Poutine Pilgrimage


Shimokitazawa is located in the heart of Tokyo, a mere five minute train ride away from Shibuya, home of the famous four-way pedestrian crosswalk. The area is comprised of record stores with musty vinyl, used clothing stores solely patronized by English-speaking expats, and twisting streets that intersect seemingly at a whim. Nestled in-between is a little hole-in-the wall restaurant named “Robson Fries” and in front of it, waving against the bright blue backdrop of Tokyo’s sky, is the red and white Canadian flag. C and I had been living in Tokyo for some time and had become homesick; I had been clicking on so many Vancouver-related links that I started receiving ads from Tourism Vancouver. So when we came across Robson Fries, I was overcome by the feeling that it was my Canadian duty to taste and assess the authenticity of what they had to offer. We ordered a pulled-pork poutine and when it was ready, we quickly snapped some photos and dug in—what’s worse than a cold poutine? I was happily surprised to find that the fries were crisp, the gravy was flavourful and the cheese was a melty goo of deliciousness. However, my keen Canadian senses noted that it was inauthentic; the cheesy goo was mozzarella rather than the traditional cheese curds. As we paid for our meal, I saw a sign on the wall informing visitors that the owner takes yearly pilgrimages to Vancouver to trawl for the newest poutine innovations. I thought of telling him I was from Vancouver. I thought of telling him that authentic poutine needs cheese curds, but I really liked his version anyway. I thought I would tell him that most Vancouver poutine is bad and that he needs to go to Montreal because I heard that’s where all the good poutine is. Instead, I said thanks. We returned to Vancouver four months later and have yet to eat poutine since.

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Sylvia Tran is the Managing Editor at Geist. Instagram and Twitter @sylctran. Find her at


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