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Kaza Maza: yowza!

carswell Mar 21, 2010 07:00 PM

Had been hearing good things about Kaza Maza, a fairly new Middle Eastern café on the east side of Parc between Mont-Royal and Villeneuve (about a half block south of Cocoa Locale). Since they're open late (till 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, midnight on other days except Mondays, when they're closed), a couple of friends and I decided to check it out after last Friday's wine tasting.

The dining space and kitchen occupy the bottom floor of a duplex. Most of the interior walls have been removed -- the main room extends from the bay window in front to a window that overlooks the back alley -- and many of the remaining walls have been stripped to brick. The floors, tables and chairs are wood. Photos and paintings (which may be for sale) cover the walls. The feel is airy, unpretentious and a little bohemian, more Mile End than Outremont.

The place was three-quarters full at 22:45 on Friday. A trio -- young guys playing cool jazz with a '50s feel -- embarked on an unscheduled third set just after we arrived. (The café features live music on Fridays and Saturdays.) We were seated promptly. Glasses of water and a dish of olives and lupini were soon delivered to the table, along with the menus. Service was friendly, fluently bilingual (if not trilingual). Explanations (at least the ones I could hear) were clear and guidance was provided when requested.

We began with an assortment of three cold mezze ($20 for 3, $30 for 5). I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. The baba ghanouj may be the best I've encountered anywhere. Silky, dusky flavoured yet lemony bright, haunted by smoke, spangled with pomegranate seeds -- irresistible. The mouhammara was also outstanding: sweet yet piquant, vegetabley yet fruity (hello, grenadine!) and even meaty (before she knew what it was, one of the party declared it had to have lamb in it) with a generous portion of walnut halves providing a perfect foil. The mutabbal -- shredded red beets dressed with yogurt, lemon and tahini, garnished with nuts and drizzled with olive oil -- could not have been better. A small fattouch (which was actually quite large; portions here are generous) was also outstanding, a fresh mix of lettuce and raw vegetables, lightly dressed, vibrant with sumac and made to order, as evidenced by the unwilted greens and crisp-toasted pita chips.

What impressed most about the cold mezze was their depth of flavour and balance. The three hot mezze that came next had depth of flavour in spades. Humus kawarma is a dish of excellent chickpea purée topped with a pile of spicy ground lamb. Kafta aux aubergines is a casserole of coarse-textured, beautifully spiced sausauge chunks baked with eggplant and tomatoes. A Friday night special was a falling-from-the-bone lamb shank with onions and tomatoes in a creamy tahini sauce. All would have been winners had they not been oversalted. And not by a little. We're talking wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-with-your-throat-feeling-like-you've-just-crossed-the-Sahara levels of saltiness here. Everything else about the dishes -- flavours, cooking, presentation -- was spot on. But the sodium choloride meant they could only be sampled, not snarfed. Since the cold mezze, which would have been made beforehand, didn't suffer from this problem, we hypothesized that this is an issue with the night cook.

The salt was the only sour note of the evening. And we all agreed we'd be back, albeit admonishing the kitchen to go light on the NaCl when placing our orders.

As I said, portions were generous. Despite not finishing the hot dishes, we left stuffed. The tab -- including taxes but not the tip (also, having downed quite a bit of wine at the tasting, we drank only water with our meal) -- came to $75.

First-rate food bursting with flavour in a congenial setting. I plugged kaza and maza into the Chowhound search engine and came up with nada. How can this be? The menu's lengthy, so there's lots to try and report on. Please do.

KAZA MAZA
4629 Parc
514 844-6292
www.kazamaza.ca

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  1. w
    wattacetti RE: carswell Mar 21, 2010 07:08 PM

    In all the time that I've read your posts here and on eG, I think that this is the first time I've ever seen you so excited. Will have to see about trying it out when I get back from europe.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wattacetti
      carswell RE: wattacetti Mar 22, 2010 01:30 PM

      Excited? Well, perfect baba ghanouj does push a lot of my buttons...

      Still, the obvious disclaimers apply: single visit; late in a very long day; following a tasting with 15 wines. And then there's the salt. Still, no one else I've heard from or read has complained of oversalting. That and the overall excellence of the cooking (salt aside) would point to its being a one-time occurrence (maybe the chef mistakenly salted twice) and argues strongly in favour of giving the resto a second chance. As I mentioned, all three of us on Friday enthusiastically declared that we'd be back.

      moh's comparison with Alep had occurred to me, too, but I was hesitant to make it on the basis of one meal. While differing in details, KM's food certainly appears to be on that exalted level, though I expect their wine list isn't.

