When the majority of a restaurant's clientelle consists of stylishly casual gay men over 40, you know you will be in for a treat!
Located in a what was previously a casse-croute on Parc Ave. near Fairmount, it is easy, during the day, to overlook the tinted glass and dark brown box jutting out beside a depanneur. Yet the night reveals a dimly lit jewel of a resto that will ever call to me like a song to the temple. To step into Damas is to slip into a cozy, fragrant and magical space of plush banquettes with tapestry cushions as in a delicately ornate and fancy tent.
The menu reads familiar to lovers of mediterranean/middle-eastern cuisines, in particular from places such as Alep. As a comparison, think ultra refined Lebanese, with Jewish, Armenian and Turkish influences. Rose, pistachio, olive, parsley, sesame, pomegranate, garlic, garlic and more garlic! every dish redolent with layers of flavor that spring out, tease and then grab you by the...(name your sweet spot).
As a starter, I ordered a Syrian style vegetarian moussaka. It appeared as an unconstructed melange of eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, served chilled and generously napped with a delightful yogurt/tahini sauce. Although an appetizer, it is a large enough to act as a main, and in fact half came back home with me, to savor all over again the next day. To accompany me and ease the wait for the main course, G'rar ordered a portion of the house fries to nibble on. The fabulous fat slabs of potato were upstaged by the accompanying "aioli", the soon empty pot of which was replaced swiftly by our observant and deferential waiter. As good as the fries were, they became a mere vehicle for more of that sauce! Practically straight pureed garlic, not for a first date!
I must mention that our waiter was bang on when replying to my request for a glass of wine by offering me an overfilled bowl of fantastic Lebanese red, with big fat juicy soft fruit that complemented the seasonings of the starters and stood up to the main dish. When both partners desire substance on a cold December night and love to share, a mixed grill is the way to go. Our platter consisted of lamb chops, kebabs, chicken, filet mignon and quails. The dish was a lesson in not judging by looks alone: the meat appeared charred beyond enjoyment. But any outside carbonization had left no imprint of the expertly cooked flesh within. The quails were very succulent, leaving not a hint of burn on the palate. The kebabs were particularly tasty and all the meats were tender and properly done. The accompanying puree of potatoes was nicely seasoned with garlic, lemon and olive oil. What more can I say! Top marks for the meat!
As I write this, I want to return, this time to sample more mezze, the tea from the giant samovar and the tempting deserts. It's a date!
Until next time, Cheers!
Nat & G'rat
5210, avenue du Parc, Montréal 514-439-5435