Mar 16, 2011

Yallah Let’s Eat! Montreal’s Best Lebanese Food

Restaurant Daou

It comes as no surprise that Celine Dion’s wedding was catered by Daou – one could easily picture Renée filling his mouth with their heavenly stuffed grape leaves, and Celine humming a tune while swirling her pita bread in their velvety hummus. The restaurant even immortalized the event with a large wedding photo of the happy couple to greet you as you walk in the door.

For many Montrealers, middle-eastern food claims its place as a popular lunchtime option, mostly because it’s somewhat healthier than the Big Mac and fries on the other side of the food court. However, if Amir’s lunch special number three with an extra side of hummus is your daily noontime ritual and this makes you think you are a Lebanese cuisine connoisseur, you are sadly mistaken. The most authentic and deliciously home-style Lebanese food is found in a quiet, unassuming St-Laurent eatery.

The food at Daou is so incredibly genuine and savory, it makes you embarrassed to walk into an Amir and order a falafel sandwich and feel good about it. Any hummus you taste after you have tasted Daou’s will seem too lumpy, or too dry, or just plain off. The stuffed grape leaves you try anywhere else (anywhere except perhaps your Lebanese friend’s teta’s house) will be too tightly wound, too sour, or just plain sad. So be forewarned, by stepping foot inside this middle-eastern Mecca of all things lebaniciously  delicious, you will be disappointed by anything else in comparison and you may effectively ruin your weekly falafel lunch run.

As you make your way inside, you are automatically greeted as if you have come to an old friend’s house for dinner. Basam the waiter is always there with a smiling face as “kifek’s” are exchanged between regular customers.  There’s something charming about the antiquated décor, and keeps the place low-key with a touch of class.  It’s not stuffy and makes you feel right at home. Pictures of the homeland are strewn about the walls, and there’s always a quiet buzz in the room – including sporadic bursts of the Lebanese happy birthday song that blares through the speakers at least once a night. This is where you come for a family dinner and are consistently guaranteed an excellent meal.

Whenever people visit Daou they usually order the standard set of dishes. And while many people usually know what these are, the staff is more than willing to help you out if you’re not familiar with the menu. The following is our menu recommendation for a table of four:

Stuffed grape-leaves
Fatoush salad
Kibbeh Nayeh (raw) or 
Kibbeh Sounieh (baked)
Mixed platter with chicken, filet mignon, and rice

At first glance, this seems like a very small order for four people, but sharing concept is key at Daou, and they are not at all shy with their portions. The stuffed grape-leaves taste like they were freshly picked off the vine and are hand-rolled to perfection. Dip them in a little lebneh (Lebanese-style yoghurt) and you’ll be in heaven. The fatoush or even the tabouleh salads taste nothing like the sloppy and overly dressed versions you find at the food court. For the meat appetizers, you have a choice between Kibbeh Nayeh (raw minced lamb meat with crushed wheat) or Kibbeh Sounieh (baked version). If you choose the raw version, there is proper protocol on how to eat it. Since the dressing that accompanies the platter may seem a bit confusing, we’ll help you out here so you’ll look less like a tourist when you see the plate of onion and mint come your way.

How to eat Kibbeh Nayeh:
1.Take a portion of the meat and place on your dish. Using a fork, gently press down and score the meat.
2. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
3.Garnish with a few pieces of onion and mint (to taste)
4.Take a piece of pita bread and scoop all layers into the bread and eat it!

Since everything up to this point is incredibly delicious, it’s hard to leave a lot of room for the main course. But you won’t be able to resist once that plate gets to the table. Covered with an enormous pita bread to keep the meat warm, the aroma that wafts out once that bread is lifted has the power to put you in a dangerously gluttonous state. Whether you choose the chicken or filet mignon, or both, you will never taste anything like it. The filet mignon has enough flavor and juiciness to rival any piece of meat you order at Queue de Cheval. The chicken is unparalleled. We have never come across a version of this dish that was even remotely similar – from the mysterious seasoning to its consistently perfect tenderness; this is one dish that will never fail to impress you.

If you want to end the meal in true Lebanese style, don’t forget to try a slice of baklava, drizzled in honey and pistachios. There’s also something really special about the regular coffee at Daou – it could be Folgers for all we know, but it helps settle the truckload of food you have just ingested.

So yallah, lets eat.

Restaurant Daou
2373, boul. Marcel-Laurin
Montreal, QC, H4R 1K4

Daou on Urbanspoon

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