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Sirène de la mer, La
114 Dresden (Jean-Talon W.) Ville Mont-Royal. Parc métro. Bus 16 Tel. 345-0345

Sunday and Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. $30 for two before wine, taxes and service. Table d'hôte: $7.99 (noon).
Synchronize your watches and destroy this message after you've read it. Unlike Shakespeare's favourite haunt, this Mermaid is a clever hideaway. Abutted to a seafood store on Jean-Talon (to further obscure matters), La Sirène is virtually invisible to the untrained eye. And yet, seven days a week, it's packed to the rafters with Lebanese, Armenians and other freshly minted Canadians. The fish couldn't be much fresher if you swam after it. You just have to nip next door and point out your choice; it'Il be grilled and on your table before you get back. Squeeze on your lemon, dig into the copious salad, and dip into a bottle of white. Olives and marinated turnips on the table. Pita bread in a plastic wrapper. Private parking. Real man-style service, at high speed and in three languages. Very family-oriented. Watch the décor improve after a glass of Arak. Watch your wallet thin out after a bottle of Arak ($54.99).

Sample menu: Lebanese salad, fattoush salad, eggplant salad, squid salad, fresh oysters, Armenian sausage, grilled shrimp, grilled octopus, kafta kebab, grilled catch of the day, fried squid, douceurs maison, fruits.

Update from a reader, 10/03/01:

My girlfriend and I went to la Sirène de la Mer yesterday for supper (the one on boulevard de l'Acadie). The place looks more upscale than I expected, with the waiters wearing tuxedos or some similar uniforms (I'm not used to formal clothing). I was expecting a typical Lebanese restaurant, basic decor, with the same old touristy pictures of the Mediterranean Sea.

Prices on the menu were higher than I thought, too. Appetizers are very expensive (8 bucks for a plate of 6 stuffed vine leaves). But we found out that you don't need to order appetizers, considering the huge portions you get with the mains. Besides, by the time I'm done with the complimentary hors-d'oeuvres, I'm already half-full.

We ordered grilled shrimp and fried squid. Both tasted fresh and were served simply with a cocktail dip (shrimp), which cheapened the meal, according to my girlfriend, and lemon (squid). It's fresh, simple fare. So where's the problem? It's in the small details. With your main dish, you get bland rice or fries and iceberg lettuce. I know you come here for fish, but still... Service was quite slow, too. And there is no clear separation between the smoking and the non-smoking section.Details, details.

Will we go back? Probably. Next time, though, we'll choose our fish right from the fish market next door. When it comes to seafood, I don't mind paying more for freshness. —
Updated by Martin Fecteau

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