Food/Drink | Avg price: ¥650 | English Available: None (Unknown)
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Not Canadian Enough, eh?
My excitement was piqued when I saw the shop called Robson Fries with a Canadian flag outside. I excited to see poutine on the menu and sure enough, that's what they sold. However, the beautiful cuisine is hindered by the limited ingredients you can get in Japan. The cheese is supermarket mixed cheese, and the gravy is not nearly as thick as the standard richness that makes a great poutine so hearty (and unhealthy, I suppose). The disappointment was extra strong because of the whole Canadian-display the shop has set up, even as far as to naming it Robson, likely after Robson Street in Vancouver. Thinking about it, this shop simply feels like it was opened by a guy who studied abroad in Vancouver for half a year, tried poutine, loved it, and decided to introduce it into the Japanese market. I appreciate that, but what is served just isn't authentic enough to do it justice, unfortunately.
Poutine in Japan!
When I was in elementary school, there was a school-wide science fair with some pretty cool perks for the winners. Eyes on the prize, I tried to convince my mom to let me make cheese under our house. I was shot down right away, and went on to not even qualify for semi-finals, effectively ending any interest I may have had in a career in the sciences. While that dream may be dead, my enduring love for cheese is not. (My now-frozen Neopets account cheeselover25 is testament to that.) Unfortunately, Japan is a cheese wasteland. It’s a cheese lover’s nightmare, full of expensive, terribly inauthentic cheeses. So, when I heard there was somewhere serving up poutine, I was all for it. The place in question is Robson Fries, located in the ever-fashionable Shimokitazawa district. Though hearing a lot about Shimokitazawa, I never bothered to check it out. But, one day in Tokyo with nothing to do (and Pokemon Go on my phone) I decided to walk from Shibuya. It was easy to find, despite it being so small. However, due to its size limitations, there’s a kind of irritating rule in place: if you want to hang out there, you have to order a dish of your own. No sharing. And because the plates are a bit on the pricier side, it may scare some people off (or, from what I’ve heard, just irritate them a lot). However, my boyfriend and I had no intention of sharing a plate, so we weren’t bothered by this. Luckily, there was only one other patron when we came in and he left shortly after, so we weren’t cramped in there. I do think there’s a rule that you’re not really allowed to linger after you’ve finished eating. Personally, I prefer that. Plus, it’s not really a place that seems like you could get comfortable and stay for a while. Everything about it screams “eat and get outta here.” The food took some time to prepare. It’s fried fresh, so there’s a bit of a wait, especially if it’s crowded. However, we did make some small talk with the fry cook (and owner?) and he was explaining that he used to live in Canada and fell in love with the dish. We ordered a standard poutine (for comparison), jalapeno poutine, and a popcorn chicken poutine. (Again, we didn’t come here to only get one dish…) The variations were a bit disappointing, I have to say. They were just the regular poutine with whatever the topping was thrown on top. I was expecting something more creative. It was still yummy, but I’m not sure if I’d get either again. One thing to note is that this isn’t real poutine. This is the Japanese, this-is-all-I-could-get-my-hands-on variation. The cheese is just “mix cheese” mozzarella from the supermarket. The gravy was nice, but a little thin and watery. But for what’s available in Japan, they did a pretty good job. I was probably going to be more surprised if the owner managed to get cheese curds to use. And became of that, it does look pretty sad. But trust me, it’s fried, and slathered in gravy and covered in cheese. It’s delicious. It’s impossible for it not to be! There are a few sauces out to try. There’s even a pepper sauce you can sample (but need to pay for if you want to use a lot of it on your poutine). The purest I am, I didn’t try any, but my boyfriend said that it was surprisingly good. I think that I’ll be back again, but only if I’m in the immediate area. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t make another special trip out there just for it. For now, if I’m craving some poutine, I’ll just make some myself with the same ingredients they use, for a fraction of the cost.