      1. re: carswell
        m
        moh RE: carswell Mar 22, 2010 07:07 PM

        Yup Carswell, don't hold the breath on the wine list...

        When I compare it to Alep, I am comparing the daring, outrageously bold yet perfectly balanced spicing of the dishes. You almost think it is too much, but instead you yell "more, more". In these dishes , you appreciate the exotic allure of the Spice Route, and understand why people would travel miles and risk lives and limb to get their hands on these marvelous spices. Boy i really hope the oversalting was one off.

        But the dining experience at Alep is much more refined than Kaza Maza, and of course, certain dishes are different at one vs. the other. The wine list, the service, the atmosphere are all lovely at Alep. Kaza Maza is more laid back, more casual. Plus, that terbialy sauce at Alep! And that glorious kibbe nayeh, whoah, so sublime. Each place has its strengths. I'm just so excited we have such choice! Plus, Kaza is just so close to home, it's awesome.

        1. re: moh
          carswell RE: moh Mar 22, 2010 07:25 PM

          «When I compare it to Alep, I am comparing the daring, outrageously bold yet perfectly balanced spicing of the dishes.»

          D'ac. They also share a devotion to quality ingredients and freshness. Nothing tastes stale.

          The dining experience at KM is more akin to Le Petit Alep, wouldn't you say? Anyway, I liked it. Plus as one of our party noted, "what an attractive crowd, and no beautiful people."

          1. re: carswell
            m
            moh RE: carswell Mar 22, 2010 07:42 PM

            Yes, Kaza is closer to Petit Alep. I think I kind of prefer Kaza to Petit Alep in atmosphere. But we'll see as we go along.

    2. m
      moh RE: carswell Mar 21, 2010 09:32 PM

      I had been meaning to write up a little report , but life has been crazy. An old CHer and I hit this place up about a month ago, and like Carswell, we really loved this place. The Fattouche salad is wonderful, only rivalled by the one I've had at Alep. But I think I loved this Fatouche even better, the salad was nicely garnished with bits of fresh red and yellow peppers, fresh pomegranate seeds and that lovely sumac, sour and bright on the mouth. I do wonder if they'll be able to keep the fresh pomegranate seeds in regularly, what with pomegranates not always in season. Bu they were so perfect in the salad.

      We also loved the Muttabal betteraves. Such a lovely way to eat beets! It was a wonderful counterpoint to the sour and fresh fattouche.

      We had the Hummus Kwarma. What brilliance to put lamb on the hummus, this is such a great way to eat hummus. We also had the Kefta avec aubergines, which came piping hot from the kitchen, the meat in a bubbling tomato sauce with glorious roasted chunks of eggplant. We were there for lunch, and did not have the same problem with oversalting that Carswell experienced. Both dishes very strongly seasoned, but perfectly balanced. Flavour in spades, these two dishes also heated up well then next day.

      We also had the Bastourma, spiced beef slices served with labneh (smooth creamy cheese) on the side. The bastourma has all of the wonderful smelliness and strength of flavour it should have, and the creamy labneh was an excellent accompaniment, allowing one to experience the strength of the Bastourma, with a little creamy break in between.

      This place is in some ways equal to the experience at Alep/Petit Alep. I hope they'll be able to figure out the salt levels, and I hope Carswell's experience was not the norm. Because our meal was fabulous. The portions don't look huge at first, but by the time you add all the pita, the amounts are actually quite generous. I think the best way to appreciate this place is to go and share plates with others, rather than get your own plates. You want to experience a balance of hot and cold flavours, and you must get the fattouche, it is just so very refreshing between bites of creamy pastes and rich meaty dishes. Definitely worth checking out! We'll be going back very soon, and hope to try a bunch of the other dishes.

      1. SnackHappy RE: carswell Mar 21, 2010 11:20 PM

        Thank you for the great report, carswell. And thank you moh for the added info. This place is going on my short list of places to check out when I'm back in town.

        1. l
          lagatta RE: carswell Mar 22, 2010 08:14 AM

          I agree with the above posters, everything we had there was excellent and it is a charming space. We haven't had the lamb yet, so I do hope they'll go a bit lighter on the salt.

