Despite being located adjacent to a somewhat seedy little strip mall, La Belle Patate is rumoured to have food belying it’s surroundings, and I’ve been anxious to try it out. Today I’m on my own for dinner, and swing in on a whim.
It’s late afternoon, that time between lunch and dinner where things aren’t too busy and indeed, there’s only two other people inside the tiny restaurant.
While the outside of the restaurant looks inviting, with it’s twinkly lights and quaint awning, the inside is every bit the companion eatery to the aforementioned seedy strip mall. Formica counters run across the front and left side, with stools. A couple of cafeteria-style tables fill up the middle, and down the right side is the order counter. Freezers are being filled in the back of the space, and a small television mounted in the opposite corner of the order counter.
A very angry Maury guest is berating her daughter for sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend SEVERAL TIMES OH NO YOU DIDN’T! Another guest has fathered five children and apparently this has caused great distress to their five different mothers. There are two young men working behind the counter, and they are so appalled at these behaviours that they are shouting along with the audience, righteously horrified at the loose morals on display.
Their state of righteous indignation makes it hard to get their attention, so I join them in hissing and booing at the man-whore and slutty daughter until they are ready to take my order.
Known for serving “Quebecois comfort food”, the Patate’s reputation is built on poutine and the menu lists many variations; I’m not a squeaky cheese curd fan, so I opt for a smoked meat sandwich and fries.
The order-taker is giving instruction to the sandwich maker on how to make the food, and praises him for heaping the smoked meat so high; I note lack of gloves, hand washing and hats so I conclude sanitation practices are not as well-regarded as afternoon talk shows.
The food is ready fairly quickly, and I’ve had my fill of television crazy-pants, so I take my order home.
Unpacking my grease spotted paper bag, I find a pickle in the bottom, wrapped in foil to keep it crunchy; the fries are copious but sadly, barely warm. I’ve got the leftover lunch fries, not fresh ones, and first taste indicates the fat is likely older than the cook. There’s also an odd sweet taste. When potatoes get old, the carbohydrates begin to break down into sugars, giving that same flavour. And, some fast food restaurants have used sugar on their fries to help them brown faster, so there’s that. I’m leaning to the old potato theory, which is too bad because they are the kind of hand cut fries that are hard to find anymore.
The stack of smoked meat defies the elasticity of my jaws, and I have to pick away at it rather than take a big bite. Now, I enjoy smoked meat sandwiches. I’ve eaten at the legendary Dunn’s, and I make an excellent smoked meat sandwiches. I’ve even had a song written about my smoked meat sandwich, the circumstances of which are much more humorous and much less pretentious than the statement sounds. Point being, I know what I like in a smoked meat sandwich.
And this one is outstanding. The rye bread is fresh, the mustard tart, and the meat warm and delicious. Well worth the Maury and the old fries.
This is a lot of food on one plate, so although it was 12.50 for sandwich and fries, it’s easily enough for two. That makes for a cheap date.
I must be getting soft in my old age, because I view the counter staff’s fascination with the television show indulgently, and was not as irritated as I perhaps should have been. Disappointment with old fries is mitigated by the excellence of the sandwich, and I will definitely go back.
La Belle Patate earns a return visit–but perhaps I’ll check the tv schedule first.
La Belle Patate
1215 Esquimalt Road
On the web here