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Calypso: Constantinople, not Istanbul

Constantinople, not Istanbul

Not so cold up north - Calypso offers a unique blend of flavours
Photo: Marianne McEwen

Chomedey's Calypso continues to serve up Anatolian delights, even in the middle of a snowstorm

About a decade ago, I read a review in The Gazette by then-food critic Byron Ayanoglu about a restaurant in Laval named Calypso that served up the cosmopolitan Constantinople cuisine of his youth, a delicious blend of Armenian, Greek, Turkish and other cuisines. The piece made an impression on me with its description of sun-dried salted mackerel and sweet chicken breast pudding for dessert (yes, you read that right). But Calypso was closed on the day I happened to venture out there, and for whatever reasons (laziness, porn addiction, etc.) I never took the time to go back. So when I was on my way to check out another restaurant in the wilds of Chomedey (more on that another week), I was mighty chuffed to accidentally discover that Calypso is still around, in the same little strip mall.

It’s a compact place, with about 35 seats, and windows running the length of two walls. On another wall is a large mounted display of empty arak, raki and ouzo bottles, along with some fishing nets and plastic lobsters and such. There’s even a nice terrasse for the summer. The place was nearly empty, which is unsurprising in the depths of both winter and a looming depression.

The Armenian proprietor, who did triple duty as host, waiter and chef, was grimly Soup Nazi-ish in his insistence that I steer away from, say, some of the tangier cured fish options on the menu. Sample responses: "You no like." "Not for you." And my favourite, delivered with eyes closed and a shake of his head: "No." I stuck to my guns, and was rewarded.

An appetizer of lakerda, cured raw bonito, was superb. The thick strips of meaty fish were dressed simply with olive oil, and were somewhere between lox and sashimi in both taste and texture. The tchiroz (dried, salted mackerel) that I had read about was also a winner. Very thin shreds of chewy, dried, intensely fishy mackerel were heaped with piles of fresh dill, onions and a perfectly balanced vinaigrette. Another vinaigrette-laced simple dish of white beans mixed with parsley, chopped onion, dried pepper flakes and tomato was very satisfying and its flavour belied its simplicity. A plate of classic borek, thin phyllo pastry-like cigars stuffed with feta, were hot, crisp and perfectly fried. An order of lamb’s liver Albanian-style was served up cut into tiny chunks, lightly breaded, and seasoned with lots of oregano. The liver was exquisite, cooked just right, neither underdone nor leathery. Clearly, the gruff man in charge has a light hand in the kitchen.

One could do very well just on appetizers here, as they come in two sizes and the portions are generous, but lamb chops, kofte and fresh fish make for enticing potential main courses. A red snapper, which was shown to me after scaling so I’d know it was fresh, was simply grilled whole (no fillets here) and served with fries and salad. Big enough for two, and fairly priced, it was also perfectly cooked, with dense, moist flesh.

I suspect Calypso is a little more hopping on weekends (doner kebabs, something we don’t see much of in Montreal, are only on the menu on Sundays). And that’s also when the handmade pastourma (dried beef) and sudjuk sausage are sometimes available. It’s a real testament to Calypso’s staying power that it’s existed for nearly 19 years now. And as for the chicken breast pudding? Sadly, it wasn’t to be. "Not for long time. My wife make it. We divorce." Ah, well, a few things do change after all.

3401 Cartier Blvd. W.; 450-686-8180
Dinner for two, before tax, tip and alcohol: $50-$70
Questions? Comments? Bitter rants? jkarpati@hour.ca

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