If the name sounds familiar, it's because SHAY was offering a takeout menu until July when the team officially opened the doors to its dining room and coffee bar. And, if you thought the takeout menu was impressive, just wait until you step inside.
"We wanted to do a very fun, easy-going, but still super cool higher-end version of Lebanese food," owner and operator Olivier Berkani told MTL Blog. The indoor dining room radiates casual class with an air of mystery, and the terrasse is like an outdoor oasis above the busy streets of Griffintown.
If the stunning decor wasn't enough to convince you to head to Griffintown, the menu from Chef Joe Awad and his team will leave you drooling. It's filled with staples of Lebanese cuisine, like hummus, labneh and fattoush salad, but there are also some modern plot twists, like a falafel bao, one of the restaurant's most popular items.
The menu is designed for sharing multiple small plates, so don't worry if lots of dishes catch your eye — you can try them all!
And don't forget about the drink menu. SHAY's in-house mixologist has curated a list of signature cocktails that will be shaken up every season. There's also a small wine list and Arak, a traditional Arabic spirit, to really keep things authentic.
Berkani also told us that brunch is definitely in SHAY's future.
But, for now, we're just happy to be able to grab dinner and drinks at the Griffintown restaurant and keep the good times rolling all night long.
Address: 1414, rue Notre-Dame O., Montreal, QC
Why You Need To Go: The only thing more impressive than the decor is the dishes, themselves!
One of Montreal's favourite new Lebanese restaurants, SHAY Griffintown, has officially opened its doors for Sunday brunch and, as I'm sure you can imagine, it's just as tasty as their dinner menu. I got a reservation on its sold-out opening day and it was even better than I expected.
If there are any coffee drinkers out there, you know the first step of any brunch is ordering a hot cup right away. To me, coffee can totally set the mood for the entire experience and our Americano and latte — both delicious — were excellent indicators of what was to come.
To eat, we decided to get a couple of items to share. We wanted to get classic breakfasty items with a bit of SHAY flair. We decided on the labneh pancakes, the fried shish taouk and waffles, and the 65-degree shakshouka.
We've all heard of buttermilk pancakes, but how often have you heard of labneh pancakes? If you said, "Not often," then same here. The addition of labneh, a Middle Eastern yogurt dish with a thicker consistency and a good amount of tang, gave the dish that extra oomph.
Now, I'm the first to admit that chicken and waffles aren't my usual go-to at brunch, but something in me told me I had to give SHAY's version a try and I must say I'm glad I trusted my gut. Offering a unique take on a super popular dish, the shish taouk was a delicious nod to Lebanese cuisine. Served with maple syrup and homemade pickles, it was decadent and satisfying and is a definite must-try.
Last, but certainly not least, there was the 65-degree shakshouka. If you're a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine or just brunch in general, you know that shakshouka is a pretty big deal. This was definitely my favourite item on the menu — packed with unique flavour, while still satisfying the desire for classic brunch fare.
While I was eating my shakshouka, Chef Joe Awad stopped by to say hi and he answered the question that was on my mind (and that's probably on yours, too): Why 65 degrees? He explained that it's the ideal temperature to get the perfect egg every time and I can tell you from my experience that he's right.
Seeing as though SHAY has become one of the coolest spots in Griffintown, it was just as buzzy and vibey for brunch and, even as we were leaving, there was a line out the door. Between the gorgeous decor, the exquisite menu and the friendliest staff, you can bet I'll be back for brunch... and lunch and dinner, too!
SHAY Sunday Brunch
Address: 1414, rue Notre-Dame O., Montreal, QC
Why You Need To Go: If SHAY's dinner menu wasn't impressive enough, the brunch menu will make you fall even more in love with this place!
And, yes, you'll probably need both hands just to get a grip on one because these babies are monstrous.
The 'Tacoz' at Shawarmaz are made with tannour bread, beef shawarma, fried avocado chunks, melted cheese, pickles, onions, parsley, tahini sauce, and pomegranate molasses. They're also served with a side of french fries and Mexican salsa.
It costs $13.99 for the plate.
But 'Tacoz' aren't the only unique twist on Middle Eastern cuisine that the restaurant offers.
Located in the heart of Old Montreal, Babacool brings all the traditions of Middle Eastern cuisine but combines them with a futuristic twist. The restaurant — specializing in sharing plates and natural wines — looks like it could be an impeccably decorated spaceship. It's also affordable, with plates ranging from $3 to $22.
Naturally, we started off with drinks. I got the Hi Gin cocktail, made with Tanqueray, yuzu and simple syrup to refresh me on a scorching hot day and, let me tell you, it did the trick.
My friend got the Spicy Marg with Sauza Tequila, dry curuçao, chilli salt and dehydrated chilli. Honestly, the drinks were so good that we would have tried them all if we could.
Next, we moved onto appetizers. Anyone familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine knows that appetizers mean lots and lots of dipping! We tried the hummus, labneh and mouhamara — all with freshly made za'atar pita.
Now, I don't want to brag, but I've made my way through a hummus or two and I take hummus VERY seriously. So, as a self-proclaimed expert, I can easily say this was some of the best I've had in the city to date. We also got some vine leaves (my fave!).
Moving onto mains, we shared shakshouka, a halloumi salad and shrimp served with star anise, ouzo, feta, and radish. All three dishes were fresh and beyond compare. As I always say, you know a dish is incredible when you delay your last bite just so the meal lasts a little longer.
While the food was exceptional and the drinks were beautiful, my favourite part of the whole night was the staff. Hubert, our server, is the type of server who loves people and loves what he does. He made a great night even better.
We also met Sophie Chenier, who owns Babacool along with her husband Charles Manceau and restauranteur Marco Benatar. Benatar is co-owner of other popular Montreal eateries, like Jatoba and Flyjin.