Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
Last month, I was invited to sample a Syrian concept called Souriana in the Shaugnessy Village/Concordia Ghetto area. Obviously I could not say no as a Syrian myself; and I am glad I accepted. The two-year-old, fast-casual operation does affordable, authentic grilled meats and broasted chicken like no one else in town.
With a few locations already open and a couple more planned, tonight I was summoned to their spanking-new, two-in-one Souriana x Taco Bar venture. For the occasion, a small group of influencers converged at the centrally-located eatery just behind The Bay's flagship downtown store on this quiet Sunday evening.
A number of quick-service restaurants have paired up in shared spaces of late, which spreads out costs in high-rent areas. In this case, the Souriana folks have taken on a franchise of Taco Bar, a new express concept from the 3 Amigos banner. Incidentally, this corner last housed a 3 Amigos Cantina, which was preceded by an unrelated shawarma joint; meaning things have gone full circle it seems.
The space is loosely split down the middle via a pair of eye-catching room dividers. While the two halves have a distinct look and feel, the Middle Eastern vibe has a stronger presence thanks to oriental accents and classic Arabic tunes.
The classic Tex-Mex taqueria was given a streamlined, customizable treatment. The main offering lets you pick your vessel – taco, burrito, quesadilla – along with your meat – chicken a la plancha or al pastor, barbacoa or ground beef, steak.
There are also low-carb and animal-free options such as a tortilla-less burrito bowl, a taco salad and "vegan beef". The second half of the menu adds burgers, chili and side dishes, among others. As for Syrian/Mexican fusion, look no further than the pineapple chicken shawarma from the Souriana counter; it's legit!
With the Montreal fast-casual sector in full expansion mode, hurried diners' options are nearing limitless levels. Those working, studying or dwelling in our downtown core now have two more choices with the one-two-punch of Souriana and Taco Bar.
And while any serious critic should not objectively review a one-week-old restaurant, we can all agree that Middle Eastern/Latino marriages occasionally give birth to gems such as Salma Hayek, Shakira and my own kids ;)
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.