          If I recall the toilets downstairs would be very hard to access for anyone with mobility problems, which is a shame if we'd like to take older relatives, since mezze-sized portions are often ideal if dining with seniors.

          The restaurant space itself is very charming and welcoming, and yes, I was with an Arabic speaker so the service is at least trilingual.

          1. TheSnowpea RE: carswell Mar 22, 2010 08:00 PM

            So glad to read a new post from you! this place sounds like winner.

            1. j
              jptimbaud RE: carswell Mar 23, 2010 08:28 AM

              I tried this place on Saturday night and love-love-loved it. It was a full house, reservations mandatory. No salt problems to report. We had kebbé nayyé, babaganoush royal (baba with an éffiloché of lamb on top), kafta in a cherry sauce and pistachio kafta. The standout was the cherry kafta. Mmmmm.

              16 Replies
              1. re: jptimbaud
                carswell RE: jptimbaud Apr 16, 2010 03:34 PM

                Thanks for the recco, jptimbaud: have now tried the sour cherry kebab/kafta twice and it's as delicious as it is unusual. Can also give thumbs-up to the mousaqu'a (eggplants aside, nothing like its Greek homonym) and the bastourma. Am also happy to report that oversalting hasn't been a problem since the first visit.

                The wine list may be the shortest in the city: three whites and three reds (and two of each colour are Lebanese). Still, the Costières de Nîmes white from Château des Nages was affordable ($26 IIRC) and tasty and it went well with the eastern Mediterranean flavours. The baklava -- flown in from Syria, we were told -- was quite good, though I can't say it's superior to those from locals Mahrouse and Amal Boshali.

                1. re: carswell
                  p
                  Plateaumaman RE: carswell Apr 16, 2010 08:09 PM

                  They are no longer open for lunch, btw. Will have to go back and try again for dinner.

                  1. re: Plateaumaman
                    carswell RE: Plateaumaman Apr 17, 2010 08:38 PM

                    Sorry to hear they're closed for lunch. Had been looking forward to trying the lunch special. They should update their website, which shows them as opening at 11:30 a.m.

                    Do you know if they're still doing weekend brunch?

                    1. re: carswell
                      t
                      thebenc RE: carswell Apr 17, 2010 10:49 PM

                      They are indeed.
                      Ate there this very morning. The hummus fresh, the green beans crisp, the Kibbe Nayyeh velvety smooth as ever. What a brunch it was...

                      1. re: carswell
                        d
                        dd_ss RE: carswell Jul 19, 2010 08:57 PM

                        Hey Guys,

                        Wondering what the cost of the food at Kaza Maza is these days? Their online menu as well as magazine reviews from earlier this year state 4 mezze/$12, 6 mezze/$16; but recent threads here are quoting 3/$20, 5/$30? While not an exuberant amount of money that is still more than double the price of 6 months ago... Add in a few warm plates, wine and dessert...

                        I am looking for somewhere with tasty yet casual Middle-Eastern fare for my friend's birthday this week. We've spent a fair bit of time in the Middle East (both together and separately) and I would like to find someplace comfortable with good food in Montreal to celebrate. Too expensive or fou-fou and she will undoubtedly give me shit :) as we can enjoy better fare in the desert later in the year. More that $100 for the meal and I will just head to one of my standbys: APDC, 5e Peche, 3 Petits Bouchons, Montee, Cocagne, etc (yes, I am an unashamed fan of fatty western comfort food no matter how much time I spend in the developing world).

                        Sorry for rambling (my first post) and thanks for the help!

                        1. re: dd_ss
                          carswell RE: dd_ss Jul 19, 2010 09:29 PM

                          Was there last Sunday -- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7215... -- and can confirm that the deal with cold mezze (except the stuffed zucchini and the fatouche) is three for $20 and five for $30. We (a party of four) ordered three cold mezze, a dish of cumin potatoes, two hot mezze, a small fatouche, a small pitcher of beer and a glass of red wine and the tab came to around $27 per person, taxes and tip included. I don't think I've ever paid more than $35 a person, and that was a two-person dinner with a couple of special dishes, a bottle of wine and dessert.

