It was a moment of inspiration that can only come from culinary curiosity, a desire to please, and economic upheaval.
On a trip to Montreal last month, all three came together for Corner Burger owner Hilda Hampar.
“I saw people lining up in the cold outside restaurants and I asked, ‘What could they be lining up for?’ It was poutine.”
Poutine? That literal mess of French fries, gravy and cheese curds that is both a national joke and a national dish in Canada? Yes, Quebecois line up for it in the cold. But will Brooklynites?
Hampar’s poutine is not going to win any authenticity awards from the Canadian Parliament, but it is a heart-warming (and -clogging) delight. Her fries are crispy, her chicken-based gravy homemade and her Wisconsin cheese curds so fresh that they make a squeak of real poutine.
“The shipping costs me more than the cheese!” said the Istanbul-born Hampar. “But I have to have them if the dish is going to be perfect.”
Hampar, who speaks six languages, said she mostly added poutine to the menu last week to try something new at her Fifth Avenue restaurant, formerly Meditera.
But she hopes that poutine will also help kickstart her restaurant’s fortunes amid this horrible economy (hence the “Recession Special” that also just popped up: two burgers, an order of fries and two sodas are now just $15).
“I really think people will connect with poutine — I hope they do,” she said, showing off a menu that includes the classic dish, plus versions that include pulled pork, shredded chicken and peas (very Montreal), Bolonese sauce, and even a pizza-style poutine with pepperoni and mozzarella (all $6.50-$7.50).
Canadians have already been showing up out of the blue, an indication that poutine news travels fast in the Great White expat community. So, Brooklynites, now it’s your turn to experience the greatest thing Canada has ever done for America since William Shatner.
Corner Burger [381 Fifth Ave. at Sixth Street in Park Slope, (718) 360-4622]. Closed Mondays.