Living in Montreal where shish taouk (technically, chicken shawarma) joints are in excess, there’s no way you aren’t already familiar with this cheap, delicious wrap boasting a spectrum of flavors. It’s what exposed us non-Middle Easterners to Lebanese food, no matter how minor the introduction. When something is that good, not only do I abuse it, but I also get worked up wondering about the cuisine it’s a part of and what else I can treat my taste buds to. And if you can relate – ready to take on more than shish taouks – I’ve got three words for you: Trip de Bouffe.
Sick name. Right on the money.
This new spot in the Plateau is tripping with food. The options are overwhelming, mainly because everything looks so good. It’s equal parts Lebanese bakery and prêt-à-manger where everything (save for a few desserts) is made on site. You can even pick up a few groceries on the way out.
Trays of fried and baked goods are showcased in the bakery section, each piece between $0.65 and $0.99. I sampled a bunch of assorted goodies including spinach fatayers, zataar and cheese pizzas, mini lahambajin, meat and veggie sambouseks, fried cheese rolls, and meat and veggie kebbés. While everything was tasty after a quick warm up in the oven (on site or at home), the fried cheese rolls and kebbés are in a league of their own.
The rolls are crisp on the outside and cheesy on the inside, oozy and salty with each delicious bite. Minor downside: they’re not stuffed to the max, but a girl can dream, right?
Overlooking the kebbés – both meat (minced lamb) and veggie (spinach, chickpeas and almonds) – would be a mistake. Shaped like mini-footballs, each two-bite treat has a thick shell of bulgur wheat harboring a savory, spiced filling. Despite being fried, the dark shell yields silently to the bite with ease – its texture akin to minced meat. That means the meat kebbés are extra meaty and the others are deceptively veg-only. Borderline addictive.
Although Lebanese pizzas are worlds apart from your favorite delivery pizza, they’re a delight! At Trip de Bouffe, it’s all about the homemade dough. Round and thin with no hard crust, it’s soft, a little gooey and elastic at the center with a fluffiness around the edges that’s reminiscent of naan. That’s why they’re easy to turn into wraps, which can be done for an additional fee. They don’t, however, need any extra flavor – they’re great just the way they are.
The lahambajin ($3.00) is a classic and a sure thing. It features a mixture of minced lamb, garlic, onions, tomato and plenty of spices resting over naked dough – no tomato sauce in between and no cheese on top. Pro tip: a squeeze of lemon kicks it up a notch. So simple, yet so delicious.
I often ignore veggie options when presented with meat, but the eggplant pizza ($4.49) deserves a piece of the spotlight. This one is sparingly brushed with tomato sauce, herbs ever-present. Marinated slices of eggplant, mushrooms, peppers and onions are rightfully at the forefront, and a light touch of cheese rounds it out. Fantastic. Better than any vegetarian pizza I’ve had to date.
Desserts at Trip de Bouffe don’t play a big part, but they do have some sweets - most of which are outsourced, like baklava and namoura. And both are outrageously good.
Baklava ($0.75) is my biggest weakness, and this cashew-filled rendition is exactly why. It’s got endless sheets of impossibly flaky phyllo brushed with butter, a nutty filling at the center and sticky-sweet syrup intensity. Now that’s a recipe for love.
Say hello to my newest obsession, namoura ($0.75). Topped with cashews, this dense, semolina-based cake is oversaturated with syrup – some grains a little al dente, the others soft and swollen. A small square probably contains the amount of sugar we’re supposed to consume over a week…but I look at it and think “must not resist”.
Atayef is one of the few sweets Trip de Bouffe is proud to call their own, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s actually a specialty of co-owner George’s mother, who was a major supplier back in the early days. Each piece is like biting into a cloud thanks to a small, fluffy pancake and an airy, unsweetened mixture of ricotta and whipped cream. Even with pistachios topping one side, it’s super plain on its own. But if you dunk it into the mega-sweet syrup laced with floral notes of rose water and orange blossom, it will change your life. Sold in sets of six for $4.99, don’t even think about sharing one. OMG, and they have a fried version too…
There’s so much to eat and only so much money in our wallets and room in our stomachs, that one visit isn’t enough. I’ve yet to try their dips (mouhamarra being their best-seller), homemade pitas and hot meals that change frequently – but don’t worry, food, I’m coming for you!
I love shish taouk just as much as any Montrealer, but if you crave something more, know that Trip de Bouffe is George and partner Ricky’s way of pulling up a chair for you at their Lebanese family dinners. I don’t think I have to tell you to seize the opportunity.
N.B. Cash and Debit Only
Trip de Bouffe
277 ave. Mont-Royal E. | map