                          1. re: carswell
                            d
                            dd_ss RE: carswell Jul 20, 2010 12:44 PM

                            Hi Carswell,

                            Thanks so much for the quick reply. 3 cold mezze, 2 hot mezze, potatoes and salad made a full dinner for a party of 4? I'm looking for a complete evening, not just a drop-in for snacks. I was expecting more like 2-3 cold, 1-2 hot for each of us plus fatouche, wine and dessert. Am I completely underestimating the portion sizes here? Or is it more of a 1-1.5hr Mile End stop in before the bar type of pace?

                            As everyone can probably tell by my 'standbys' list I am fond of casual places with good food, currently living on the plateau, and fairly lazy (I like to walk everywhere and consider la montee a trek). Am I overshooting the availabilities of Montreal by expecting a proper evening of Middle Eastern cuisine since the passing of Anise? We enjoy to eat at a leisurely pace over conversation as well as linger and talk after the meal (even more so in a Middle Eastern place :)). I would not want to impose on the restaurant if they are used to a quick turn over of cliental, or feel like we were being rushed out the door in any way.

                            -----
                            Mile End Bar
                            5322 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montr, Montreal, QC , CA

                            1. re: dd_ss
                              i
                              isa1 RE: dd_ss Jul 20, 2010 01:21 PM

                              The portions there are pretty big. I went the other night with 3 friends, we had 3 mezzes and 2 hot plates and it was plenty. With a bottle of wine, it came out to 25 $ each.

                              1. re: isa1
                                c
                                celfie RE: isa1 Jul 20, 2010 10:29 PM

                                i wouldnt consider the portions big by any stretch
                                they are sufficient but the restaurant is on the steep side of price to value

                              2. re: dd_ss
                                m
                                Maximilien RE: dd_ss Jul 20, 2010 01:21 PM

                                Kaza ain't Anise!!! they don't compare in style and ambition; Kaza is a lot more casual and borderline hippie-ish

                                Me think (I've been only once) that Kaza is one of those place where you can eat and linger ( as long as you don't over do your lingering, i.e. not order food/booze for a long time). Portions are big/small enough to be able to share a few dishes between 2, 3 persons without breaking the bank and your pant's belt.

                                M.

                                1. re: dd_ss
                                  carswell RE: dd_ss Jul 20, 2010 01:27 PM

                                  «3 cold mezze, 2 hot mezze, potatoes and salad made a full dinner for a party of 4?»

                                  Yep. To the point that no one wanted dessert and I was less than enthralled at the prospect of biking up the mountain to get home. At the dinner described in the first post in this thread, three of us couldn't make it through three cold mezze, a small fatouche and two hot dishes. When another KM-loving hound and I were thinking of post-concert places to go a couple of weeks ago, we ruled out the resto because being only two meant we could order only three or four plates (post-wine tasting meals involve up to eight or nine people, and the variety of dishes on the table is dazzling).

                                  The food is usually of very high quality and the ambiance is laid-back in the extreme, one that encourages lingering. That said, KM is nothing like Anise in any of its iterations. Anise was French viewed through a Middle Eastern lens (only sometimes the other way around); KM is far closer to its Syrian roots. Anise was fine cuisine; KM is good cooking. Anise was Outremont; KM is Mile End.

                                  1. re: carswell
                                    d
                                    dd_ss RE: carswell Jul 20, 2010 11:17 PM

                                    Thanks for the info everybody.

                                    The general consensus seems to be 5-7 plates total for 4 people is a sufficient amount of food. So the mezze here are around the same size as an average main course at other restaurants? Man, these mezze sound huge! Possibly too large to be 'mezze' :).

                                    Anyway, everything sounds great in regards to a relaxed evening sipping wine and enjoying the food over a few hours. Although more than recommended, I can't imagine having the restraint to order less than 6-8 dishes between the two of us after looking at the verity on the menu. At the minimum, gotta go for the 3 cold mezze special, at least 1 warm meat dish (probably 2), share a salad, share a desert... Already at 7! No problem though as my friend loves this sort of stuff and will take all the leftovers for lunch. Myself, I'm not the biggest fan of cold dips and purees. When in the Middle East I head for the first guy on the corner of the street with the wheelie-cart showing off the platter of fried brains and livers. Unfortunately Kaza Maza doesn't seem to have these treats but then again, it's not my birthday.

                                    Thanks again for all the help! I'll stop back to give a run down of the dishes we sampled.

