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Alep: Report

m
moh Sep 11, 2008 03:25 PM

I thought I'd report on my experience at Alep, the more formal restaurant in the Alep/Petit Alep duo. The menu is essentially the same as the menu at Le Petit Alep, as they share the same kitchen, but there are a few dishes listed on the Alep menu that are not listed on the Petit Alep menu, such as the divine Kibbe ne ya (Spelling is wrong I am sure), a spiced raw beef dish served with mint leaves, onions, olive oil and lettuce. Le Petit Alep is a popular favorite on our Quebec Board, and it is a fun place to grab lunch, it has a bistro like feel. But for a more formal dinner, with more subdued atmosphere, I have to strongly recommend Alep, in particular the degustation menu.

There are several choices for degustation, you can do a two course affair, a three course affair with meats but no fish, and a three course affair with meats and fish. The 3-course meat/fish choice is the most expensive, and comes to about $38 per person (before tax and tip). Food is served family style, and they tailor the amount of food for the size of the party. They are very generous with their portions, and you will leave very satiated. We of course went for the most expensive option, because we were a large company of gluttons (my favorite type of dinner companion).

The food is based on the cuisine of Aleppo, and is hybrid stemming from Syrian/Armenian cuisine. It is Middle Eastern food on Steroids. The spicing is much stronger and aggressive than most Middle Eastern cuisines, and the food packs a power punch. It is mind-blowing.

I will not be able to spell out everything we had. I did not even look at the menu, as we immediately jumped on the chance to have the degustation. We started with a selection of mezze. Our first course consisted of sea bass served with a compote of fennel, onions and spices, which was relatively delicate compared to the other dishes, but still delicious and intricate. Tabouli was fresh, and expertly spiced. We also had the Kibbe ne ya (described above), which had to be the most wonderful raw beef dish I have ever had. For those of you who are fans of raw beef (tartares/carpaccios/tataki dishes), this is a must-seek-out-and-eat dish. Smooth, soothing texture, spices that flirt with your tastebuds alternating between coy and assertive, contrasted with the fresh mint and crispy lettuce/onion, this dish is heavenly. Go. Eat this.

Our next course continued on the mezze theme, and consisted of seared tuna with olives and Zaatar spices, fattoushe (salad with mint, parsley, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and spices), hummus with mouhamarra dip, Alep-style spicy sausages, shrimp with terbialy sauce (a spicy red sauce), and another salad made with some kind of cheese amongst other items. Everything was wonderful, but the shrimp was the standout dish of the evening for the entire table. It was so good, we ordered an extra one.

Third course included: braised lamb served with spiced rice and yogurt, grilled chicken in a pomegranite marinade on toasted pita, and filet in terbialy sauce on toasted pita. All three meat dishes were perfectly prepared, the meats were tender and favourful, and so perfectly spiced. The grilled onions and pita was great foils for the meats. Again, the terbialy sauce has to be one of the most bewitching sauces you can put on food! The flavours are bright, complex, smoky, piquante, and very unique.

We were then served a surprise course of lemon granite with vodka. This was a very refreshing way to end the evening. (I could not have eaten another bite).

I eat a lot of Middle Eastern food, and I always enjoy it. But somehow, this restaurant makes you feel like you are trying this cuisine for the very first time. Tabouli, fattoushe, hummus, meh. Grilled meats, whatever. Yet at Alep, these were wildly exotic and exciting dishes worthy of obsession. So this is what it is supposed to taste like... I attribute the success of these dishes to the expert spicing.

Service was outstanding. The staff were informed, helpful, accommodating, efficient and very friendly. They are obviously very proud of their food, and rightly so. Atmosphere was subdued, classy, but still welcoming. Wine list is fairly priced, and very interesting. We were able to have two bottles for about $45 each, and the wines were really excellent, I was impressed by the selection and the reasonable prices. For the entire degustation menu and two glasses of wine each, the cost per person was approximately $75 per person. Our entire party is still raving about this meal. I think Alep would be a very nice alternative to the usual French-based restaurants we usually recommend as special nights out (like Club Chasse et Peche, Lemeac, Laloux, Toque, Chronique, etc.etc.etc.). Certainly it is a great value for the price.

  1. s
    ShawnO Feb 16, 2011 06:36 PM

    Moh, spot on review! Went there with our daughter (@McGill) after one of her performances. Got the tasting menu. I must say, you pretty much nailed the courses with your descriptions. The mouhamarra and terbialy shrimp and filet were standouts. Heck, everything was a standout! The slow roasted lamb was the best I've ever had. We did not get the kibbe ne ya, but the server (very informative, welcoming, and helpful) said she would highly recommend getting it next time...and we will! From the fattoushe to the wine, just an excellent meal.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ShawnO
      souschef Feb 20, 2011 12:04 PM

      ShawnO, you missed the sad news - Moh passed away last year.

