Which of the two Lebanese restaurants do you prefer?
This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Now, it's no secret that Montreal is a culinary hotspot — whatever cuisine you're looking for, we've got it. However, if there's one cuisine Montreal does real good, and I mean real good, it's Lebanese food.
While the city is home to many Middle Eastern foodie gems, sometimes you just want a quick hummus and shish taouk fix without the sit-down experience, and that's where Montreal's fast-food chains, Amir and Boustan, come into play.
Any true Montrealer knows that these are the must-try spots for a quick Lebanese food fix, especially when it comes to Amir and Boustan's garlic sauce and potatoes — I can literally brush my teeth with garlic sauce, that's how good that sh*t is.
Although both fast-food chains serve up a sweet Lebanese feast, it's often debated which restaurant does it better.
Amir vs. Boustan: Which Montreal Lebanese Food Chain Does It Better?www.youtube.com
So, as someone who has baba ganoush running through their veins, I figured I'd settle things once and for all. But apart from my love for Lebanese food, what exactly qualifies me to have the final say?
Well, not only do the Chaars reign from the southwest of Lebanon, I also spent every single weekend at my teta's (Arabic for grandmother) house growing up, watching her and my aunt cook up a storm each and every visit — so I think my palate is well suited to make this call.
Now, to make things totally fair, I ordered the exact same two dishes from both Amir and Boustan — the shish taouk sandwich and plate.
While I certainly used my taste buds to determine which stood out as the supreme, I also took into consideration presentation and cost. So, who came out on top? Yalla, let's find out.
First Up, Amir
Amir first landed in Montreal back in 1983 and has since opened over 70 locations — proving itself to be a top contender when it comes to Lebanese fast food.
I remember always having an affinity for Amir growing up simply because of its name.
For those who don't know, "Amir" means "prince" in Arabic, or more accurately, "a ruler's son." So, it's safe to say you always feel a little bit like royalty when diving into their delish items.
So, after ordering the chicken sandwich and plate, it was time to dive in.
When it comes to Amir's shish taouk plate, which cost $14.99, their presentation was pretty … meh. Nothing great, but nothing lacklustre either. Luckily, the presentation was by no means indicative of how it'd taste.
I went for the chicken first, and when I say it was perfectly cooked, I mean perfectly cooked. The shish taouk was succulent and full of flavour, all while having the quintessential amount of crispiness on the outside.
As for the potatoes, what can I say? Those were some freakin' good potatoes. They were spiced just right — crispy on the outside, warm and on the inside, and delivered a total food 'gasm when mixed with some garlic sauce.
I then went for the salad, which looked a little plain, and well...it was. While Amir's house salad dressing was delish, the mix of romance lettuce, tomatoes, and pickled turnips just didn't do it for me. Can't win 'em all right?
Lastly, the rice. Now, it's hard to mess up rice, and Amir did no such thing. Their rice was cooked just right and I received a rather generous serving, too.
While the plate satisfied my palette, the sandwich took things to a whole other level. First off, price. I paid $6.99 for the sandwich, however, it may vary depending on location.
Now, just imagine an entire Amir chicken plate (with the exception of the rice and potatoes) all wrapped together in a delicious pita creating what I can only describe as a religious experience.
The mix of flavours was simply *chef's kiss* and it didn't get soggy too fast, especially considering they packed on the garlic and hummus.
So, how did Amir do? Well, for the plate I gave the presentation a 7/10, but when it came to the taste, I'd easily bump up the score to a solid 8.5/10...maybe even 9 if I reminisce over the chicken and potatoes long enough.
The sandwich? 10/10. No question about it.
Next Up, Boustan
Much like its biggest competitor, Boustan first opened in Montreal back in 1986.
The fast-food chain describes itself as a "fast-casual restaurant" with "true Lebanese taste with a modern local twist," — and the amount of UberEats orders I've placed with Boustan, I'd say that's pretty accurate.
After ordering the plate ($14.79), and the sandwich ($7.49), I wasted absolutely no time before diving in.
The first thing I noticed was that Boustan's presentation was much nicer than Amir's. While I didn't love that they placed the bread atop the dish, since the sauce got all over it, I managed just fine! What's a little hummus gonna do, right?
I went for the chicken first, and it was heckin' good! Juicy, flavourful, and crispy on the edges, I loved every bite.
The potatoes were up next, and sadly...it wasn't a good experience.
Considering Boustan is known for its garlic potatoes, I was disappointed to bite into a few undercooked ones that just didn't satisfy my taste buds the way I had hoped. Even dipping them into garlic sauce didn't make 'em any better.
The rice was also a little lacklustre. While rice is a tough one to mess up, it came out dry, however, it's worth noting that I stopped by right after the lunch rush, so it may have been out for longer than usual.
Luckily, the salad saved the plate! Although Boustan's mix of spices didn't sit too well with me when it came to their chicken plate, the salad was f*cking amazing. Excuse my French, but damn — I wasted no time before going in for a second bite.
Now, the sandwich.
It seems as if there's a distinct spice (that I cannot put my finger on) used in Boustan's food that just didn't line up with what I'd consider to be the taste of Lebanon in its purest and simplest form.
While the sandwich was yum, it got soggy quite fast, leading it to fall apart before I was even halfway through (you know I picked up the bits that fell and still ate them though).
Despite the mess, it was a pretty standout sandwich. And when it comes to giving it a score, a solid 8/10 would definitely be fitting.
As for the plate, I'd give the presentation an 8/10 and taste a 7/10, mainly due to the added spice, which I again, cannot quite put my finger on.
After some careful thought, internal deliberation, and basic math that I still needed my calculator to figure out, Amir came out on top.
While Amir takes the win, it was definitely a close call. When it came to overall scores for presentation, taste and cost, Amir received a 35.5/40, while Boustan scored a 31/40.
Now, don't let my verdict stop you from going to wherever your heart desires, as it's evident both spots do Lebanese food pretty darn good — it's just Amir personally does it a liiiittle bit better.
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