Damas was a hit with critics and the public alike but post-suspicious fire, how would version 2.0 of the Syrian restaurant fare? Just fine, as it turns out. Lesley Chesterman gave chef-owner Fuad Alnirabie one of her best reviews in ages yesterday. The Gazette critic writes that the relocated Damas in the old Les Chèvres in Outremont, "now double in size [with] a sprawling 40-seat terrasse", is one of Montreal's best. "When I finally nabbed a Tuesday night booking, the first thing that struck me upon entering was the wow decor. I admired the red ceiling, the lanterns, the exquisite tiled floor, the glassed-in wine cellar. But what I liked most was the open kitchen where some 10 cooks were churning out the most beautiful multi-coloured plates."
Chesterman dives into the restaurant's assorted hot and cold mezzes—kibbeh, hummus with minced lamb and pine nuts, cheese bureks, fattoush, falafel. There are few missteps here, especially with the falafel, which "were crisp, light and plated in the most elegant style, quite the step up from their usual street-food persona." You can stick to mezzes alone at Damas but the critic counsels diners to save room for the kitchen's larger dishes, namely the lamb shank confit. "I can’t think of any dish this year I loved more." The love-fest endures with a rack of lamb, grilled over charcoal. "Bite after delicious bite, I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be eating that night. There is just so much love and care coming out of chef Alnirabie’s kitchen."
Desserts, so often a point of contention with Chesterman, do not disappoint either, from the "scrumptious baklava ice cream" to the "Yes!" kanafeh—"a tender cake filled with fresh white cheese and flavoured with orange blossom water syrup and pistachios." Toss in a well-chosen wine list and the result is a rare three and a half stars on four from the critic. "I didn’t just like it, I loved it, as much as I enjoy the city’s best. And judging by the number of people trying to nab a table here, I know I’m not alone."