Couple of Saturday nights ago a group of us were looking for a dinner venue ahead of some birthday drinks. I walk by Damas a lot, it's in my neighbourhood, as were the bday drinks so I suggested we try it. It's always packed and open 7 days a week which is quite a rare thing in this city. I didn't know what to expect of Syrian cuisine, but checking out the menu online, a lot appealed to me and it obviously bares a lot of similarities to other foods of the region which we're more accustomed to eating, such a Lebanese and Turkish.
It ended up being one of the best meals I've had here. Everything was excellent. They bring over pickles when you sit down, love a place that recognizes that you want to eat as soon as you can when you're out for dinner, snacking while perusing the menu really works up your appetite. The pickles were brilliant, they saw we were loving them and gave us some hotter ones.
Starters were ordered mezze style, all sharing dishes.
Incredible fattoush. The flavours of every dish was so fresh and zingy. With pomegranate seeds and fresh mint defining most dishes. This is a herby and fruity salad with bits of bread and cucumber. Seriously good. Next came the hummus and muttabal, a smoky aubergine dip, served with flatbreads. The aubergine dip was the winner, both were incredible, the hummus was so smooth, the kind that you wish you could get in supermarkets, but there really is nothing available like it to buy, might try to make my own....
Then came the akkawi, fried cheese served with nigella seeds, tomato and mint. This is kind of like halloumi, it's fried, but it's much softer and not remotely squeaky. Nice tomatoey sauce left in the bottom for mopping up with more of the flatbread.
This messy looking thing is tatar burek. Beef and lamb dumplings with yoghurt, coriander, roasted garlic and pinenuts. There were 4 of these and we were 5, annoying, and we all politely offered to eat half. They were so good we were all desperate to have a whole one. Our waiter was so helpful, making suggestions about which dishes we might like, how much would be enough food, wine matching suggestions, really nice. The restaurant is very casual, no fuss, no frills and although they tables pretty quickly, we didn't feel remotely rushed. Not sure how they do it.
My main dish was maqlouba, a recommendation of our waiter. It's braised lamb shoulder with aubergine and saffron rice complete with side dish of yoghurt with cucumber and pomegranate seeds. There were raisins in there and I still loved it, and I usually have a severe aversion to them in savoury dishes. I barely managed to eat any of this, I was so full from the starters, there was a lot of that at our table, so much so that we were worried it might offend but portions are really generous. They asked if we wanted to take with us what we'd not managed to eat.
I couldn't manage dessert, those who could went for pistachio ice cream. We drank a bottle of red wine, trying to warm up to drink again on a hangover and we paid $65 each. This place is such great value for money. I completely understand why it's so busy everyday and I'll definitely be back again. Love that it's near my apartment too! Yay Outremont. Interestingly, there are 2 Syrian places in the Eater top 38 restaurants in Montreal at the moment.
5210 Parc Avenue