Canadian food is fairly under-represented in amongst the North American culinary landscape, and never more so than here in Dubai, where it seems to be confined to a coffee and donut chain. So we were encouraged by the new opening of Maple Leaf Restaurant on Jumeirah Beach Road, and its promise that it would contain Montreal smoked meat and poutine. It was a shame therefore, that smoked meat was off the menu when we visited, meaning that three out of six sandwiches on a sandwich-heavy menu were unavailable.
Maple Leaf Restaurant is essentially a fast-food diner, albeit with an independent, neighbourly feel. When we visited, there wasn’t much going on with the decor, aside from a few pictures on the wall of someone in ice-hockey gear, and various amusing scribblings, such as ‘salad is for rabbits’, ‘glaze of the month: TBA’ and ‘smoke meat every day’, which, in this particular instance, wasn’t true.
We ordered the BLT sandwich, made with maple syrup and mustard marinated beef bacon, the messy hubert sandwich with house-smoked chicken, and a portion of coleslaw and poutine (essentially French fries with gravy and cheese curds).
The poutine and coleslaw arrived first and we started to dig in. While anyone from northern England might think this sounds like kebab-van food, I enjoyed the poutine for what it is, basic and hearty, and it had a home-made feel to it.
The fries (we’d been given a choice of ‘Mcdonald’s style fries or hand-cut fries’ and obviously went for the latter) tasted freshly made, with little bits of skin left on, and the gravy was full- flavoured and thick, as if home-made and the cheddar cheese curds added a nice milky, fresh cheese dimension. For only Dh15, I was surprised to find that the coleslaw was housed in a huge bowl, and I really enjoyed its fresh qualities.
The sandwiches arrived as hearty and filling items. The waitress forgot my pickles and then brought me two whole ones, rather than adding them to the sandwich, which I thought was odd. There was more gravy on the messy hubert, making it a knife-and- fork job, but it was an enjoyably dirty, heavy affair, with nicely flavoured smoked chicken and Swiss cheese. Equally, the beef bacon in the BLT had a deliciously sweet and syrupy flavour from the maple.
We also tried the Canadian special of ‘castor tail’ pastries made in the shape of a beaver’s tail and a kronut (croissant-doughnut hybrid). In both cases they were exceedingly sweet, with a thick, crisp coating of icing sugar and while I’ll admit I felt guilt at the inevitable sugar and fat content with each bite, I enjoyed every one.