Yesterday, my dad and I had a delicious lunch at Safran et Cannelle (420 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montreal, QC.). Every once in a while, when we head to Montreal, we look up possible eateries before-hand and then make a choice based on menu choices, location, and reviews. My dad found Safran et Cannelle online, along with a number of other contenders, and I was in the mood for exotic eats.
The last time we travelled together, my dad and I visited Cafe Gitane in NYC (see their menu here) and had the most delicious couscous dish – it was one of the most memorable dishes I have every had, and easily made my short list of best dishes. With Cafe Gitane in mind, I had high hopes for Safran et Cannelle…
I have to say that I was not at all disappointed – in fact, I was pleasantly surprised by just how good it was. So good that I’m still thinking about it 24 hours later!
The menu offers a number of main dishes, and each comes with a starter of soup (soupe harira) or salad, and Moroccan tea and sweets for dessert. Of course, there’s bread and butter to be had, too. It’s much like the meal style that I got used to in Spain, the menú del día (menu of the day).
Here’s what we had…
Both my dad and I started with the salade marocaine (Moroccan salad):
This tasty chopped salad had red cabbage, tomato, red and green bell peppers, crispy cucumber, onion (I think), parsley and was studded with surprising little bites of fresh fennel. The salad was dressed with a light and refreshing vinaigrette. Delicious!
We ordered some starters as well, but alas, we ate those before I thought about taking a picture (hehe). We had chakchouka, which is a saucy dish of peppers (roasted, possiblement?) and tomatoes along with oil and spices (cumin et je ne sais quoi) – we used our yummy bread to sop it up. In the recipes I found online, it looks like chakchouka can be served with eggs as a hearty breakfast or lunch. It also reminds me of a yummy tomato, paprika and onion sauce that I make for my Spanish baked eggs.
We also had a dish of grilled merguez sausage and peppers stuffed into the same tasty bread that we had when we arrived – I don’t remember the name of this dish, but it was savory and yummy.
We ordered a main dish each, and shared both. My dad ordered the pastilla de poulet -
The pastilla is made with layers of brik dough (which is much like filo/phyllo), and all the usual suspects of baklava – cinnamon, almonds, and a sweet syrup (not sure if it was sugar or honey). The pastilla was served with two tasty red sauces and what looked like vermicelli with almonds, cinnamon and plump raisins.
When I tasted the pastilla, the flavors were so surprising and complex – it was delicious! I braved my fear of re-plumped raisins and tried the pasta on the side, and it was delicious, too – Natty would never believe this, but it actually made me like raisins (!!!). I never would have thought in a million years to put chicken in a sweet pastry, but it worked! Altogether, it was one of those dishes that kept my brain engaged for every bite – that’s not something that happens often for me, so this was a dish that was truly special.
I ordered the tajine de poulet (the chicken tagine), which came with olives and preserved lemon -
When I tasted the sauce in the tagine, I was actually speechless - another thing that doesn’t happen often for me. The chicken was tender and tasty, but the sauce was absolutely killer. It was along the lines of the the sauces that Leo used to make us when we lived in Spain. I’m talking about the kind of sauce that could persuade you to eat your own limbs – this is some serious sauce. It was savory and incredibly complex – overall superbly delicious. I guessed that it had a base of onions, peppers, garlic and preserved lemon, but beyond that, I’d need to investigate more. This dish alone, I kid you not, is the kind of dish that makes you inspired to go out and buy a tagine so you can learn to replicate this kind of food. Most definitely, this one makes my Best Dishes list.
After our main dishes, we enjoyed a super-hot cup of sweet mint tea with cinnamon, and we each chose a small Moroccan sweet. Mine was reminiscint of baklava, and my dad had a small rose-shaped pastry (like “a tiny cinnamon roll without the cinnamon”, he said).
The only tiny tiny tiny negative about our visit to Safran et Cannelle was that the service was a little slow (the food came fast, but we waited quite a while for our tea and sweets, and waited another long while for our check). Our waiter was very polite and friendly, and it could be that we were supposed to pay at the counter all along, but it was unclear (et je parle seulement un peu de francais). So this probably isn’t your best bet if you’re on a break from work and on a strict timetable, but if you’ve got time to spare, the yummy food makes it well worth the wait.
Needless to say, I’ll be returning and bringing more people with me. C’etait savoureux!
For other posts related to menú del día click here.