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Lunch at the Kasbah: Middle Eastern Restaurants in Montreal

Babaganouj with pomegranate seeds at Kaza Maza.
Babaganouj with pomegranate seeds at Kaza Maza.
Tara Salman

With a sizeable Middle Eastern population, Montreal is not lacking in restaurants serving the cuisine from this part of the world. Here is a sampling of some of these establishments:

Kaza Maza (4629 Ave. du Parc, 514-844-6292) is a quirky Syrian-Lebanese tapas bar located inside a former stamp shop. Both hot and cold mezze (tapas) are served here, which can be combined and eaten as a meal ($7 for two mezze, $12 for four). Mezze choices include the ubiquitous hummus (chickpea spread with or without lamb), as well as vine leaves, labneh (a yogurt spread, with or without meat), mouhamara (red pepper spread) and a most delicious babaganouj smoked eggplant dip with pomegranate seeds. Hot entrees ($6 to $11) feature, among other specialties, succulent lamb in either garlic sauce or with eggplants and tomatoes; chicken in garlic, lemon and olive sauce; kibbeh (bulgar beef balls, similar to falafel); kefta (minced lamb with nuts and spices); Armenian sausages, and cheese burek (like spanokopita). For dessert there’s baklava and coffee or tea, and those who need a digestive can have a shot of arak anise-flavoured liquor.

Named in honour of the Sufi poet, Rumi Grill (4403 St-Laurent, 514-670-6770) still has its flagship location on Hutchison and Fairmont in Outremont. The newer location on St-Laurent is open for lunch daily and offers a similar menu including its much-coveted Dahl soup. In addition to the traditional hot and cold mezze (between $4 and $7), Rumi sells savoury sandwiches for under $10 including saffron chicken, kefta ground beef lamb, lamb or filet mignon with hummus, grilled vegetables, Arkawi cheese – and, of course − the infamous falafel. The sandwiches can be had as a more upscale plate instead ($13 to $18), or even ordered to go. Rumi features a wide selection of Middle Eastern and Asian teas and refreshing fruity-flowery drinks like basil lemonade and a ginger-lemongrass tonic, which nicely compliment their oriental sweets. Delivery is also available on the Plateau.

Located across from the Jean Talon market, Le Petit Alep (191 Jean-Talon E., 514-270-9361), was expanded within the last few years to accommodate a large wine cellar and more dining space. Some of the same items at the aforementioned restaurants can be found on the menu, and this Syrian restaurant also offers a formula of half portions (sandwiches) and full portions (meals with rice and salad). There is an even wider selection of deserts including atayef (crepes), mamounie (a sort of cream of wheat with ricotta and pistachio nuts), and the usual baklava, all of which can be washed down with an Arabic coffee.

Stay tuned for more Middle Eastern hotspots on!