                                    1. re: dd_ss
                                      c
                                      celfie RE: dd_ss Jul 21, 2010 06:33 AM

                                      their mains and the mezze are not big. i went with a group of 4 and remember getting a few bites of the 2 warm meat dishes we bought. the mezze are really good but again, not big-but i mean, how much hummus should one person eat???

                                      1. re: celfie
                                        m
                                        Maximilien RE: celfie Jul 21, 2010 06:54 AM

                                        that's one of the fun of eating in a restaurant that serves small plates, you can always order one more.

                                        1. re: celfie
                                          d
                                          dd_ss RE: celfie Jul 21, 2010 07:11 AM

                                          Hi celfie,

                                          Sorry I didn't see your post above from last night:

                                          >>i wouldnt consider the portions big by any stretch
                                          they are sufficient but the restaurant is on the steep side of price to value

                                          Everyone here has been quoting around $25-$35 per person for dinner with drinks, tax and tip. Also 2 plates being more than sufficient to fill up each person. Did you have a significantly different experience?

                                          >>how much hummus should one person eat???
                                          I'm not the biggest fan but you should see how much hummus people eat in one sitting!

                                          1. re: dd_ss
                                            c
                                            celfie RE: dd_ss Jul 21, 2010 12:04 PM

                                            I've left feeling satisfied but not full and probably snacked a few hours later hehe

                                            it's worth going to kaza maza, it is really good but in my opinion $14 for a large fatouche (enough for 3 people) is a bit pricy. $12 for a chicken drum stick...you get my drift...I don't really think the meat dishes for the most part are very share worthy because they aren't big...but that's just me, i like to order extravagently...

                      2. c
                        crispy1 RE: carswell Apr 19, 2010 05:28 AM

                        I popped in here on Sunday at 1400 in the afternoon with skeptic 12 year old daughter in tow. The place was warm, welcoming and friendly. Ambiance very laid back but service very good. We had the fattouche salad, babaganouj, cheese bourekas and beef kaftas with pistachios. All were absolutely fabulous. The baba ganouj was as carswell described previously, silky, smoky and smooth. Simply the best I have ever had. The deep fried cheese bourekas were pleasing to my daughter but not a dish I found exciting. Deep fried bundles of cheese cannot compare to the fabulous, crisp fattouche salad replete with fresh mint, sumac and pomegranite seeds. Lip smacking delisiousness and a taste of the middle east on a rainy Montreal sunday afternoon. The serving was large but since my hubbie unexpectedly joined us after getting an urgent call to come taste the best baba ganouj in the city We should have ordered the large size. The beef with pistachios was flavourful, charred on the top and replete with pistachios. Definiately a bright star on the Montreal dining scene. I wish them the best of luck and hope they can continue to exceed expectations.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: crispy1
                          mbe RE: crispy1 Sep 22, 2010 07:06 AM

                          Went last night. The food was good although I can't believe it was the same food that led to much of the gushing above. Soujouk with kaskaval cheese stood out, mutabbal betteraves, baba ghannouj, mouhammara, humus kawarma were all tasty. Didn't find the pistachio kefta to be that great, a bit burnt for my liking. I'm amazed that anyone could leave there and not be full, we were bursting at $30/person for 4, including a bottle of wine and tip. Very good service and a Syrian (?) version of happy birthday towards the end of our meal from the oud player and old fellow in the corner, nice casual ambience. Would definitely go again.

                          1. re: mbe
                            estilker RE: mbe Sep 24, 2010 09:08 AM

                            Same owner opened another place on Parc (corner Fairmount) called Damas. Word is the chef from Kaza Maza is cooking there now.

                            1. re: estilker
                              carswell RE: estilker Sep 24, 2010 10:07 AM

                              Exactly. The food at Kaza Maza was always good -- but never as good -- when the chef who's gone to Damas wasn't in the kitchen. (Admittedly, there's always been some variability. On my last visit, a generally successful meal, the chef was in the kitchen but the fatouche wasn't as vibrant as usual and the beet mutabbal, which a friend had once described as orgasmic, was flat (nothing but beety) and runny.) Anyway, here's hoping the opening of Damas -- some of whose dishes look stunning -- doesn't spell the end of the often outstanding and always more affordable fare at Kaza Maza.

