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Damas

10 Nov

Last week, I finally found myself at Damas. Yeah… I know. How could someone who enjoys so much the Montreal restaurant scene have never been to Damas before? I have no good answer really… neglect? Circumstances? I will admit that Syrian cuisine is not something that all my dining friends enjoy so that may have played a part but regardless, I finally entered Damas ready to see if the praise is well earned.

Located in Outremont on Van Horne, Damas is a high-end sit-down Syrian restaurant. The space is very warm and welcoming despite its large size and multiple rooms. Lots of colour, patterned tiles and interesting lighting. The space was noisy enough which is understandable given how busy the room was. Service was sharp throughout the evening.

If you enjoy more casual middle eastern cuisine, you will recognize some of the flavours here but this is a whole different level. First up was the Fattouch salad – a beautiful salad of crispy pita, lettuce, various vegetables and herbs. Very nice mix with the crunch of the pitas and the fresh veggies. I loved the addition of the pomegranate seeds for a touch of sweetness. The vinaigrette was subtle but a little balance of oil and acidity.

We then had a platter of 4 different dips with bread – hummus, mouhammara, eggplant mutabbal and beet mutabbal. All four were excellent – classic creamy hummus, the sweet heat of the mouhammara and the lovely notes of beet and eggplant in the mutabbals. Perfect entry point for the meal.

Our final appetizer was one I really wanted to try once I read the description: Shish Borek – lamb dumplings served with coriander yogourt sauce, aleppo pepper butter and caramelized onions. The dumpling themselves were quite good – lovely gamey lamb flavour. The yogourt sauce, while being pretty thin, still brought a nice creaminess with a touch of spiciness to pair with the lamb. The sweetness of the onions mix well also.

At this point, we were already pretty stuffed but had already ordered one main dish each. Frankly, we could have done with only 2 to share amongst the four of us given the portion sizes!

First was the Damas Shish Taouk – chicken breast served with picked vegetables, sumac fries, garlic mayo and house orange ketchup. Good char on the chicken. Compared to the rest of the dishes, it lacked some punch flavour-wise. The fries were good and of course love the garlic sauce!

Next dish was the Fattet Mozat – Alberta Lamb shank and shoulder served with rice, tahini yogurt sauce, crispy pita, pistachios, cashews and ghee. An amazing dish – the lamb just fell off the bone cleanly. Very flavourful and tender. Tons of flavours through the sauce – some richness, some heat, some sweet. Everything to pair well with that lamb. I had some left for the next day and it was just as great the second time around.

The third main was another lamb dish, the Fattet Makdous – eggplant stuffed with marinated lamb leg served with tahini yogourt, crispy pita, tomato sauce and pine nuts. Another excellent dish. More tender flavourful lamb but this time paired up with more acidity and earthiness with the eggplants and the tomato sauce. The yogourt brought some richness to counterbalance the acidity.

Our final dish was Samak – mediterranean seabass served with walnuts, peppers, onions and tajin sauce. The fish was flaky and tender. Again tons of accent flavours through the sauce and the veggies. At this point, I wasn’t hungry anymore but found a way to try it at least a bit!

We left Damas happy and quite full. This is a restaurant that will hit your pocketbook but frankly, the quality of what you get and also the portions themselves is such that you will not leave disappointed. It took a long time to get to Damas but believe me, it won’t take as long to come back.

Cheers!

Damas
1201 Van Horne
514 439 5435

Damas Cuisine Syrienne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Khyber Pass

3 Apr

It is interesting to be taken out of your comfort zone food-wise. Not everyone appreciates it but it’s fun when I enter a restaurant of a certain cuisine and have absolutely zero idea what kind of dishes I can expect. This recently occurred for the event of a friend’s birthday where he brought us to Khyber Pass on Duluth street for a little Afghan BYOW and for no other reason then simply “finding the restaurant looked cool everytime I passed by”.

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And indeed, Khyber Pass does look rather interesting from the outside and equally as much inside. Our table was located in their basement space which has been modelled to look like an cavern. It is a little odd – and because of the use of polycarbonate on the walls, a little hot – but it certainly fits the overall theme. Being in a smallish basement space made for rather noisy acoustics once the space filled up but otherwise no complaints!

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I had never had Afghan food before, so I basically decided to work with their Table d’hôte and wing it! My friends at the table also having never had this cuisine before also decided to simply try stuff which allowed me to sample a bunch of dishes throughout the dinner. We are all curious to see!

First up, there were two soup options available – Mashaba soup and a house soup of red lentils and coriander. I went with the Mushaba. Composed of noodles, vegetables, ground beef, yogourt and fresh coriander, it was a nice way to start things off. A very hearty soup – tons of flavour through both the dark broth as well as the plentiful veggies and noodles.

