Tourtière Australienne's suprisingly sophisticated Down Under answer to poutine
Tourtière Australienne. No, it’s not some Oz take on the Québécois classic, not some kangaroo-meat-filled continental crossover. It’s essentially Australia’s answer to poutine, an iconic, no-frills dish primarily consumed whilst rip-roaring drunk, and it’s finally available in Montreal. (Side note: Great poutine can now be had in Melbourne at Lord of the Fries.)
Tourtière Australienne (TA) is the happy result of an Aussie-restaurant-trained New Zealander marrying a Québécoise and deciding to throw off the itinerant hotel-cookery scene and settle down in Montreal to make his beloved "pies." These are handheld pastries with stew-like fillings. Yet as you might expect from a professionally trained chef, these humble pies are a study in perfection.
A pie is only as good as its pastry and this particular crust passes with flying colours. The many-layered, gloriously golden puff pastry shimmers with buttery goodness from its supremely flaky outer layers down to the denser, sauce-soaked inner layers. Perhaps most impressive is that the top "lid" of the pies stays perfectly affixed to the sides of the base – a key factor in a good pie, states my Montreal-transplant Sydney insider. The dough-making process is a two-day affair of rolling, folding and resting.
TA offers an impressive variety of pies, plus sausage rolls, pasties (no, not that kind) and "down-undah" desserts. The various fillings – from lamb rogan josh to spinach, ricotta, mushroom and tomato – are all made in-house with ingredients from the Jean-Talon Market.
Red wine and tomato paste lent sultry depth to a steak and cheese pie, while the steak and kidney pie embodied all the rich, gamey goodness one hopes for in this classic. Comforting ground beef and cheese was flecked with corn niblets, bringing to mind pâté chinois. Silky smoked mackerel married beautifully with spinach in a creamy wine sauce, the pie topped with piped potato minarets. Curried vegetable and sweet potato was bursting with bright peppers, eggplants, beans, peas, zucchini and tomatoes, simmered to sweet vegetable perfection and delicately spiced. A hit of maple syrup in the cumin-seed-sprinkled sweet potato topping was delish.
Impossible to choose favourites, but the Ned Kelly, named for the Australian folk hero who has been celebrated in literature, music, art and now pie, was a definite winner with its gutsy combination of ground beef, bacon, egg, cheese and barbecue sauce.
Do take some pies to go and save room for dessert. Sherry trifle confirmed why the best desserts involve custard or cream, preferably both. We’ll be returning for the Kiwi classic, pavlova (cream and fruit-filled meringue), Lamingtons (chocolate and coconut-coated sponge cake cubes) and afghans (biscuits of chocolate, cornflakes and walnuts).
While a late-night pie topped with mashed potato, peas and gravy, consumed post-pub fistfight, may be a more authentic Aussie experience, TA’s pies deserve your full, sober devotion.
4520 Parc Ave.; (514) 277-7437
Individual pies are $5 hot, $4.50 frozen; family-size pies are $16 (frozen)