For decades, Montreal's most prominent cuisine from the Middle East has been Lebanese. This should come as no surprise given the multiple waves of immigration from the Mediterranean country in the 1880s, 1950s and 1980s. However, neighboring Syria – from where I trace my roots – has been slowly making its presence felt of late.
In the last decade alone, Montreal went from hosting a single Syrian restaurant – Alep – to the flourishing scene we are lucky to have today. From Kaza Maza, Damas and Beroya to Lylac, Bouza and Abu el Zulof, not to mention the massive success of Les Filles Fattoush, one can tell how busy the recent flood of migrants and refugees have been.
Joining these ranks is another candidate called Mosaic, where I found myself tonight with two of my friends – one also Syrian, the other Lebanese. In business for little over a year, this resto/lounge occupies a strip mall-ish locale in the kosher/Jewish stronghold along Rue Saint-Louis in Ville-Saint-Laurent.
Tonight would be another case of an empty restaurant upon arrival at 7PM, only to get beyond packed by 8PM; thus reinforcing the stereotype of Arabs dining late. And boy was this an Arab crowd if ever there was one!
The middle-to-senior-aged crowd came in large groups and spent the night away eating, sipping tea, playing cards or tawla (backgammon), reminding me of my parents' late-night gatherings back home. Ourselves, we did not feel the time pass thanks to the beautiful, sophisticated space boasting light beige tones, Arabic calligraphy, oriental motifs and dangling planters.
tagged: COMMUNITY PICK
Whereas at many a Levantine restaurant – the previous review being a case in point – it is nearly impossible to narrow down the cuisine's specific regional focus, at Mosaic the menu is clearly Syrian. In addition to staples also considered Lebanese such as tabbouleh, hummus, kibbeh and mashawi, you will find specialties such as yalanji, Aleppo mortadella, toshka and kebab halabi only found in Syria.
Between my dining companions and me, given our origins and experience with this type of food, let's just say we know our shiznit; and we were impressed with what we sampled. Minor complaints went against an uncoated tabbouleh and thick-ish hummus, but the rest excelled.
Crunchy bright fattoush, poppy velvety muhammara, silky stuffed yalanji, crispy meaty toshka… but nothing compared to the perfectly-spiced kibbeh and the heavenly platter of grillades. Covered with tomato-herbed pita and sitting next to pickles and a za'atar salad were the most tender, juicy and tasty skewers of taouk, kafta and kabab I have had in years. One would renounce veganism for those alone!
tagged: GOOD FOR SHARING
A handful of waiters in black attires with logos on their chests were on the floor tonight. They gave off a formal yet accommodating vibe. Our own waitress seemed to lack complete mastery of the menu and tried to upsell us in the middle of our meal when we clearly stated we were getting full. While she may have lost a few points due to this, she was otherwise very courteous, friendly, available and efficient.
Having never heard of Mosaic prior to this week, I did not have high expectations upon showing up for dinner tonight. The strong turnout I witnessed quickly got my hopes up, especially given the patrons' ages; this is not exactly the flaky, "only in it for the ‘gram" demographic.
More than just a pretty place, Mosaic matches its looks with authentic, delicious food – varying between well and perfectly executed – in addition to a lounge-y ambiance which will make you want to hang around. And while your bill can quickly add up if you're attempting to sample a bit of everything ($100 all-in-all for my share of the food plus one drink), I realize this has become the post-pandemic norm.
No matter, this spot has clearly struck a chord with the local Syrian diaspora – myself included – since opening just over a year ago. No longer is our culinary imprint second to that of Lebanon…
Price per person: $36
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.