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I had one starter as well – the eggplant borani. Consisting of fried eggplant slices topped with tomato sauce and garlic yogourt, the texture wasn’t necessarily as crispy as I was hoping but the flavour was all there. Lovely mixture of the sweet tomato sauce, the cool garlicky yogourt and spices overtop brought tons of levels to the party.

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Ashak was my main of choice – Steamed pastas stuffed with leak, served with tomato sauce, ground beef and garlic yogourt. Again, I wasn’t totally happy with the texture of the pasta – steamed but too soft and a little watery underneath – but flavour-wise, this was an excellent dish. The leak stuffing had a nice touch and kept the dish feeling light. Once again, the combination of the tomato sauce, yogourt and beef provided a nice addition and there was a healthy amount of rice and vegetables provided as well.

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Among the other mains I tried, there was the Teka Kebab – filet mignon brochettes – which were nicely tender and flavourful. The Sabzi Chalaw – lamb shank with spinach – was a lovely cooking display of the lamb. Fall off the bone with that lovely lamb gaminess, the spinach didn’t feel super necessary but it was delicious nevertheless. The last main was the Kofta Chalaw – beef meats balls in tomato sauce with afghan spices. A weirdly Italian dish to me but the addition of the middle Eastern spices provided just enough of a change-up to not make me wonder why I was not in a trattoria at that moment. All of these were served with the same amount of rice and vegetables as I got with my main so portion-wise, we all got our money’s worth.

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The last item for the night was our complimentary dessert of rose water pudding with pistachios. Now… I am not a fan of rose water as I have found that typically it is overused and just destroys any dish with its overtly flowery tones. However, in this case, count me as surprised to find that it was pretty good. Weirdly though, the entire table felt the pudding tasted like Fruit Loops! I guess I should check what goes into Fruit Loops. Anyway, texture was excellent on top of being a weird flashback to my childhood!

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Khyber Pass was a very pleasant surprise – huge flavours and nice portions all around. The decor feels pretty hokey to me but I get it and frankly if the food is still enjoyable, I can look past it. Add the BYOW element – and believe me we did – and you have an excellent option for a relatively reasonable night out. Khyber Pass… you showed me what Afghan food was and I am happier for it.

Cheers!

Khyber Pass
506 Duluth Est
514 844 7131

Khyber Pass Cuisine Afghan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BarBounya

11 Nov

My final stop for this year’s MTL a Table event was to BarBounya, a restaurant I have had on my list for a while now. After having read so many great articles and reviews about it and its sister restaurant Su in Verdun, I figured if I was ever going to give turkish food a shot, Chef Fisun Ercan and her team were probably the place to really do it.

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Compared to the more formal Su, BarBounya described itself as a Turkish tapas bar. The look of the room fits with that description. Most of the seating is along bars that go around the space. There are a few communal style tables as well. The style is a mixture of old and new where the old elements of a townhouse on the Plateau are blended with some more modern touches of lighting and decor. Your eyes naturally fixate on the beautiful bar along the side wall with the high cabinets behind it – housing the wine – as well as the open window into the kitchen where you can see the kitchen staff work their magic.

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BarBounya did their MTL à Table menu a little different in that we were served all the items in the tapas style of the restaurant – the dishes simply portioned according to the size of your dinner party. I was not aware of that going in but frankly, everything on the menu sounded good so at least it eliminated any debating amongst the four of us in what we were going to order.

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First service brought forth three items. First was kale tempura served with a spicy tomato sauce and some yogourt. I never thought I would enjoy a dish whose primary ingredient was kale but here we are. The tempura actually stuck to the leaves and created a crunchy exterior. The kale itself didn’t wilt and kept some tenderness within the tempura coating. The spicy tomato sauce and the creamy cool yogourt provided some nice contrasting dipping sauces to use in conjunction.

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Next was a salad of beets and chickpeas served with black garlic yogourt. Another big hit at the table – the freshness of the beets was a nice pairing with the crisp chickpeas and the subtle hit of garlic within the creamy yogourt. Another dish where the main ingredient is not an usual favourite of mine but it certainly gave me a further appreciation of beets.

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Final dish of the first course was grilled octopus carpaccio. Outside of the contradiction between grilled octopus and carpaccio – yes I know people use carpaccio to refer to any preparation of meat thinly cut but to me, carpaccio means raw – this dish was delicious. The octopus was beautifully tender and fresh and a nice mixture of oil and greens to enhance its natural flavour.

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The second course provided another three dishes to enjoy. The surprise hit was the barley salad with butternut squash, sun-dried tomatoes and nuts. A very hearty salad with the sweetness of the squash and the tomatoes working well with the earthy barley.

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The grilled lamb Köfte with tomato salsa was exactly as I would expect – spiced lamb meatballs grilled beautifully. The tomato salsa provided a little freshness to the festivities.

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The final dish was pulled pork served over an eggplant puree. The pulled pork was flavourful and tender but truthfully the star was that puree. Wonderfully smooth and creamy – the natural flavour of the eggplant came through so well without being overwhelming to the pork served over top of it. First thing my girlfriend said afterwards was that she wanted to try making it after we had it – the impact was that strong.

