Did somebody say poutine?
That’s what I thought to myself when I saw the lunch menu being offered by Madison’s Grill during Downtown Dining Week. While I don’t normally have enough time to head into the core for a weekday lunch, a combination of some accrued overtime and sheer desire to try Chef Blair Lebsack’s upscale take on poutine drove me to make a reservation.
Though the restaurant was nearly empty when Mack and I arrived, it quickly filled up with diners from nearby office towers, many who seemed eager to partake in the special pre-fixe deals before us. In the elegant dining room, seated at the table clothed in white, the polished hardwood gleaming in the late morning sunlight, it was easy to just relax. And while I do enjoy the quick-serve options of my usual Chinatown lunches, the refined setting provided a nice change of pace.
I knew I had my heart set on the braised Spring Creek Ranch short rib poutine ($15) before I even entered the restaurant, but that’s not to say that the regular lunch menu did not have its own allure. From the Sylvan Star grilled cheese sandwich ($15) to the Irving’s pulled Berkshire pork sandwich ($16) and the grilled scallop and prawn risotto ($19), it was clear to both of us that this wouldn’t be our last daytime visit to Madison’s. Mack had to fight the urge to order a second helping of poutine, but eventually decided upon the prawn orzo ($15).
Before our food arrived, Blair was nice enough to chat with us for a bit. When I said I was surprised to find Sylvan Star cheese curds on the menu, he replied that the award-winning company only makes them a few times a year. For the occasion of Downtown Dining Week, Madison’s put in an order for 10 kg of curds! He also noted that the sauce Robert “gravy” was a reference not only to the French brown mustard sauce, but also to his Chef de Cuisine, Robert.
Our food was promptly delivered, and yes, I am happy to say that the poutine lived up to my high expectations. The squeaky cheese was divine, stringing errant fries together under a delicious gravy bath. And what of the short ribs? Off the bone came the meat, with just the right proportion of luxurious fat to enhance the tender richness of every bite.
Braised Spring Creek Ranch short rib poutine
Mack was equally enthralled with his prawn orzo (though he did slightly regret not ordering the poutine after a small taste). He thought the pasta had been cooked perfectly, and liked the combination of the prawn cream sauce and warm prawn salsa.
We were satisfied with our mains, and so declined the offer of a dessert menu from our server. Little did we know, Blair had a sweet surprise in store for us anyway, and brought over a complimentary trio of truffles. Beautifully plated, my favourite was the almond-coated round, with the flavour and texture of the toasted nuts pairing well with the dark chocolate. Mack preferred the orange-flavoured truffle.
Trio of truffles
Our lunch at Madison’s Grill was a breath of fresh air, and left us both relaxed and ready to return to work. It’s a safe bet we will be back soon.
Madison’s Grill (in the Union Bank Inn)
10053 Jasper Avenue