Search Results for "shawarma"

Chicken shawarma poutine at Swiss Chalet… Whaaa?

I didn’t even know you could get poutine at Swiss Chalet, but apparently that’s a thing now. And not just any ol’ poutine–they’ve got rotisserie beef poutine, taco poutine and chicken shawarma poutine. Now, you know I love shawarma, and this is body by poutine, bro…so I was gonna hafta try the chicken shawarma poutine, even if i didn’t really expect it to taste like either of those things.

swiss_chalet_shawarma_poutine (15)

First of all, it’s safe to say that Swiss Chalet is not roasting this dish on a big shawarma spit. This is basically the regular Swiss Chalet chicken–both white meat and dark meat–pulled off the bird, bro. They lay it out on a bed of Chalet fries with lettuce, tomato, some feta cheese and great big globs of garlic sauce. Dude, Great Big Globs of Garlic Sauce was my nickname as sous chef at Joey Tomatos, bro!!!

Now, while this isn’t quite as good as the chicken shawarma nachos I made a couple years back, it will totally still fill you up. Actually, the Chalet sauce kinda brings everything together. But what really gets me is the lemon pepper seasoning they put on the fries. There’s just a touch too much of it. And I don’t think lemon pepper belongs on poutine–or on shawarma, for that matter. Next time, I might go for the rotisserie beef poutine, instead…

NOTHING BUT NACHOS WEEK: These chicken shawarma nachos are the best of both worlds

Now, I might be whiter than Vanilla Ice, but I loves me some shawarma. I’ve had some killer shawarma all over this city, but you know what I haven’t had before? Chicken shawarma on top of nachos:

chicken_shawarma_nachos (1)

This meal was super filling, dude! Huge chunks of seasoned chicken, some pickles, peppers, onions and beets. I almost didn’t need the nacho chips…but then I would’ve failed in my life’s mission. Served up with a side of tabbouleh sour cream for an extra kick:

tabbouleh_sour_cream (1)

Well, it’s no grown-man’s forearm shawarma…but it’s certainly not bad!

(Originally written August 16, 2014)

When they finally opened a Me Va Me Express on Queen Street West, I was pretty excited, having heard the rumours about their baguette sandwiches as big as a grown man’s forearm and the shawarma pitas the size of a five-year-old’s head.  However, it seems that these belly-busting sammies are only served at their suburban stores.  Upon discovering this, I was so distraught that I walked right out of the restaurant without buying anything.  But eventually, with the aid of a five-dollars-off coupon, they were able to lure me back in.  Well, with that and some lamb-burger sticks:


OK, so it might have fewer calories than a KFC Double Down, but there’s still a lotta food on this plate.  You’ve got three seasoned lamb patties with a side of French fries, Greek salad and a couple large slabs of slightly warm pita bread.  Put it this way: it’ll take more than a few Tiger beers to get me buzzed when the Stamps kick off against Hamilton in a couple hours, cuz I’ll be drinking on a full stomach. 😉

Me Va Me Express, 240 Queen St W (at John St), 416-546-3770

How I learned to love the shawarma

(Originally written March 27, 2012)

Although not uniquely a Torontonian culinary specialty (I’m told that Ottawa and Montreal have their fair share of shawarma shops), it’s safe to say that I never would’ve tasted shawarma had I not moved here.  It’s definitely not something you see a lot of in Calgary, especially not in the Northwest part of town where I grew up.  Alas, I discovered the Middle-Eastern staple in my college days due to an abundance of shawarmarias (for lack of a better term) downtown, particularly on Yonge St–and one in particular whose clever marketing caught my hungry eyes.

I’m pretty sure that the location now known as Lebanon Express used to be called something else back in the day–in fact, it seems to me that the spot has changed ownership a couple times.  But while the former name escapes me, I do remember the writing on the window advertising two shawarma sammies for six bucks.  I used to walk by the place all the time en route to get groceries, when on one fateful evening, I decided that even though I wasn’t sure what a shawarma was, two sandwiches for six dollars seemed like a pretty sweet deal.  I then ordered a pair of stuffed pitas filled with sliced beef and exotic toppings like tahini, hummus and and picked turnips, not knowing what everything was at first, but not afraid to try it.  Soon, it became a staple in my diet.  If you still don’t know what I’m talking about–you’re obviously not from around here–it’s sort of like a Middle-Eastern burrito, and looks a little something like this:

shawarma (5)

I must say that I’ve mostly moved on from the sandwich variety to the shawarma plate when a couple years ago when I realized that you could get a great big helping of food for a reasonable price at most shawarma shops in the city.  A plate usually comes with shawarma meat (I mostly go for beef), rice, potatoes, tabbouleh (parsley salad) and pita bread–which can often make or break the dish–and generally costs about 10-12 dollars (including a bottled drink).  According to The Dish, it also contains 1,307 calories, 64 grams of fat and 2,369 mg of sodium.  Yummy!

