Chronicles of Shawarma – Book V

2010.May.13 Thursday · 2 comments

in Food & Recipes

“Lie there, your Highness, and I will bring you up a little feast to yourself in a few moments. There is no need for you to move until we are all ready to embark.”

– from C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, Book 5, Chronicles of Narnia

It has been quite some time since Book IV of this chronicle, mostly I’ve just turned my attention to other things. But, shawarma is never far from my mind when I’m thinking about a casual lunch. So, a few more to add to the list

Chef Iusef - enjoying a shawarma

Although not a take out place, though I suppose one could, Chef Iusef, Malabia 1378 in Palermo, does offer up shawarma sandwiches. I’d say it wouldn’t be my first choice. The sandwich, not the place, which I have come to really like. But, the shawarma strikes me as not having been made via the usual slow roasting method, but the meat appears to be cut into strips before cooking, probably marinated (nicely in lemon and spices) and then probably sauteed in a pan until it’s browned. But it doesn’t have that charred edge to it. It’s served simply, in quite good pita bread, with a bit of yogurt mint sauce and not much else. A little too… plain jane for my tastes – not that I wasn’t enjoying myself there.

Dody - shawarma and falafel sandwiches

Recently opened in my ‘hood, Dody Döner Kebab, Rodriguez Peña 1136, just off Santa Fé, held out the promise of something different here. Interestingly given their name, the menu only offers shawarma and not döner kebab (they’re almost the same, the differences being primarily just in the sauces). It falls short in a couple of places. First, service, such as it is, is not just lacking, but unpleasant, bordering on rude. The counterman’s barked response when I tried to order was “go to register and order and then come talk to me” – the register being hidden away at the far back of the restaurant, a woman there reading a magazine who couldn’t have been bothered. She produced a ticket for me to take back to the counterman after a bit of sighing and moaning about it all. He didn’t even look at it, just asked me what I wanted, so I ordered one shawarma and one falafel sandwich. The former comes in: “lamb, beef or chicken”, but there are only two spits of roasting meat, I gather, watching various folk order, that the lamb and beef are combined on one spit. It’s also not the stacked and pressed slices of meat, but that industrially processed ground… crap… the meat equivalent of pressboard. The falafel were flat, pasty and flavorless imitations of the real thing, and were simply kept hot on a steam tray, so they were falling apart mush, even if once they’d been crisp. The only saving grace of these, the mix of yogurt and really quite good hot sauce. I also tried, first, to order the sandwiches delivered, they declined, citing my 8 block distance as making it impossible to guarantee that they sandwiches would still be hot and/or good, by the time they reached me. Don’t think it would have mattered. And, while for the ‘hood not pricey, for our various shawarma offerings, 13 pesos is a bit high.

El Timon - shawarma

A recent addition to the food writing scene here in town is the website NoshBA, a somewhat cheeky look at the dining world here from, I gather, the viewpoint of “someone young” [Edit: didn’t last long.]. I gather that mostly because the author of the site contacted me when he started up to let me know he was doing so and wanted to assure me that he wasn’t trying to compete, he just wanted to offer a food blog that had a viewpoint and readership that was completely different from mine, to whit, by and for people who were “young”. Needless to say I gritted my teeth as I offered my welcome to the local scene. But, back to the point, he does seek out and find some good street food and interesting hole in the wall sorts of spots for those on a budget. Two of those spots offer up shawarma, one of his favorite snack foods, and given that, he can’t be all bad, right? I tottered off on my walker to El Timón, Niceto Vega 4989 in Palermo, not to be confused with my new pizza find, El Timón de Pandy. The shawarma spot is actually an unnamed locale operating out of a small space at the back of the corner El Timón pizzeria (so don’t enter the pizzeria if you’re looking for shawarma, look down the block). The rotisserie is set up on a table top and is hand-rotated by the two cooks. There was a line waiting for sandwiches the day I was there, with a wide variety of folk standing about (no one under the age of 40 I might point out). And, it’s a really quite good shawarma, and a bargain at 9 pesos – well seasoned beef, plenty of fresh tomato, lettuce and onion, a good yogurt sauce and a hot sauce with a reasonable kick to it. There’s nowhere to sit, so figure on sitting on the wall of a neighboring flower bed or wending your way to a park.

El Jaial - shawarma

I do also have to agree with our nosher on this spot, which wasn’t high on his recommendation list, El Jaial, Tucumán 2620 near to the Abasto. He did get one thing wrong, with a digression on the “non-PC”-ness of the term “oriental”, not realizing that in Spanish it just means “eastern”, and is used here commonly as a reference to any establishment serving food of the middle east. After all, neighboring country Uruguay is referred to as “La Republica Oriental”. This spot is amidst the various kosher restos of the Once Jewish quarter, and is kosher itself. It’s pretty beige, and that’s not just a color observation. The biggest disappointment, the food is served pretty much cold or room temp. Although there’s a rotating spit on the counter for the beef shawarma, they don’t carve the meat directly for you, but every now and again someone pops out of the kitchen to shave off the caramelized bits into a tray below, and the sandwiches are made from the meat on the tray, which may have been sitting there cooling off for 15-20 minutes. The sandwich is served as a stuffed pita, rather than wrapped, and it’s pretty generous. The meat, however, is bland. The veggies to accompany it – a salad of tomato, onion and cucumber, and lots of sliced red cabbage, are fresh, but also room temp, and the sauces (no yogurt, all that meat and milk stuff you know), a mix of hummus (watery and unflavored) and chimichurri (not bad, but he put the barest teaspoon of it into the sandwich). And it comes with fries, also cold, sitting in a bowl on the countertop. The falafel sandwiches too – those little chickpea balls might have been okay right out of the fryer, but at room temp they were inedible leaden, pasty lumps. Quite expensive too with the sandwiches running 17 pesos apiece, 50% more than the next closest competitor. All in all, a failure. [Closed, replaced by Ajim]

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