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To finish things off nicely for dessert, we got some chocolate baklava and almond pudding. The baklavas were not overly sweet thankfully with a nice touch of chocolate mixed in. The pudding was creamy and smooth. The addition of the pistachio and pomegranate crumble over the top added some nice extra flavours. A pleasant sweet touch to end a wonderful meal.

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BarBounya was a awesome experience from beginning to end. Every dish was enjoyed and devoured by myself and the rest of the group. Such a great usage of fresh ingredients all across the entire meal. Add to that some nice glasses of wine, a nice atmosphere indoors and nicely attentive service – props to our waitress for checking with my pregnant friend about the lamb – and you have a restaurant that definitely come back to much sooner than it took me to visit in the first place… and I suppose its sister Su is now higher up on my to-visit list now.

Cheers!

BarBounya
234 Laurier Ouest
514 439 8858

Barbounya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kaza Maza

13 Apr

My enjoyment of Middle Eastern cuisine is a very recent occurrence. Part of that was never being exposed to it younger outside of bad shawarma at fast food joints. Hard to enjoy something when you’ve only known the bad stuff. My discovery of Sumac a few months ago peaked my interest in this cuisine and I’m now more inclined to try some stuff I perhaps wasn’t previously. This came into play a few weeks ago when a friend of my girlfriend’s invited us to a restaurant for what she called the best eggplant dish ever. The catch was she wouldn’t tell us where we were going! The day of, she told us to meet her at Parc and Mont-Royal. Because I couldn’t resisted guessing, I thought about possible restaurants nearby where an eggplant dish would be likely. My reasoning led me to Kaza Maza which is exactly where she brought us. I clearly have a little too much knowledge of Montreal restaurants at the moment!

Kaza Maza is located on Parc Avenue in a non-descript brickhouse. The space is sparse but nice – very much in keeping with the neighborhood and the building itself. Brick walls, white crown moldings, old wood floors, an old fireplace, minimal artwork and some nice chandeliers. There is also a bar which is nice but because of the layout of the space, it is not really intregrated with the dining room.

The menu is a variety of Middle Eastern dishes – most of which I had no clue about prior to entering the restaurant. As a starter, we went with a trio of spreads to go with some pitas. First was the mutabbal betteraves – roasted beet puree with tahini, yogourt, lemon and garlic. The vibrant pink colour of this dish is a clear indicator of just how much beet there is. I am not a beet fan generally speaking but I loved the flavour of this puree. Not overbearing in the least. The inclusion of the yogourt provided a nice smooth consistency.

The second spread was the mouhammara – ground walnuts with bread crumbs, pomegranate molasses and spices. A grainier consistency than the previously one and a much different flavour profile as well. Much more nutty and spiced with that hint of sweetness from the pomegranate molasses. Very enjoyable.

Our last starter was the one I already knew prior to this meal – Labneh. A thick yogourt, this was a rich, creamy and slightly sour spread that provided a perfect constrast to the other two.

Once we finished off the spreads, our mains arrived. First we had the arrayes kefta – Grilled pita stuffed with spiced minced lamb served with hummus and pomegranate molasses. To me, this dish was a slight miss. Compared to what we had so far, this felt fad and lacked strong flavour which is a surprise given the use of spiced lamb.

The grilled octopus with lentils was a much bigger success. The octopus was grilled perfectly….I simply wish there had been more! If that is my only complaint, you know the dish works well.

The final main was the catalyst for the whole evening – The fattet makdous – layers of fried eggplant, crispy pita bread, yogourt tahini sauce, garlic tomato sauce, pine nuts and almonds. Yeah…. this is an excellent eggplant dish. The use of crispy pitas seems weird when you read it in the description but it works beautifully to add some crunch to the mix. The sweetness of the tomato sauce, the creaminess of the tahini sauce, the nuttyness of the almonds and pine nuts – all of it works well with the fried eggplant and makes this a very satifying dish. Is it the best eggplant dish in Montreal? Not willing to go that far but it’s top of the list for now!

For dessert, we had classic baklavas as well as. The baklavas, thankfully not drenched in honey, were just sweet enough without getting on my nerves – an issue I’ve always run into with baklavas. We also had what I believe to have been halawets – our waitress told us but I honestly forgot the name. Pretty good as well – once again, not too sweet and a nice creamy texture.

Kaza Maza was a great meal and a wonderful introduction for me to new Middle Eastern dishes. In cases like this, it is always great when I can order a meal of almost entirely unknown dishes and have a great night. I know that Middle Eastern cuisine isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I highly recommend you give Kaza Maza a try and yeah… don’t forget the eggplant dish.

Cheers!

Kaza Maza
4629 Avenue du Parc
514 844 6292

Kaza Maza on Urbanspoon

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