                            2. re: mbe
                              1
                              1Marlowe1 RE: mbe Dec 22, 2010 11:20 AM

                              I went with 2 fellow foodies to Kaza Maza for dinner last night, seduced perhaps a little too much by Carswell's glowing reviews... The mezze were of above average quality although over-salted and of questionable freshness - the baba ghanouj and muttabal were simply transferred from large plastic tubs onto plates, bar-side. The pita was of the non-descript kind one would expect from Basha. The lamb shank although tasty was microscopic - two forkfuls - and served with nothing other than onions. The salmon was cooked medium sushi and the kefta medium tartare. No desserts were ordered obviously. So, 5 mezze, one soup, 4 mains, no drinks or desserts for $140 before tips. I was really not impressed. Combine this with one waiter for the entire restaurant, a tepid glass of tap water that was never re-filled, main plates piled on top of the appetizer plates, and I will not be back.

                          2. nochainsplease RE: carswell Jan 30, 2011 04:39 AM

                            Gave this place a try last night as it had been on 'the list' for a while. I have to preface my comments with the admission that we called at 8:45 pm on a Saturday night to ask if they had place, and were told to come at 9. The place is obviously wildly popular, and the later kitchen hours probably play a role. There were quite a few large groups.

                            Impromptu Saturday night reservation notwithstanding, I thought the service was a little unfriendly. Our waiter almost seemed exasperated when telling us they were all out of the beef tartare (served only on weekends), telling us, "ben, vous etes trop tard!" He also appeared impatient when we hesitated only slightly in choosing the wine. He was obviously extremely busy, especially as he had several groups, but I have a hard time enjoying dinner when I feel like I'm getting in the waiter's way. We observed the couple beside us making similar remarks. It wasn't terrible at all, and he seemed to get friendlier as the night went on (perhaps dipping into some arak in the kitchen?) but just not the warmest of welcomes. It was a little slow too, what with all the groups, but that was quite understandable.

                            We enjoyed the food: though. Basturma was strong and heady and perfectly accompanied by a mound of labneh, mouhammara was good but will never compare to my friend's Syrian mother's, the grilled cheese mezze (name escapes me) was interesting and subtle, and much improved by a squeeze of lemon. The kefteh was fantastic - perfectly spiced and piping hot. Meal for 2 with a bottle of wine was $90 with taxes but not tip.

                            I think the next time we're in the mood for Syrian food (and my friend's mum isn't available), we'll probably make the trek to Le Petit Alep, given the very warm and friendly service we've experienced there before.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: nochainsplease
                              l
                              looosia RE: nochainsplease Jan 30, 2011 06:56 AM

                              That's too bad regarding your service at Kaza Maza. I've been there a couple times now and I've always had really pleasant service, whether I went there as a walk-in or with reservations. My favourites are the fattouche and the baba ganoush; they are probably the best versions of those dishes that I've had, really flavourful and nicely spiced.

                              As for Le Petit Alep, I've only been there once but I did feel like the service, while waiting for a table (with the hoards of others at the entrance) was a bit abrasive. We weren't offered drinks, we kept being pushed around to different parts of the lobby because we were "in the way", but once we did sit down service was decent. However, I did feel the push to leave by the servers once a few tables started leaving for the night; don't you just hate being rushed out? Food was good though and loved the atmosphere, really cute and cozy spot. I felt like Kaza Maza's food was more memorable, I dunno, but am still waiting to give Le Petit Alep a second shot.

                              1. re: nochainsplease
                                davekry RE: nochainsplease Jan 30, 2011 08:09 AM

                                I was there last night too, for my third and last time. I really wanted to enjoy Kaza Maza, but it just wasn't happening.

                                We showed up without a reservation and got a table easily enough at around 7pm. We were initially going to order the mutabbal, kibbe nayye, akkawi cheese and basturma, but the waiter rather forcefully insisted that we replace the basturma with the lamb shank in tahini.

                                The mutabbal arrived first, and was on the watery side, without much flavour. It went unfinished. Not long after the kibbe nayye showed up. It was basically a rectangle of beef tartare, with a few tiny pieces of onion and walnut, and a couple of mint leaves, weighing in at about a pound. Unfortunately, the grind of the meat was so fine that as it warmed up, it turned into some sort of raw meat paste, which wasn't very appetizing.

                                This was followed by a 15 minute wait and then the lamb came. The tahini sauce was definitely a high point of the evening, but the lamb itself could have used some work. It was in some places cooked a perfect medium, nice and tender, but in the spots where it was in contact with the pan, it was tough and very stringy. Still, a decent sized portion.

