Dining out: Lost Canadian still finding its way

The St. Louis ribs are big and sloppy, with tender meat amid the fat and a superior sauce made with maple syrup and whisky. (Photo: Peter Hum0

The Lost Canadian Smokehouse & Grill

Where: 1675 Tenth Line Rd., Orléans, 613-837-RIBS (7427), thelostcanadian.ca

Open: Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Prices: Mains $12.85 to $27.95

Access: No steps to entrance, no stairs to washrooms

I fear for the good people of Orléans, especially those folks on a diet.

Opened a little more than a month ago, the Lost Canadian Smokehouse & Grill serves what it calls “Southern BBQ & Specialities, prepared with a Canadian attitude.” That means food that targets our primal urges for meat, smoke, fat, and sweetness, but, of course, that should be eaten sparingly if you care about your girth or arteries.

What I’ve eaten at this minimally decorated eatery in Fallingbrook Shopping Centre has ranged from hearty, guilty indulgences (ridiculously rich and cheesy grits, even richer biscuits and gravy, a deep-fried Mars bar for dessert) to so-so (some underseasoned, undersauced meats) to misguided (a salad of smoked beets that would have been better smoke-free).

It’s the kind of food that I only want to eat if it’s done very well, and by that I mean that it’s bursting with flavour and succulence, not that it’s low-cal. Happily, the Lost Canadian gets many dishes right in a go-fatty-and-sweet-or-go-home way, although in these early days, it’s seeming the side dishes and desserts were generally better than the meaty specialties.

What passes for decor at the Lost Canadian is little more than framed T-shirts from U.S. barbecue joints and cook-offs. They are surely meant to confer authenticity, and the uncompromising fat content of some dishes makes me think that what’s on offer here is Paula Deen’s food, only with added maple syrup (and no racism).

Nuggets of bacon like little treasures in the delicious, cheesy grits. (Photo: Peter Hum)

There are about 80 indoor seats, split among a darker section beneath ductwork and a brighter front section. On one visit not long ago, we had the front section to ourselves, while a party, and I do mean party, of almost 40 occupied the back of the restaurant. Not surprisingly, food was sometimes slow to arrive at our table. I have to commend our server, who was unfailingly apologetic and even perky.

That visit, we took the restaurant for a full spin, ordering two appetizers and the family-style dinner for eight to 10 ($99.95). We gluttons — five adults and four children — lived to tell the tale and took home boxes of leftovers.

The shrimp beignet starter ($6.95) featured dough balls that were nicely textured and lightly shrimp-flavoured, partnered with a creamy, piquant remoulade. It was pleasant, but not thrilling.

Better was the biscuit and gravy ($5.95) that made us want to holler and change our names to Bubba. If you like to sop bread in gravy, this is the uber-rich, crumbled-sausage-meat-flecked ne plus ultra of that experience.

Eventually, the parade of meats and a half-dozen bowls filled with sides arrived at our table.

St. Louis ribs were big and sloppy, with good tender meat to be extracted from amid the fat, and a superior sauce concocted with maple syrup and whisky among the ingredients. Plates piled with pulled pork and pulled chicken were not bad, although I think both could have been more seasoned and sauced. If I were to order them again, I’d ask for extra sauce.

I find beef brisket a challenge to cook, and the sample I had made me think that the Lost Canadian still needs to work to tame that tricky cut. There was too much chew and gristle to our brisket, and the gravy did not deserve the “chef’s special” billing on the menu.

We liked the rib-sticking and humble sides, from the rich, sweet, molasses-baked beans to those cheesy grits to the mac-and-cheese to the cornbread to the bacon-topped braised collard greens. Only the creole-style dirty rice fell short, because it seemed a little undercooked and underflavoured.

Of six desserts, we tried three. The bland peach cobbler ($6.15) did not do much for us. Quite a bit better, although a horror for the health-conscious, was the deep-fried Mars bar ($4.95), in which a blessedly small stick of the classic candy has been dredged in crushed almonds and panko and cooked, served with vanilla ice cream.

Also very good, and less threatening to one’s heart, was the whoopie ice cream slider given to the boys at the table. An adult who intercepted one called it a really superior ice-cream sandwich.

I made a second visit last weekend with one friend, not to glutton out, but to check the speed of service under normal conditions and assuage my curiosity about a few other items.

When the restaurant was much closer to empty, we found the service was speedy. We found French-Canadian pea soup ($4.75) delicious, with nuggets of ham (Cajun-dusted, the menu calls them) like little treasures.

Unfortunately, that smoked beet salad ($10.75) was a flop. The beets would have benefitted from much less or zero smoking, and the salad itself, while generous, seemed tired. Fried chicken ($16.95) underwhelmed too. The three pieces of chicken were a touch greasy, and there was distinctly more flavour to the coating than to the meat. The cornbread, collard greens and grits, however, once more satisfied.

As uneven as the eating was at the Lost Canadian was, I’m glad to have found it. I’ll hope for improvements on some dishes, and sporadically crave a biscuit and gravy and some deep-fried candy, even if they will require a week of raw food to offset them.

phum@ottawacitizen.com

twitter.com/peterhum

ottawacitizen.com/keenappetite

Connect with Peter Hum |Google+|@peterhum|phum@ottawacitizen.com