Unfortunately, on a return trip to where it all began last summer, I was disappointed in Lebanon Express’ shawarma plate.  For one, they had no beef roasting on the spit, and their chicken was hard and crusty, to say nothing of the service behind the counter.  Mind you, it was 11:45, before the big lunchtime rush, but that’s still no excuse.

Of course, you can’t throw a stone on Yonge Street between Queen and Bloor without hitting a shawarma shop, and I’ve been to just about all of them.  One place I hadn’t tried until last week, however, was Paramount, which opened its doors just south of Dundas about a year and a half ago.  How I missed this place before is beyond me (though it must be said that, generally speaking, the best eats on Yonge are found north of the Eaton Centre).  Their plates featured freshly-grilled meat with pickles and beets, tabbouleh and a choice of rice or french fries for fat fucks like me.  But their true coup de grace was the pita bread, baked so fresh that steam would rise when you pulled it apart.  Oh man…  One bite and I could see why this place gets packed at lunchtime!  On the other hand, the tabbouleh was pretty bland, pretty much just chopped parsley, but tis only a minor complaint.

There are also no less than a handful of shawarma shops near my current digs in The Annex, between Bathurst and Spadina on Bloor Street.  Let’s see, there’s Laila, Ali Baba’s, Ghazale, Sarah’s… and that one just west of Spadina whose name escapes me at the moment.  Actually, Laila just shut down, which saddens me somewhat as it was my personal favourite.  Sure, the decor was definitely dated, but they had the best plates in my books because they actually grilled their meat right when you ordered it, instead of hacking it off the spit and heating in in the microwave, as some other places have been known to do.  Mind you, they didn’t used to grill it until they got a “Conditional Pass” on a food safety inspection a couple years back, but I digress.  The place is currently up for lease at 40 bucks per square foot, and apparently there’s no shortage of potential tenants.  Oh well, maybe it’s time I finally tried that place just west of Spadina…

Although I’ve never been, the Me Va Me Express on Steeles Ave in Thornhill makes a shawarma on a baguette that’s reportedly as big as a grown man’s forearm, and a shawarma pita that “closely resembles the size of a five-year-old boy’s head,” which contains more calories than two KFC Double Downs.  Man, I’m getting hungry just reading the (lack of) nutritional content on this thing.  I just need to find a(nother) reason to head up to Thornhill!

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, the location that used to be Laila is now a Popeye’s. And I still haven’t made it up to the suburbs for a grown-man’s-forearm shawarma.  One of these days…

TORONTO’S TOP TAKEOUT: 6 meat Turkish feast!!!

On Father’s Day Weekend, Uber Eats gave me two codes for 50% off, on orders up to 50 bucks. I wanted to make the most of it by supporting a couple of local, family-run restaurants and making some yuuuge orders! (I believe Uber pays the difference to the restaurant while giving me the discount — hopefully I’m not wrong on that.) Now, you KNOW I love lamb, and shawarma is my jam, so when I found this funky Turkish joint on the Danforth called Efes Kebab House (listed as Efes Bar and Grill on Uber Eats), I totally had to check it out!

And when it came to making my 50 bucks count, I was definitely going big with this six-meat symphony in Flavourtown — the Ocak Basi Mix:

efes_ocak_basi_mix (11)

Dude, when your meal comes in a big metal catering tray, you know that’s a lotta food! You’ve got some chicken and beef shish kebab, along with chicken and beef doner — which is basically shawarma — meatballs, a lamb chop and a bed of rice with some warm pita bread, along with a side salad. But what makes it is the adana kebab:

efes_adana_kebab (3)

I’ll be honest, the lamb chop is what caught my eye when I first saw this dish, but little did I know, I’d be getting two lambs for the price of one! This ground lamb skewer is cooked over charcoal, which really gives the meat a nice flavour. I’m sure glad I got a nice long piece!!!

ocak_basi_aftermath (4)

But really, this whole dish was delish — no crumb left behind, son!!!

efes_kebab_baklava (4)

Now, after all that meat, I didn’t really need something sweet, but these two little two-bite baklava rolls hit the spot! I didn’t expect them to come with this dish, but I guess when you buy the biggest, meatiest platter, as well as a tub of hummus (I saved some of it for snacking later), they throw in the dessert for free — which makes this a 5-star experience in Flavourtown!!!!

TORONTO’S TOP TAKEOUT: You ululate, I ululate, we all ululate for Halal Guys!!!

