As the conflict in my home country of Syria rages on, so does the influx of immigrants from the Levantine nation to Montreal and its surroundings. With these newly-minted Canadians come entrepreneurship and talent, which have translated into flourishing operations in the food sector. From caterers Les Filles Fattoush and ice cream parlor Bouza to restaurants such as Lylac, Bab Sharqi and Sham, there is much to be proud of as a Syrian Canadian.
Another gem in this endeavour is Laval's Beroya, which I was invited to sample soon after its opening a couple years ago. That memorable outing – reviewed here – was shortly followed by another that same year. Tonight I headed back to see how the Chomedey outfit was faring three years in; plus I wanted to distance myself from the Grand Prix crowds in the city and take advantage of the parking-friendly strip-mall setting.
tagged: TAKE THE CAR
This being a follow-up review, I will not delve into much background information behind Beroya – for that I will refer you to the aforementioned write-up. The large dining room was quiet for my family's 6PM reservation on this warm Saturday evening, but boy did things pick up from there!
Within an hour, the incessant flow of guests from all age groups filled tables seating anywhere from four to twenty or more diners – how about an entire wedding party? Nowhere else is the presence of the local Syrian community as apparent as here.
On my first visit, I opted for the tasting menu, which does a fine job of taking the guesswork out of selecting from the extensive, voluminous menu. Tonight my family and I went à la carte, picking some favorites of ours while trying a couple of Aleppian/Armenian specialties unfamiliar to us – my background being Damascene. As with any mezze-driven menu listing lots of under-$10 items, one can easily over-order and risk entering food-coma territory.
Two salads we tried were fresh but unimpressive – I like my tabbouleh more finely chopped and citrusy. A hummus order was rich and tasty but served cold. From there on we were in business! A flavorful balila – chickpea salad of sorts – and velvety garlic labneh were followed by perfectly-grilled, juicy meat skewers and a side of mouth-watering potatoes in a fragrant lemon broth. As for dessert, our cheese knafeh had the ideal sweet/salty balance.
"minced parsley, tomatoes, onions & bulgur mixed with virgin olive oil & fresh lemon"
"bulgur, tomatoes, green onion, minced parsley & red pepper paste with virgin olive oil"
"chickpea dip with tahini & olive oil"
"cooked chickpeas, olive oil, lemon, cumin"
"homemade thick yogurt, mint, garlic, olive oil"
"french fries with lemon sauce, garlic & spices"
"charcoal-grilled kababs, shish taouk & filet mignon, garnishes"
"cheese-filled phyllo dough, crunchy crust & aromatic syrup"
An exclusively-male waitstaff brings Beroya even closer to restaurants back home, where women waitresses are a rare sight. Our waiter for the night was friendly and knowledgeable, but not completely on top of things. Plates arrived a little hurriedly and back-to-back, crowding our table and making us feel cramped. Also, we had to wait quite long for our glasses of wine on a couple occasions. Still, service was acceptable overall; it just lacked a little sharpness.
Stepping out of Beroya with my pants feeling tight at the waste, I pondered whether or not to pen another review after only two years. In the end I caved in; after all, one cannot compare a comped invitation to an anonymous, paid-out-of-pocket visit.
Either way, the Laval restaurant gets everything right; atmosphere, authenticity, food… This feeling is clearly shared by the local Arab community, judging by their numbers on my repeated stops. As a Syrian Canadian with children who have never been to my homeland, Beroya sure gives them as immersive an experience as possible.
Price per person: $29
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.