No. 43: Damas
Damas opened in modest quarters on Park Avenue in 2010, and was thriving there even before the war in Syria piqued local interest in that country’s extraordinary cuisine. When a fire forced chef-owner Fuad Alnirabie’s team to move in 2015, they turned lemons into Syrian limonada, reopening in an even bigger, brighter and more beautiful space than their original location.
Damas 2.0 on Van Horne Avenue is more popular than ever, with colourful, modern decor to match the vibrant food that has kept Montrealers coming back and sparked plans for a downtown iteration. Another perk of the Outremont digs: a terrace to pretend, during warm summer evenings, that you are indeed eating somewhere near the birthplace of fattoush and baba ghannouj.
Some people love Damas for its braised meat dishes, and you won’t want to miss its fattet mozat: Quebec lamb shank atop a flavour-packed blend of rice, nuts, yogurt sauce, pita and ghee. Others will wax poetic over just how good the salads and vegetable-centric mezze are, like the muhammara (made with red pepper and pomegranate molasses) or beet mutabbal (a colourful purée mixed with tahini). Vegetarians and disciples of Yotam Ottolenghi will not be disappointed.
Whichever route you choose to go, expect fresh produce, lots of lemon and parsley, sometimes rose or orange blossom water, and nourishing, flavourful grains. The wine list emphasizes regions around the Mediterranean with a great selection of small producers from Greece, Sicily, the Iberian Peninsula, the South of France, Turkey, Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley and, of course, Syria. Consider it a way to travel to a far-flung country without ever leaving the city.
Photos by: Michael Vesia