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May 31, 2014 05:47 AM

shawarma question

Is there any particular reason why shawarma retaurants griddle freshly cut meat before serving? Is it a health code requirement in Toronto? I've never seen this before moving here. It's not a very good idea.

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  1. I've noticed this mainly in places that use electric heating elements (as opposed to flame).
    My theory is that it is used to add texture to the meat along with an attempt to initiate the Maillard reaction (a vertical spit may not be hot enough for this).

    But, to be fair, I'm not a particular fan of the various shawarma variations, so am not an expert. I find most of them bland and lacking texture anyway (but bizarrely, when oversalted, I do find them a perverse pleasure).

    1. Coming from Ottawa I am very disappointed with the schwarma restaurants in Toronto. The portions are skimpy, they charge for too many extras that are included in other places, the garlic sauce is different, seems more emphasis on the hot sauce then the garlic. For the same price or less in Ottawa you would get an absolutely stuffed take out container with all the trimmings. Wouldn't have thought it would be a geographical thing but I've been to many here and always the same. I've attached an example pic, underneath is full of rice and potatoes.

      8 Replies
      1. re: HandPay

        Which place do you recommend in Ottawa? Where is this container from? Thanks.

        1. re: caitlink

          This pic is from the Schwarma Palace (i just got it off the web) but if you google schwarma plate Ottawa you will get a lot of suggestions. It's been several years since I lived there but there is one place on Carling Ave. a bit east of the movie theatres that is good as I recall, and I've heard that the new one on Hazledean Rd. near Stittsville is pretty good, it's in one of the big box developments, but not sure of the name. For the most part they are all similiar but of course some better then others.

        2. re: HandPay

          HandPay, that looks very much like the shish taouk platter from Amir, a chain of Lebanese fast food restaurants in Montreal. I've not come across anything nearly as good in the 18 years I've lived in Toronto. There the emphasis is also on the garlic sauce (I always ask for extra and am never charged); I've never seen anyone use hot sauce at Amir. The platter comes with the chicken shish taouk/shawarma, salad, turnips, and rice or great fries (I get a combo of both) or potatoes, plus a round of pita. The chicken (or beef shawarma; they serve both) is sliced off of the vertical rotisserie and place directly on the plate/in a sandwich. No griddling.

          Like the place in Ottawa, some franchise locations are better than others. My go-to location is at the corner of Decarie Blvd. and Jean-Talon. Although I haven't been to it in years, the location in the food court at Rockland Centre is also really good.

          1. re: HandPay

            I recently moved from Ottawa to Toronto. I'm looking for something to replace my Schwarma Palace fix!!

            Is there any place even close?

            1. re: presencegirl

              I don't think so, I've tried many places, downtown, east end, west end, nothing compares. I make sure I fill up when I go back to Ottawa to get my fix. And good luck getting a decent egg roll in this city! No one makes them from scratch here it seems, just those lousy commerically made ones full of bean sprouts that all come out on the first bite.

              1. re: HandPay

                When you say "east end" how far east have you gone in Toronto? I've noticed people who don't live in the true east end of Toronto (i.e. Scarborough) don't consider Scarborough as the east end for some reason. I'm not saying that this applies to you HandPay for I don't know where you're coming from, but just in general. Anyway Shawarma Empire gets my vote for the tastiest Shawarma in Toronto. A mom and pop shop with delicious and generous portioned beef shawarma. Have you tried the shops along Lawrence Ave. east of Vic Park? Lots to choose from.

              2. re: presencegirl

                I like Liberty Shawarma in Liberty Village, but I found Palace in Ottawa to be bland.

              3. re: HandPay

                My favourite version in the city was probably Orly's (Sheppard and Bathurst) - but that was a couple of years ago.

                If you are downtown, you should give M'Zaar on Yonge (just south of Bloor) a try. I was brought there for a late night snack by a Lebanese friend, who too, laments the dire shawarma options in Toronto.

                Admittedly, it's been years since my last Ottawa shawarma, but I found M'Zaar's version just as garlicky and meat charred and flavourful as the one I remember.

              4. Because they are expedient and make crap. Welcome to Toronto.

                1. I haven't been in a while, but my wife and I both loved Al Tanoor. It's not in the explosively garlicky Ottawa style (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on taste), but it was excellent when we went.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: trombasteve

                    It's still excellent. Especially if you have the shawarma on the home-made samoon bread.

                    1. re: Yongeman

                      Yup. Al Tanoor with their homemade bread is great.

                      If you're looking for volume, Sultan of Shawarma on Danforth at Main has styrofoam boxes with a pile of whatever you like plus pita for about 8 bucks. They take the meat straight from the spit. No grilling.

                  2. Which Toronto restaurants serve the least salty shawarma? I love shawarma, but most versions I've ordered have been a salt bomb. I realize salt is a key part of the spice blend, and most Middle Eastern fast food restaurants are heavy-handed with salt in general, but I would be grateful for any suggestions for restaurants that appear to use less salt.

                    Also, which restaurants serve the best shawarma-topped salad, for Chowhounds who are cutting back on the pita/samoon/laffa?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: prima

                      You write with respect to salt as if these places are Russian or Russian owned. There is little salt in my experience in Middle Eastern cooking unless the kitchen has screwed up. Or the ex - taxi -cab driver owner fancied himself a great cook.

                      Which places do you not like because of the salt?

                      Have a lamb kebab at Al Tanoor or at Suliko in celebration of Pride Week now in Tel Aviv, see various Israeli newspapers. Haaretz is good if you can login.

                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                        I'm always thirsty and bloated after shawarma-whether it's from Dr Laffa, Milo's, Ghazale, Le Gourmet (or whatever the shawarma place near Yonge and Lawrence is called), Shawarma's King, various food courts. I haven't tried Al Tanoor or other Lawrence E shops, since I tend to get shawarma along the subway line, and am unlikely to travel to Scarborough by bus for a shawarma.

                        But maybe I should be sticking with kabobs if I'm finding shawarma too salty.