One interesting thing about the Plateau is that it used to be a hub for Portuguese immigrants in the 60s, especially around Saint-Laurent and Rachel, where the Portuguese population grew to around 46 000 people by 2006, leading the area to be called “Little Portugal”. Though many of these original settlers have moved to other neighborhoods in recent years, there are many vestiges of their presence, namely the very pretty Parc du Portugal on Saint-Laurent Boulevard and a number of iconic Portuguese grocery stores and rotisseries.
Portuguese chicken is almost as famous in the Plateau as smoked meat, and a great number of restaurants have been serving it for years. Newest but not least among them is Ma Poule Mouillée, located at 969 Rachel St East, which serves up the most traditional Portuguese fare at some of the most reasonable prices in the area. With a long lineup in front of it on most days, it’s definitely one of those places that are in high demand, and for good reason. As expert foodies and Plateau lovers, we of course took it upon ourselves to investigate!
We approached Ma Poule Mouillée on a bright Monday evening around 7 o’clock and found a line reaching all the way to the front door. Upon inquiring, we discovered that the purchase process functions in true cafeteria style: patrons wait in line to give their order, then after a few tantalizing minutes are handed their tray heaped with delicious food and pay at the cash before digging in. Dishes can easily be taken to go, but there is ample seating both at the front and at the back of the restaurant, with tasteful wooden decor and much appreciated AC. There is also a little outdoor terrace at the side of the building where, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to nab some seats on a good day.
Food is very affordable, and all prices include taxes, which is a boon in a city where sales taxes always creeps up at the end of the purchase as an unwelcome surprise. The menu is displayed right at the entrance on a fun blackboard: drinks, pastries, different dishes and the daily special are all available to peruse while you wait, though given the amount and appealingness of options, you might find it difficult to settle on one choice even by the time you reach the counter. As you can guess, we decided not to settle, getting not one, not two, but three generous platters to share.
To get the best possible idea of the type of food they serve, we decided to try some roasted Portuguese chicken (half a chicken with salad and an absolute mountain of fries – 11$), but also a bifana (grilled pork cutlet) sandwich with salad for 8$ and a whole grilled chorizo slathered in their signature spicy sauce for 11$. The total per person: a mere 15$, tax included. The amount of food, on the other hand: gargantuan. Needless to say, we took a container to go for the leftovers.
What can I say about the food…everything was scrumptious! The chicken was some of the softest and moistest I’ve had, the sauce not too spicy and very flavorful. The fries were crisp, well-seasoned and flavorful. The pork inside the sandwich was juicy and satisfying, and the fluffy Portuguese white bun was everything you’d expect from freshly baked bread–and yes, they make it themselves every day! As for the chorizo, just imagine a meaty, well-marbled sausage with crispy skin and spicy, tangy sauce. It absolutely hit the spot.
This was our first time at Ma Poule Mouillée, but certainly won’t be the last. Open every day from 8 am to 10 pm, it’s very hard to find an excuse not to go and check it out for yourself! The least enjoyable part of the experience was waiting in line to get our food (about 20 minutes), but for good restaurants, it’s a necessary evil, and in Montreal, you often won’t be able to get by without it. Unfortunately, we were so stuffed that we weren’t able to try any of their traditional Portguese desserts like chocolate eclairs and pasteles de nata, but that’s something to save for next time!