Having only tried shawarma for the first time recently, I was intrigued by what tastes awaited me.
For those unacquainted with shawarma, About.com’s Middle Eastern Food section describes it as “thinly sliced cuts of meat, like chicken, beef, goat, lamb, and sometimes turkey, rolled into a large piece of flatbread or pita that has been steamed or heated. Inside the pita, foods like hummus, tahini, pickles, vegetables, and even french fries are added.”
Then there can be the long process of the meat preparation. About.com describes the process of making shawarma: “raw meat is placed on large, rotating cones. As it rotates, the meat is cooked by a heat source that is located behind the actual cone. The meat slowly falls off or is thinly sliced by a chef with a large knife. It can take several hours to fully cook.”
Luckily for patrons of Shawarma House and Sultan’s Shawarma, there’s no need to wait.
Shawarma House, located on the North side of Portage Avenue, is a short walk west of the University of Winnipeg.
Inside, the restaurant boasts a fast-food feel with only two round tables for seating.
The chicken shawarma combo includes a large helping of fried rice, garden salad topped with feta, lemon potato wedges served with hot tzatziki sauce, and a sumptuous serving of chicken off the spit. It’s a mix that won’t leave your appetite wanting more, and for $9.99 for the combo, $8.99 for the platter, there’s no complaining about price either.
The food was served up hot and ready to order. And although the meat was juicy and savory, some crispy edges to the meat could have wrapped the package up nicely.
Sultan’s Shawarma is located almost an equal walk away from the university but on the south side of Ellice Ave.
The restaurant is roomy with six tables that seat up to four each.
I order up a beef plate, priced at $10.95, that comes complimented with rice, fries, salad, hummus, and garlic sauce (although looking at their take home menu later, I should have gotten pita bread too).
Both restaurants cut the meat right off the spit.
The beef shawarma at Sultan’s Shawarma was juicy and tender with the added bonus of some crispier parts throughout. The meat itself was covered with garlic sauce that was drizzled over with tahini sauce. This made for an interesting combination of tastes, but since the meat was also served atop yellow seasoned rice, getting a fork-full often meant getting a plethora of tastes that seemed to take away from taste of the shawarma itself.
In comparison, Shawarma House seems to be more for straightforward, distinguishable tastes, where Sultan’s Shawarma seems to be more for those who prefer muddled, stronger tastes - which isn’t always a bad thing, but I found it didn’t work so much here.
Although the meat at both places was similar in texture, juiciness, and delightful enough for their own respective tastes (one being chicken and one being beef), Sultan’s Shawarma fell short for the rice and fries being too salty, and the salad too much dressing. The combination of this was fine at first but got overwhelming as it went on, taking away from the assortment of flavours that should have accentuated and embellished each other, but were instead overpowered by saltiness and tanginess.
Kudos to Shawarma House for its keen assortment of flavours that are neither overwhelming nor lacking. Although both restaurants left me with a full stomach for a good price, when it comes to dishes that boast an assortment of tastes, moderation and being able to distinguish between them can go a long way.
Published in Volume 69, Number 22 of The Uniter (February 25, 2015)