Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shawarma Empire - Shawarma

Today I hit up Shawarma Empire (1823 Lawrence Avenue E.) for a chicken and a beef Shawarma ($5.99 before taxes). The shop is not quite as clean looking as others in the area but I wouldn't say it's dirty. I'll say it needs a good scrub down.....

Shawarma Empire makes their shawarmas a little differently than most other places I've tried. They use a smaller pita, cut a slice from the top, open the pita, fill it with meat and sauces, veggies, then meat and more sauces and top it with the cut piece of pita in the open end.

They use a salad of lettuce, pickles, pickled turnip, cucumber to make their pitas, additional onion and parsley are added as well. Their sauces include a garlic, tahini and and incredibly flavourful hot sauce (description to follow). Their pickles have a high salt content to them and a nice sourness, they add a tangy salty bite to the shawarma which is very nice.

In their hot sauce I can pick out curry, but there are other flavours mingling in there as well. I believe there is black pepper, garlic and possibly a hint of cayenne for a slight heat. I'd almost think it's harissa, with some added curry and a touch of oil.... Excellent stuff!

The chicken was very moist but as most other local places, not all that heavily spiced. In this case the hot sauce adds what the meat is lacking, although, if you didn't have the hot sauce you'd be missing out on so much.... A minor gripe, because almost every sandwich I saw made, included the hot sauce.

The beef was excellent, crispy on the outside yet very moist, again not heavily spiced but enhanced by the tahini and the hot sauce. The top shot is the meat after I removed the piece of sliced pita, the second shot is after a few bites....

Shawarma empire does a different take on the shawarma with some unique flavours which I wouldn't associate with a traditional shawarma. It's a toss up between this place and Ibrahim as to which is my current favourite....

Nasib's - Shawarma

I had the craving for Shawarma the past couple of days and hit up a couple more of the Shawarma joints along the Lawrence Ave. E. strip between Warden Ave. and Pharmacy Ave.

Yesterday was Nasib's (1867 Lawrence Ave. E.) where I ordered a beef and a chicken shawarma (I somehow ended up with two beef $6.99 before taxes). Veggies included lettuce, tomato, onion, pickled beets, and parsley. Sauces were garlic, tahini and their hot sauce. Their shawarmas are much like those found at Farhat, the beef isn't heavily spiced. The beef was very moist which was the main difference. Their sauces are very tame and don't bring a lot to the table, their garlic doesn't pack much of a punch, but, the hot sauce does add a hint of heat.

There wasn't a whole lot going on with this shawarma, no real depth of flavour and ended up tasting fairly bland. Unfortunately, the tahini was the most pronounced flavour. The folks working were very nice, their shawarma needs more spicing as their sauces couldn't resurrect the ho hum flavours of the beef.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ted's Hot Dogs

In the USA the hot dog is king. There are even regional diversities and preparation styles devoted to this humble meat product. I love that there are restaurants dedicated to the hot dog in nearly every city in the states. I can really only think of one restaurant in Toronto that specializes in hot dogs....

Anyway, Ted's Hot Dogs was on the menu during my last stay in Buffalo. Ted's uses Sahlen's wieners, a local product similar to a European wiener found in butcher shops in Toronto. Some might find them to be an acquired taste, I really like them.

The neat thing about Ted's is that they use real hardwood charcoal to cook their dogs, walking into the restaurant it actually smells like someone's having a BBQ out in their back yard.

When cooked, the dogs get a nice bit of char on them and the skins split, making the dogs easy to bite through. Condiments are typical, relish, ketchup, mustard, onions, pickle. Ted's does have a spicy relish/hot sauce I added to mine to give it a peppery kick.

Their fries seem to be of the frozen variety but arrive nice and crispy without being overly dark. Their onion rings are almost onion straw-like, lightly battered yet very crisp. My only complaint with the rings is that their batter/flour could use more seasoning....

Ted's is pretty reasonable as well, lunch for 2 was just over $11.