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Mike Cohen lands at the Semaphore Restaurant at the DoubleTree by Hilton Montreal Airport

    The beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Montreal Airport Hotel in Dorval opened towards the end of 2018 and not only has occupancy been high, but for the better part of the past year people I know were giving rave reviews about both its restaurant and bar known as the Semaphore.

    What does the word “Semaphore” mean? This is the person you see on the tarmac of an airport guiding a plane by waving flags to its proper parking spot upon landing.

    Located just minutes from Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, this is part of Quint Hotels which also owns the Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott across the street and the Quality Inn and Suites and a Best Western in Brossard. Construction by the Quint team will begin soon on a new Hyatt Hotel at the airport.

    The DoubleTree was previously a Best Western property before it got a facelift. Aldo Carlucci, the operations manager for Quint Hotels, made a key hire when he brought in Sid Alami to head the food and beverage division. Sid was working at the Delta Hotel in Quebec City and he clearly has the magic touch when it comes to designing menus and hiring the right staff.

    A few weeks prior to my dinner I dropped in at the hotel with time to spare before my family members returned from New York by air. I met Aldo and Sid at the Semaphore Bar in the front lobby where I was treated to some outstanding hors d’oueuvres. Behind the bar was award-winning mixologist Kevin Mazzo. He was a regional finalist in one of the most extravagant mixology competitions in Canada, Made With Love,  where the city’s bartenders gathered to illuminate Montreal’s cocktail culture. While I am not much of a drinker, I put my faith in Kevin and he surprised me with something called the Tiki Semaphore (the latter word coming from the hotel’s popular in-house restaurant) made with Trois-Rivières Rum, Galliano, Almond syrup, Ginger syrup, pineapple and lime juice.

    I did not have time for dinner, I took a raincheck and returned to dine with Sid. He is so proud of the fact that he designed both the bar and restaurant from scratch. The restaurant is downstairs and can accommodate some 135 people (the bar seats 90). While the hotel guests certainly make up an automatic clientele, the restaurant has quickly caught on with the local community and businesses.  It is easy to get to, offers free parking and some fantastic culinary selections.

    An elaborate buffet breakfast is served from 6 am to 10 am weekdays and 6:30 am to 11:00 am on weekends. At the bar you can always get some appetizers and sandwiches. The restaurant reopens evenings from 5 pm to 11 pm.

    For West Islanders, in particular, this is indeed becoming a dining spot of choice. But here is my take. Consider a day when you are picking someone up at the airport in the evening. Make a reservation for dinner and tell the party you are picking up to merely take the DoubleTree shuttle to the hotel. They can join you for dinner. Alternatively, you can wait for their call or text and once they have exited with their luggage pick them up at the curb. Either way, you will save at least $20 in parking.

    Chef Robert and Sous Chef Jonathan are a dynamic combination with Sid has developed an appetizing menu. Our server on this night was the charming and charismatic Marion, whose dynamic personality puts a smile on every diner’s face. Sid and I both started off with some glasses of rosé, followed by two piping bowls of the soup of the day, a creamy sweet potato.

    Appetizers include salads, homemade crab and fish croquette, goat cheese and beets salad, fried calamari and salmon from their in-house smoker. We shared the latter plate, which came with potato salad, pepper yogurt and bagel chips. It was terrific!

    You can order a burger, Italian dishes, fish or chicken. Sid settled on his favorite, duck breast with sea buckthorn berries, carrot purée, seasonal vegetables, almonds gel and pistachios.  The duck is delivered weekly to the hotel from a local supplier. Sid insisted I try a slice and it was beyond outstanding.

    I chose the surf and turf- beef shoulder filet, with lobster, pressed potatoes, vegetables and sea urchin butter. Sid switched the shoulder filet to a perfectly cut ribeye and ordered some crispy fries as well. This was such a treat. For dessert, he surprised me with one of their specialties, a tartufo pistachio – pistachio on the outside rolled around some vanilla ice cream. It was a great way to conclude the evening.

    I would strongly recommend the Semaphore for a standalone dinner, even if you do not have to meet anyone at the airport. Sid can also make sure a business meeting is catered by the restaurant. If you have an early flight, then why not check in to the DoubleTree and enjoy the entire experience!

    The hotel and restaurant are located at 705 Michel Jasmin. For more information call 514-631-4811 or log on to www.montrealairport.doubletreebyhilton.com.

    Mike Cohen

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