Review: Saus (Boston Phoenix)
Of all the rabid regionalists whom I fear encountering in a dark alley, it's the poutine people I dread the most. Cornered, you swear on a squeaky curd never to confuse the exalted junk food with disco fries, and the last words you hear before it all goes dark are, "When I was in Montreal..."
Well, you're not — you're beside the Union Oyster House, at Saus, a street-food hole-in-the-wall lined with Tintin comics, eating fries of Belgian inspiration under the gravy-and-cheese-curd treatment of Canadian provenance, alongside dips with names like "Green Monster." Have mercy on the curmudgeons!
Saus serves crisp, blond frites in three sizes: petit ($4), regular ($5.50), or Belgian ($7), which here is a dimension, not a preparation. Add a deep-fried egg for $1.50. What fun it is to stick the yolk and watch it bleed a rich, goldenrod cascade down an architecture of fries, then crunch up its frizzled edges. Chicken and veal stock form the base of the poutine's ($6/petit; $8/Belgian) mild velouté, pooling around an ersatz potato pudding tossed with cubish cheddar-cheese curds. They did not squeak, but a layer or two down, they melted into languid curls. The gestalt is good but a bit restrained, as poutine goes. A first visit offered a preponderance of tiny fry shards; later, cones contained more uniform frites and few vestigial bits. Flaky salt stuck to fries without shaking to the bottom, a nice touch. Early on, overzealous application overwhelmed even the most pungent dips, but this too was a transgression quickly righted by a later trip. The sauce list ($.75 each) is a playful work in progress, the best of which are based on Saus's clingy homemade mayonnaise. Warm cheddar and Duvel sauce was rather runny, but the "Pegasaus" special — creamed feta, garlic, and lemon — was superbly bright and tangy. Saus's citrusy buttermilk ranch is addictive; the "Bost-onion" features sweet caramelized onion densely swirled in sour cream. House ketchup is complimentary; it joins the sauce list infused with warm curry spices and as a truffle-noted umami bomb.
Liege waffles ($3.50) were sweet and petite, not so crisp, but moist and light. Waffle sauces ($.75) include a bracing, seed-speckled berry syrup, and a lovely, creamy lemon; salt overpowers a dense caramel, and homemade Nutella remains mostly in test phases. There is coffee, tea, and Boylan's bottled sodas, though all this salt and gravy suggested suds. Given Saus's 2 am weekend closing time and proximity to the pubs, I likely got it backward, as Belgian street food is probably meant for following the other kind of sauce.
This review originally appeared in the Boston Phoenix, March 24, 2011.