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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

Leméac

4 Jul

Special occasions call for certain restaurants. Restaurants where not only is the food delicious but the overall experience is from top to bottom impeccable and without fault. There are not too many of said places but for my family in particular, Leméac continues to be one of these and as such, it was the perfect place to go celebrate my sister’s 2nd university degree (tied with yours truly and soon to be passed me).

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For the uninitiated, Leméac is a classic French bistro on Laurier that has one of the best dinner terrasses in the city. Sadly, for this evening, we did not have a table there so we would have to make due inside. The interior has a modern bistro feel – stone tile floor, white walls, wooden chairs, white tablecloths and a gorgeous modern bar with leather bound high chairs. A very clean look that screams professional and upscale but still feels welcoming.

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As a a starter, I went with the house made blood pudding with celery root purée and cider sauce. Now… I know that blood pudding is not for everyone and a complete non-starter for some, however if you are tempted to try it, this would be the place to do so. Great texture to the pudding itself, the root purée nice and creamy and the richness of the sauce… dear god that cider sauce. So good. An excellent start all around.

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The other start I got to try was the escargots with portabella mushroom tomato ragout and basil sauce. Very different compared to the richness of the previous dish. Outside of the delicious escargots, the rest of the dish was all about freshness. Particular recognition must go to the sauce, a foamy basil sauce that paired everything together here so well. Amazing depth of flavour despite its consistency. The level of sauce work at Leméac has always blown my mind… and makes me feel wholly inadequate to attempt to make my own at home.

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We move on to the mains now. First up, a grilled shrimp salad and sesame oïl vinaigrette. Very asian-inspired dish in terms of flavours mostly because of the vinaigrette. The very large shrimps were grilled perfectly well and the mixed veggie salad underneath was nice.

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We also ordered a side of french fries because when one is at Leméac, you must order some whether it makes sense with your meal or not! Pretty much perfection in terms of fries – just the right cut and just the right mix of crunch and tenderness. Add a side of mayo for dipping and you are set to finish the entire bowl and order some more.

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My own main was the braised beef short rib with barley stew, swiss chard and mint pesto. The level of execution on the rib short blew my mind. I was able to pull the bone out without any effort and not a single strain of meat came with it. Just needed a fork to break it apart and enjoy the meaty goodness. The barley stew with the pesto and the chard were excellent as well but quite honestly, it didn’t matter what else was in that plate because of that glorious cut of beef.

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Lastly, I just needed to order their classic pain perdu with maple caramel and ice cream. This thing is massive. The picture doesn’t do it justice… unless you have skipped a course, you will need help to finish this. Beautifully fresh bread crisped up nicely with a truly decadent caramel and silky ice cream. Perfect execution once again.

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Leméac was, as it always is, a excellent experience. Every course screams technique and execution. Great depth of flavours across the board. Great food, excellent wine list and very solid service means that you can never really go wrong here. If you are looking for a great French bistro experience, there is nowhere in Montreal that I can recommend more highly than Leméac. Just try to sit outside if you can… it will make it even better.

Cheers!

Leméac
1045 Laurier Ouest
514 270 0999

Leméac on Urbanspoon

Le Petit Italien

24 Jun

There is a certain timeless quality to Outremont. The nice residential townhouses, the mature tree lined streets, the old theatre, the many cafes with beautiful terraces to enjoy – this is a neighbourhood that, if I could afford, would love to live it. I don’t really spend enough time on Bernard street as I love it so much. A few weeks ago, at my sister’s recommendation, we went to Le Petit Italien, a restaurant I had gone by numerous times but never actually tried yet. As the name implies, Le Petit Italien is a old school Italian restaurant – here was hoping however that it would rise above the base level Italian and show me something more – because there is nothing quite as sad food-wise as an Italian restaurant that seems not to try. The food just seems lifeless in those cases.

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As this is an Outremont restaurant, the space is rather compressed and longer than it is wide. As such, Le Petit Italien needs to utilize the space efficiently and they do. A moon-shaped bar divides the interior dining area in two. The overall look is one of modern elements within a old space. I particularly loved their use of the exposed brick walls and tomato sauce cans as decor accents. Sadly the weather was not up to par for sitting outside so the beautiful terrasse was not available. Too bad.

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We started with 2 appetizers. First up, whipped ricotta with black pepper, thyme and grilled bread. Whipping the ricotta added a light and fluffy texture to the inherently creamy and rich cheese. The addition of pepper, thyme and olive oil brought some extra elements but nothing that took away from the ricotta itself. Spread on the grilled bread and enjoyed thoroughly.

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The other appetizer was the insalata prosciutto – prosciutto, arugula, red onions, parmesan and white balsamic vinegar. The first thing that hits you when you see this dish is that amount of prosciutto draped over the salad. As a lover of prosciutto, automatic winner for me already! The prosciutto was perfect, cut nice and thinly. The salad itself was nicely balanced but nothing special – the peppery arugula, the sweetness of the red onions, the rich parmesan and the acidic dressing all worked well together. Another solid dish.

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I got to try three different mains after that. First up, the risotto fruit di mare – shellfish stock, mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, red pepper puree and fennel. I am not a huge risotto guy – I enjoy it but it is rarely something I will order myself. This one was pretty good – the seafood was plentiful and the addition of the shellfish stock brought a deeper seafood flavour to the dish. The risotto itself was creamy and the rice was perfectly cooked – always a concern when one deals with risotto.

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The second dish was the classic veal parmigiana served with pappardelle and pomodoro sauce. A large breaded veal cutlet covered in melted mozzarella, the veal was cooked well and still moist. The pasta choice of pappardelle and pomodoro was excellent and complimented the veal well. Another solid dish.

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The final main was the penne con anatra – duck confit ragu with bell peppers and green onions. The real star here was the duck ragu – deliciously rich and meaty. Everything else here was simply a platform on which the duck was presented. I honestly barely remember any hint of pepper or green onion but frankly the ragu was so good, I didn’t even care whether the pasta was penne or a simple macaroni. Loved this plate – thankfully since it was what I ordered myself.

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For dessert, they had cannolis on the menu, so of course I had to have one – my addiction to them is too strong. Something about the combination of ricotta, orange zest and that crunchy shell gets me every time and thankfully I wasn’t disappointed here. Not necessarily as fluffy as I expected but the cream was nice and rich – the orange zest brought a little acidic and chew that was noticeable. The outer shell itself was good as well. After i finished it, I wanted another one…. usually a good sign and further proof of my cannoli problem.

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Lastly, we had a trio of profiteroles with chocolate ganache. Excellent cool gelato, fluffy buns and a rich decadent chocolate ganache. I was happy I had the cannoli first because it ensured that I wouldn’t eat most of this myself. A excellent way to finish the meal.

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Le Petit Italien was Italian cuisine done right which made me happy. It is not doing anything revolutionary menu-wise but everything we had was honest and well executed. A nice little evening in Outremont. The only true downside of the meal was not being able to sit on the terrasse but that just means I need to re-visit them again eventually.

Cheers!

Le Petit Italien
1265 Bernard Ouest
514 278 0888

Petit Italien on Urbanspoon

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