In case you didn’t know, The Halal Guys made a name for themselves as one of the most popular food trucks in New York City, before branching out all over the world. They’ve had one in Toronto for a couple years now, right around Yonge and Wellesley, but I never got the chance to check it out…until now!

halal_guys_chicken_gyro (6)

At this place, their menu is nice and simple — you can order chicken, gyros or falafel, either on a pita or in a platter. Now you KNOW I went with both kinds of meat, bro — chicken AND gyros!!!

halal_guys_chicken (3)

OK, now let’s break it down. The meat is clearly carved off a spit shawarma-style, and then piled on top of a whole lotta veggies, like carrots, lettuce, tomato, onions, jalapenos and green peppers. You get a nice kick from the hot sauce and the garlicky white sauce — man, I only used one packet of white sauce, and I got it all over everything!!!

halal_guys_gyro (4)

Now, the trick with this dish is to layer the meat so that you’re not just left with a big pile of lettuce and carrots at the end. But man, when you smother it in white sauce, even lettuce and carrots taste pretty gangster! And did I mention I’ve still got a whole ‘nother packet? Man, I’m gonna spread some white sauce on everything I eat now — that sauce is the boss, hoss!!!!

Big Lebanese Brunch @ The Depanneur

Now, if there’s one thing I love more than shawarma, it’s brunch, bro! And at The Depanneur, this funky little pop-up kitchen on College, they’ve serving up the best of both worlds with their Big Lebanese Brunch:

big_lebanese_brunch (12)

OK, now let’s break it down. You’ve got a personal pan pita, topped with halloumi cheese, chunks of salted lamb, scrambled eggs, hash browns and bit of middle eastern fried tomatoes, for that added colour. Man, if this was an actual pizza, I could slam at least seven slices, no problemo!

Now, the portion you see at the top of the page is actually intended for two people, but you know what they say… Just another light snack in Flavourtown, son!!!

big_lebanese_brunch (20)

Zezafoun’s Syrian brunch is off the hook!!!

Now, I’ve eaten a bunch of brunches from all over the place, but this was probably the first time I’ve ever scarfed down some Syrian food. So there’s this cozy little joint called Zezafoun, just off Yonge St, a couple blocks from Davisville Station. They’re got yer shawarma, they’ve got falafel, and a whole buncha daily specials straight outta Damascus. But the best time to come is for brunch, when they’re serving up Middle Eastern comfort food like fatteh, right here:

zezafoun_syrian_fatteh (4)

Now, this is sorta like if they took all the sides from a shawarma plate, and put ‘em in a bowl. You’ve got chickpeas, tahini and almonds, served warm, with some pieces of fried pita bread mixed in. I told ‘em this would be a great dip for some deep-fried pita chips…so if you see that on the menu next time, you’ll know why.

zezafoun_empty_bowl (3)

Now, I didn’t think this would fill me up, but whatever they put in here, it sticks to yer ribs. They say that in Syria, people go right back to bed after a big bowl of fatteh, and I can totally see where they’re coming from!!!

Legit lamb skewers at Toronto’s OG Middle-Eastern joint!

So, we’re hanging out at Jerusalem Restaurant, the first place in Toronto to serve up Middle-Eastern food, waaay back in 1971. Now, I’m a pretty big fan of this type of cuisine. You KNOW I love the shawarma bro, and I’ll scarf down pretty much anything with lamb in it. So when I heard they were serving up two lamb skewers with a whole mountain of fries for $17.95, I was all over that like Yair Netanyahu at a strip club, son!!!

jerusalem_lamb_kebab (13)

The lamb is super tender, with a nice grilled taste, but not too much charcoal. Fries are hot and crispy, and the salad has some green stuff in it. I don’t always eat salad, but in this case, the meat-to-veggie ratio here was just about right. I think I coulda gone with some more pita bread instead though, bro!!!

jerusalem_pita_bread (3)

This massive Persian meatball tastes like peace in the Middle East!

So, we’re hanging out at Tabriz Persian Cookhouse, this funky, modern Persian joint up around Bay and Wellesley. Now, you know I loves me some shawarma, but this place is a little more fancy than the shawarma shop across the street, bro. They’re serving up stuff like roast lamb shank, saffron chicken, and this Iranian delicacy, koofteh tabrizi:

persian_koofteh_meatball (7)

OK, now let’s break it down. You’ve got a massive mound of meat, with fresh herbs, berries and walnuts, and a hunka-hunka burning plumb hidden in the middle. They serve it up in a bowl with a tomato-based broth, and a side of cucumber and tomato salad. Now, I think it mighta been better if you could pour the broth overtop, or maybe had some bread to soak it up…but still, I would put these big balls in my mouth any day, bro!!!!