Monday, 3 December 2012

Ofelia… A Mediterranean Feast


           Greek and Lebanese food never tasted so good!

                                                  by Nancy Snipper

 When Ofelia opened it doors on December 17th 2011, the name, Naji Slim began making a big buzz both among food aficionados and those who knew him as a banker in the Outremont region of Montreal. Now, Naji is putting his phenomenal people skills, passion and commitment to pleasing the palette into full gourmet gear.
 

 
 
As Montreal’s latest trend-setting spot, Ofelia is a haven for savvy diners and foodie initiates alike.



Ofelia is where class, quality and comfort merge into a marvellous Mediterranean mix.


Ofelia’s appeal starts the moment you walk in. Take a look at the textured walls of terracotta tiles, soft patinas of pink brick, sweet niches, and understated rustic touches - all set off by strategically placed recessed lighting. The effect is warm serenity. It is beautiful and relaxed.  Yet it’s where calm meets excitement.



 

Excitement mounts the moment you look at the menu. Wow!
Ofelia offers delectable dishes prepared and seasoned in authentic Lebanese and Greek fashion. Healthy and 100% fresh, the highest quality of veggies, fish and meats are market-purchased every day. Naji doesn’t stint on anything. In fact, no dish leaves the kitchen without Naji himself giving each dish - impeccably prepared by his trio of chefs - a personal heads-up.

 



Appetizers are awesome. Six salads include lobster, tabbouleh, fattouche and an endive creation with figs.


 
In addition you can choose from 12 more appetizers that represent the two countries well: dolmades, salmon tartar and Mouhamara – to name a few. Kebe is another hit at Ofelia’s – a hot appetizer of beef and crushed wheat meatballs stuffed with ground meat and pine nuts. The marinated loukaniki were tender and sausage salty.
But wait, there are also mussels on the menu - seasoned in three exciting ways (yours to choose), and hot appetizers too. 

 
Upon Naji’s recommendation, my companion and I opted for the thinly sliced fried zucchini and eggplant chips. This hot opener featured a generous dip of homemade tzatziki. I have never tasted such creamy thick tzatziki. Its texture was perfect. The chips were crusty on the outside and tender soft inside – a charming surprise. The taste was addictive.

 
 
At this point, we faced a wonderful dilemma. What wine to choose?
What one must know about Ofelia is its selection of wines spans estates that spread across the world. Never have I seen such a staggering list of coveted wines. Take a look at the bar and multiply the various bottles you see by 100.
 




 
Not only that, Naji keeps a secret stash of highly coveted wines in a special cellar in the restaurant. A sommelier himself, he is only too happy to suggest the appropriate pairing of grape to dish.  We enjoyed the delicate white Atlantis Argyros Santorini wine for starters.
Although, this bounteous list boasts a litany of over 100 world-class brands, Naji makes sure that everyone can benefit from the dual experience of imbibing and eating – meaning that there is a bottle to match your taste without straining your wallet.


 
Looking for tenderness with taste? My friend and I aren’t seafood fans, but we decided to take the fish risk, as we had heard Ofelia’s seafood is exceptional. We  savoured Ofelia’s squid and octopus!  Demure little bites of succulent calamari delighted our tongues, and unlike many Greek restaurants, the octopus, scallions and squid were so tender and gentle – not chewy in texture.  I also tasted huge jumbo shrimp, grilled to perfection.


Naji also told me that Chilean bass, swordfish, red snapper and red strip bass are some of the grilled delights to be had.  Next time I come back, I want to try the Kataifi shrimp. It’s wrapped in angel hair dough and glazed with grape chutney.
All these seafood wonders come from Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Vietnam and Thailand.
Ofelia’s gifts go on endlessly.
One of my favourites was the lamb which ended the series of main dishes for my friend and me. Tender chops from New Zealand were discreetly seasoned. I was not disappointed.


I was so impressed that the lamb or any dish for that matter was not drowned out in exorbitant gravies and sauces. Naji trusts the exceptional inherent quality of each meat and fish he buys, and in traditional Mediterranean style lets it ‘speak’ for itself. Nothing in my meal was overdone or exaggerated. Presentation was stunning.





The desserts were unforgettable. We both indulged in Ofelia's guilty pleasures. Enjoy the Cretan honey, and if you ask Naji how his creamy Turkish delight is made (in the middle of photo below), be prepared to write it down. It’s divine!


 
Ofelia’s is Naji’s passion, and it becomes yours once you treat yourself to an evening there. After all, ‘Ofeliete’ in Greek means ‘deserving’.  And you are!
 
 
Ofelia's address is 1270 Bernard West, Montreal, QC, H2V 1V9.
For reservations, call (514) 277-4000. The website is: http://www.ofeliarestaurant.com/index.php/en/.