                                After that was finished, some more waiting. The waiter came back to take away our dishes, at which point we informed him that we were still waiting for the akkawi cheese. He barely responded, and ignored the serving dishes piled on the table as he walked away. Ten minutes later, a waitress came by to do the same thing. We again informed her that we were waiting for more food, so she tried to take away the plates we were eating from.

                                Finally the akkawi arrived. It was melted on the outside, but thoroughly cold on the inside, and much too salty to be served at the end of the meal. Finally, when it came time to pay the bill, the waitress stood over us, arms crossed, staring, as the pin was entered into the interac terminal.

                                No more, Kaza Maza.

                                1. re: davekry
                                  nochainsplease RE: davekry Jan 30, 2011 06:47 PM

                                  You're right about the cheese - it definitely could have been hotter. It wasn't so much 'grilled' as it was 'carelessly seared'. And I'm glad to hear we weren't alone in our underwhelmed-ness about the service. Any resto can have a bad night, but it's sad when a good place (as evidenced by all the rave reviews above) shows signs of lack of care.

                                  1. re: davekry
                                    s
                                    Shattered RE: davekry Jan 30, 2011 07:27 PM

                                    Well, it's a bummer to hear about consistently 'off' service, particularly since I think everyone agrees the food is great. I've been there once, in Sept, and the service was fine, but the food was amazing. Weren't rushed at all, either, although they were busy; in fact, we lingered quite a while. I would definitely go back based on my own experience.

                                    1. re: Shattered
                                      s
                                      sweettoothMTL RE: Shattered Jan 31, 2011 05:13 AM

                                      Yes, it seems that while comments were all positive at first when it opened, ever since Damas opened, I've been reading more negative comments on the boards. Not sure if I have the right impression, but Kaza Maza was on my short list in September, but now it seems like it's getting bumped down the list. I almost feel like trying Damas first now...

                                      1. re: sweettoothMTL
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                                        celfie RE: sweettoothMTL Jan 31, 2011 05:28 AM

                                        kaza maza is no longer a destination but still a viable neighbourhood options. I've been many times just to casually hang out with friends and nibble on plates and drink wine. it's a very casual place, but if you go expecting the full treatment, you will probably be disappointed.

                                        1. re: celfie
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                                          Shattered RE: celfie Jan 31, 2011 09:50 AM

                                          I think you nailed it. People hear raves about the food and think it's fine dining. It's not. It's a laid back joint with laid-back service, and it's busy.

                                          1. re: Shattered
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                                            1Marlowe1 RE: Shattered Jul 3, 2011 12:36 AM

                                            When someone exults a restaurant's food and turns its menu into poetry as the OP did, one would expect something at least approximating fine dining. As it turns out, this was an exercise in prose rather than reality.

                                            1. re: 1Marlowe1
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                                              celfie RE: 1Marlowe1 Jul 3, 2011 07:32 AM

                                              it had its time

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                                  stak RE: carswell May 30, 2011 07:31 AM

                                  Sad to say, but our last visit to Kaza Maza was so bad we will probably not return. We had been several times before and loved it; not sure what happened. Service was friendly, if not overly attentive. It was a busy Friday night and we were there on the early side (6:00ish). We had the fattouche, which I remembered as having a nice light tangy dressing; this time it was drowned in a very strong, salty dark brown dressing - and they forgot the pita chips! When we commented on it, the waiter seemed confused that there were no pita chips but said something like, "I guess they made a mistake" and shrugged it off. When we mentioned it again when paying the bill, he only charged us 50% for the salad. The mouhammara was OK but very salty. The beet-based dip (I forget the name) was good, as usual. For a main we ordered a sausage dish with potatoes. The sausages were cocktail-sized and half of them were cold and raw. Ugh. I really hope it was just an off night but it was so disappointing I don't feel like risking it again.

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                                    maj54us RE: stak Jun 1, 2011 09:39 AM

                                    @Stak: I hear you! nothing more disappointing. What I learned over the years was that unless it's always the same chef preparing your meal. You will have a different experience in taste.

                                    I now ask the name of the chef when we're having a great meal at a restaurant. I don't mind hit and miss as long that I'm treated with respect, I'll always give another chance to a place where the meal was off.

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