Tag Archives: hummus fries

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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Sumac

7 Dec

Outside of a few specific food items, I considered myself pretty adventurous food wise. While my parents did expose me to many different things outside of our French-Canadian customs, it wasn’t until I moved downtown for school did I learn to enjoy some more “obscure” (at least from my perspective) food cultures – proper Indian cuisine, great Ramen, true Mexican eats etc. Now, my adventures have not made me an expert in these fields yet but I continue to enjoy these experiences enough to keep them up and staying adventurous. All of this came to mind when I heard about a new restaurant in St-Henri – rapidly becoming one of my favourite neighbourhood and possible future living spot – seeking to be a true falafel shop and serving up great Middle Eastern cuisine. This type of cuisine is still a huge blind spot in my food knowledge so I was very hopeful that Sumac could show me the way.

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Located on the main strip of Notre Dame just west of the Atwater Market, Sumac has a very clean and sharp look. They beautifully utilize the brick wall of the old building and compliment it with pure white walls, light hardwood floors and solid wood tables. The ample lighting create a very bright space that creates a warm feel. They also add some nice music in the background to make the space feel comfortable. They have a slight different ordering procedure where you order at the counter and then serve you at your table using number cards. The issue, in the two times I have been, was that because the menu is only on the wall right by the cash, people take a little too long to order as they figure what to order. As such, the lineup at the counter gets long and takes longer than it probably should. The line spills into the seating space which isn’t great either for the patrons seating down. Also, there isn’t really a good spot for takeout people to wait either. Note that I went on two Friday nights so probably the peak period for this problem. I imagine it is much better the rest of the time – not a big deal, simply a minor observation.

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The menu is one befitting a falafel shop – falafels, chicken shawarma, beef kefta with a assortment of salads, grains, fries, hummus and baba. On my first visit, I decided to start with the hummus fries with hummus, tahini and s’rug. This dish was one of the first things I saw online from Sumac and peaked my interest tremendously. Just wonderful all around – the fries were nicely crispy on the outside and fluffy inside. The combination of the creamy tahini, the spice of the s’rug and the rich hummus worked exceptionally well – I had no knowledge of s’rug prior to this and my limited time with tahini never made me think of this combination. Great starter and a huge portion as well. A must-have for sure!

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Given the size of the fries, I decided to go with a chicken shawarma pita to finish off the meal. When you order a pita at Sumac, it is grilled and filled with hummus, tahina, chopped salad, white & purple cabbage and pickled turnip on top of your meal of choice. First off, the pita bread at Sumac is insanely good. Borderland obscene. Wherever they get them, I need to find out because they have put every other pita bread I’ve tried to shame. Thick but yet soft and chewy, the pita bread provided a great vessel for the rest of the ingredients. The chicken was nice and juicy and the vegetables fresh and crisp. An excellent pita all around.

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I was so enthused by my first visit that I decided to return two weeks later for a quick takeout. In this instance, I broke my own rule and didn’t order the fries in order to try some more of the menu. First, I went with the garlic labneh served with bulgarian feta, dukkah, paprika oil, mint and a side of grilled pita bread. A wonderful appetizer that needed a lot more bread than I got! I loved how the labneh and feta mixed together – combining the saltiness and firmer texture of the feta with the yogourt-like creaminess and sour taste of the labneh. The nutty mixture of the dukkah with the fresh mint and spicy paprika oil helped to ease up the heavy richness of the dish. Very nice all around and made for a great snack using the leftovers.

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My main course this second time was the falafel plat served with pita, hummus, tahini, pickled turnip and my choice of two salads. I went with the fried eggplant (with harissa, preserved lemon and coriander) and the Moroccan carrots with currants, cumin and parsley. Enjoyed the carrots although they weren’t as spicy as I expected. As for the eggplant, it was okay – something didn’t grab me and frankly I’m not sure what. As for the falafels themselves, loved them. Great crunch to the exterior but they still kept a nice moistness inside. Nice depth of flavour as well.

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Sumac provided me with a wonderful trip into Middle Eastern cuisine which was my hope. My initial visit got me interested enough to head back to try more and my second visit did more of the same. I may lack knowledge in this cuisine but I know enough about great cuisine to know that Sumac does it very well. For a quick lunch or a relaxed dinner, Sumac is a perfect option. Some of you may be scared away simply by the type of cuisine but believe me, you would be doing yourselves a grave disservice to ignore the wonderful food coming out of this little shop in St-Henri. Luckily for you, you should have time on your side if you change your mind – I suspect Sumac will be a staple in the neighbourhood for some time.

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Cheers!

Restaurant Sumac
3618 Notre Dame Ouest
514 935 1444

Sumac Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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