward the bar. I order another beer and collapse back into my seat. Someone asks me how the blog is going and I try figure out how to explain that its really a Personal Food Project in Blog Form, but instead mutter something monosyllabic. Maybe the bartender ate a lot of poutine too. I take the final remaining bite, which somehow manages to be just a giant glob of hard melted cheese, stab it with a fork and push it somewhere in the direction of my face. I bite it, chew it, swallow it and exhale. Somehow— and I’m not totally sure how— my head falls on GFB’s lap and I think I see some kind of flash.

“How do you feel?” someone asks. “I feel like I just got high on the worst drug ever and I think it’s called salt.” I pay the bill, we drive home and I come to the realistic conclusion that a horse would be very happy to lick me right now. For a fleeting moment, I wonder if this experience has sworn me off of poutine forever. I can’t imagine it has, which means there is a chance that I could do something similar to this again some time, though hopefully in that instance it will taste better. I start to wonder how this could be considered a meal, then realize maybe it isn’t and that I’m just an idiot. I think my brain is too salt saturated to tell. Oh, Canada. What have you done to me?

Food Breakdown: 2 alcoholic beverages, 2 entrees
Price: $28
Distance From My House: 3.1 miles

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  1. Hi... You're gonna get tired of compliments (on your writing style) from me yet again, but this was an awesome post. Very funny, yet informative. Most importantly, it has convinced me to try Poutine :-)

    6 Replies
    1. re: silence9

      Thanks! I've heard Dusty's in Silverlake may have a much better version.

      1. re: silence9

        Having tried this version last night and the one at Dusty's in the past, I have to say that the one at Dusty's is way better. The "gravy" at Alibi Room was just weird and the "cheese curds" really just looked and tasted like cubes of mozarella. Still, it was pretty good drinking food with all that salt.

        1. re: mollyomormon

          nice, another spot for poutine on the westside. funny ass review dude! lols.

          1. re: wilafur

            isn't there also a place in monrovia that serves it too?

            canadian Cafe? or something like that?

            1. re: kevin

              Think that's the place the OP hinted was closed and it is.

              1. re: kevin

                yes....and soleil in westwood also serves poutine.

                the best poutine i have found outside of quebec has been in vancouver....not that it helps us socal'ers. lol.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. As a born and bred Montrealer transplanted to LA 7 years ago, and one that doesn't want his post DELETED yet again, I'll risk it and say there's no decent poutine here. I've had it at Dustys, and Alibi, and Cafe Soleil on Westwood blvd, and none of them are even close. Believe me on this one. None of them even served it with cheese curds. Pass.

            2 Replies
            1. re: arisp

              Try the Redondo Beach Cafe. Owned by a Canadian. It's good there.

              1. re: arisp

                whoa there... Soleil always uses fresh cheese curds, he will even sell 'em to you if you speak french to him! hehe..

                The Rodondo Beach Cafe is pretty good, two Greek guys from Montreal, nice place to go see a hockey game, they have italian poutine which is much better than the original they have. But they also have real Montreal Smoked Meat, so it kinda makes up for it.

              2. Just wanted to say I love your reviews.

                Also, you're a stud AND an idiot for eating that entire plate ;-)

                1. What a great review and story. As someone who spends a lot of time in Vancouver, I can assure you that poutine, at best, may be an acquired taste; I had it at a well known Quebec-style place there called Roosters Quarters and it was inedible. Montreal smoked meat, on the other hand, is heaven on a sandwich.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: BobtheBigPig

                    how is Montreal Smoked Meat, different from pastrami or corned beef? Is it beef too?

                    Are where can you get in Los Angeles?

                    1. re: kevin

                      It's similar to pastrami, but the spicing is different. This post has more details:


                      I haven't seen it outside of Canada, and Quebecers claim it suffers outside their province. In Montreal, it's a Jewish deli food. I don't know that I'd make a trip to the Great White North for it, but I try and have some when I'm there, if I haven't stuffed myself full of smoked salmon, sablefish, pierogi and Nanaimo bars. Poutine, OTOH, didn't float my boat.

                      1. re: BobtheBigPig

                        This is true, it is difficult to get some good, authentic Montreal Smoked Meat outside the confines of the Quebec Province.
                        As an exiled Quebecoise, i've learned to adapt and make my own Smoked Meat at home.
                        The trick is to purchase a good sized Corned Beef Brisket(without the spices and herbs) because it's already been treated with saltpeter(which is extremely hard to find int he US but available at mosts drugstores in Quebec), which is essential for the colour/texture.

                    2. re: BobtheBigPig

                      i wouldn't call poutine an acquired taste, rather, i believe it's one of those foods that you either like or dislike on your first go around.