The Hollows is this little gem of a restaurant, buried in an iffy area of Saskatoon. Driving by, it looks like a run-down Chinese restaurant. A out-dated neon sign reads The Golden Dragon. Underneath, broken neon lights list typical Chinese dishes this restaurant once served. The large window nearest the door has a new, white window decal that reads The Hollows.
On Sunday, Banana, her roommate and I had lunch at The Hollows. It wasn't our first choice, but it seems that all of Saskatoon shuts down on Sundays. I have been there before, but that was for dinner, and they have a different brunch menu.
As you walk in, you may feel a little confused. The first dining room is plastered with gold shiny wallpaper covered in cranes. The hanging lights are the ones you have seen in every Chinese buffet you've ever been in. In front of the window are dried twigs, and sculptures you would find in any hipster/urban/hip restaurant. This front dining room is long and skinny, and there is a wall down the long side that divides it from the second dining room. I'm sure that once upon a time, they were smoking/non-smoking, or one was the bar side, but now they are just two sections to one restaurant. The second dining room is plastered in even tackier Asian-style wall paper, and even more urban decorations. The chairs are plastic-covered or wooden, the table are mis-matched, and several are laminate. The staff are young and hip, wearing high-waist jeans, long maxi skirts, and shiny leather pants. It is a confusing mix of tacky Chinese restaurant and hip decor. You're not really sure what will be on the menu.
The girl who greeted us was friendly, but rushed, with a "Hey, I'll just be one sec" and rushed off. We were seated not a minute later, in the last vacant table they had, which was over-sized and wooden, and right in front of the door to the kitchen. We were informed they called it their "family table" although it only had four chairs. It was clean, but sparse, with four water glasses, and four sets of silverware on it. The waitress handed us three brunch menus, a drink menu, and grabbed one glass and set of silverware. We didn't even have a chance to look at the menu before another waitress poured us glasses of water and asked if we wanted anything else to drink. I ordered a coffee, and Banana got the Fruity tea.
The tea comes in a little tea pot, but they have a large collection, and none of them seem to match. Tea and coffee cups are the same. They are beautiful, antique, and unique. It's lovely. It gives it a very vintage but also homey feel, like your grandmother might have made you this tea. My coffee came out with an old mismatched cream and sugar. It was so lovely. It made me stop and enjoy my coffee process. Even the little spoon in the sugar was unique. And yes, I drink my coffee with a lot of cream. I'm still getting used to this.
I asked the waitress what was gluten-free friendly, and she pointed me towards the breakfast poutine (they have a gluten-free miso gravy) and the oatmeal. I'm still steering clear of oats, but a breakfast poutine sounded heavenly. For gluten eaters, they have french toast, cured trout benedict, summer berry oatmeal, beans and rice, and croque madame. The waitress also said I could have any of the sides, except toast. Their bacon is gluten-free. The sides are bacon, sausage patty, hash browns or a farm egg.
I ordered the breakfast poutine, with a side of truffle mayo (mayonnaise mixed with truffle oil). Banana ordered a panekeoken (a dutch pancake). I finished my first cup of coffee before our food came, but it didn't feel like too long of a wait, despite the very full restaurant. I did feel like it took awhile for them to refill my coffee cup, but mostly because every single waitress had to walk past our table as their work took them to and from the kitchen.
I think I smelled my food before I saw it. It smelled like warm, spicy, gravy, and it made me want to be wearing a wool sweater and wool slippers. The scent evoked thoughts of fall, warmth, and home.
I wondered what a breakfast poutine would really be. It was a poutine, the good kind with real cheese curds, topped with pieces of real bacon and a soft poached egg. The whole thing was smothered in a thin, but tasty gravy.
I dove right in, puncturing the egg, and scooping up fries covered in gravy, egg yolk and a piece of bacon. It had a smokey flavour, with a sharpness from the cheese curds, and a smoothness from the soft egg white. The fries were crispy on the edges, but soft and moist in the middle. The bacon was crisp, but chewy, reminiscent of beef jerky, both in woody flavour and texture. The cheese was sharp and melty, lending itself to the flavours of everything else. I completely forgot about my truffle mayo until I was halfway done, I was enjoying my poutine so much. It has a smooth, thick texture, with a very sharp flavour. At first, I looked for plain fries to dip in it, but then I dipped gravy, bacon, cheese and all in it. It complemented the completed dish perfectly. I don't think I could order this without the truffle mayo next time.
I would highly recommend this dish to anyone who loves poutine, or any of those gravy-loving, bacon-loving men out there. I wouldn't recommend this to someone who has never had a poutine, though. It's not a good first poutine, although their regular (non-breakfast) version is.
The prices are a little higher, putting it at a $$$ on Urbanspoon.
I would suggest you check it out if you have a chance, even just to soak in the unusual environment.