      Here is the CH link:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/710372

      1. re: souschef
        s
        ShawnO Feb 21, 2011 06:01 AM

        Oh my goodness, that is terrible. I'm not on the board too much, so didn't know.
        Thanks for informing me.
        Best wishes and sympathies to her family.

        1. re: ShawnO
          m
          maj54us Feb 23, 2011 09:26 AM

          I just had a pinch in my heart when I read the news about moh. Deepest condolences to the family. Her reviews and insight will be missed.

          Had supper at Alep with my wife and I must admit that this is a fine restaurant.

          -----
          Restaurant Alep
          199 Rue Jean-Talon E, Montreal, QC H2R1S8, CA

    2. souschef Sep 14, 2008 04:28 AM

      "The food is based on the cuisine of Aleppo, and is hybrid stemming from Syrian/Armenian cuisine. It is Middle Eastern food on Steroids. The spicing is much stronger and aggressive than most Middle Eastern cuisines, and the food packs a power punch. It is mind-blowing."

      moh, is it just very spicy or spicy hot as well? I can take spicy but not spicy hot.

      4 Replies
      1. re: souschef
        l
        lagatta Sep 14, 2008 05:08 AM

        No, except for the muhammrah (red dip), it is not hot, and even muhammrah is Mediterranean hot, not South Asian or Mexican hot.

        1. re: souschef
          m
          moh Sep 16, 2008 05:40 AM

          Souschef, sorry for the long delay on this response.

          For the most part, the food is spicy as in lots of different spices but not spicy hot chile spicy. The muhammarah that Lagatta mentions is slightly spicy (hot), but not that spicy, it has a sweet component that balances the spiciness well (from the pomegranate molasses).

          However, there were a few dishes that were hot spicy. The Alep sausages have a mild-moderate hot spicy kick, but are still fairly benign if you are a big chilehead. The terbialy sauce also has a similar kick. To put things in perspective, hubbie is a chile wimp, but he can still put back a lot of terbialy sauce, and has been dropping a lot of hints that we need to go back soon for his terbialy fix. But if you eat a lot of it, the spice can build, and it will bring sweat to your face eventually. Several mouthfuls of refreshing fattoushe will usually relieve the burning sensation on your tongue.

          1. re: moh
            souschef Sep 17, 2008 04:33 AM

            moh, your hubby sounds like a chilehead compared to me as I hate to get to the burning sensation on the tongue stage, and I hate to break out into a sweat. I think I will have to tread carefully there.

            The sausages I do like are the Lebanese ones called maanick; I find soujouk too spicy. Yes, I am a real chile wimp.

            1. re: souschef
              1Capricieuse May 27, 2009 04:12 PM

              I loooove Alep and Petit Alep. Very often my husband and I we stop by after work to eat or take out. We usually take the lamb with pine nuts and the filet mignon (hot) they come with a nice salad, rice and amazingly delicious pitas with harissa sauce (if you take the hot version).

              I have to say that everything we've tasted on the menu is awesome.

              A detail I dislike: The lighting on Alep's side. It's not that it's too dark, it's just not right I find.

              Ok now I have a craving!

        2. Seth Chadwick Sep 13, 2008 06:19 PM

          moh,

          Thank you for this stellar report. My fiance and I will be spending our honeymoon in Montreal this November and we missed going to one of the Alep places when we visited Montreal last December. But after reading this, we wouldn't miss it for the world.

          Just wonderful!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Seth Chadwick
            m
            moh Sep 16, 2008 05:26 AM

            Seth Chadwick, congratulations on your upcoming marriage! I hope you have a wonderful honeymoon here. And of course, I am very happy to hear we may have a chance to read another one of your great reports :)

          2. Em24 Sep 12, 2008 05:11 AM

            I went at the end of August with my parents, my sister and her very picky BF and my BF and we had an evening comparable to yours. Alep is a true gem. The service was outstanding, everything we were eating was explained in great details and the sommelier made us want to order every bottle he was suggesting, with every course! I have to say that my favorite was that raw beef "spread" (for no other words to describe it) : I could have had another plate just to myself.
            We did not have the meat/fish menu, only the meat (the one with 2 mezze services) and it was absolutely wonderful. I think this menu is about 27$ per person, so per couple with wine at around 45$ a bottle, it came to around 100$ before tax and service.
            I will definitely visit this retaurant again and recommend it to anyone looking for a special experience. I am glad to see I was not the only one who loved it.

            1. f
              fedelst1 Sep 11, 2008 07:17 PM

              Also not to be missed are the Syrian Salad and their vine leaves. The stuffed vine leaves are home made, and not those oily canned horrors. These are a thing of beauty.

              If you were to ask me the question from he movie 'stand by me' of 'if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be'? I would say Alep's Vine leaves. Those kids got it wrong, Alep's vine leaves are truly so much better than cherry Pez.

              1 Reply
              1. re: fedelst1
                p
                phoenikia May 25, 2009 11:55 AM

                Are the vine leaves at Alep vegetarian, or do they contain ground meat? Are they served warm or cold?

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