Friday, November 20, 2009

Authentically Arabic

If there is one sure way to know the authenticity of the restaurant, just check out the customers.

- Calixto L. Fangki
Etag Cooking Expert

Thelma and I went to Ermita, Manila for some errands and got hungry because humans do get hungry, and we are but human. We scanned the area and decided to go Persian for supper. So we walked towards the place we know that serve Persian food and saw another Persian restaurant in front of the familiar one in Soler St, Ermita, Manila. The new Persian restaurant was teeming with middle easterners of all shapes, colors and sizes smoking their sweet scented shee-shas. So this might be the feeling in Oman or Qatar or Saudi Arabia, so we thought, minus the mutawah.

The restaurant’s name is so exotic evoking visions of the romantic but dangerous desert from Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist as the lead character journeys across it to discover his treasure across dunes and oasis. The name is Shawarma Snack Center. Very Arabic.

We ordered a two hundred fifty peso (P250) plate consisting of 3 piece beef kebab with tomato, onion, and pita bread. I think it is expensive compared to the kebabs we get from West Avenue. After the long wait, the three tight Kebab made a grand entrance and it is by far, I should say, the best kebab I have tasted. Even their yoghurt and red sauce combined deliciously brings out the steady beefy taste of the kebab stick. I think they use a tiny wee amount of extenders on their kebabs giving it that full beef flavor.

The place is so middle east that they do not have free water. It’ll cost you P25 hard earned bucks for a 250ml mineral water coming from the springs of Maynilad.

The mood inside the restaurant is very Arabic you can almost see desert sand particles beside the cans of olive oils from Jordan sold at P8,500 per can. They sell dates and canned corned beef made in Brazil. Very Arabic.

Suffice to say, Shawarma Snack Center was a great cultural and palate experience. We felt sorry for the original restaurant in front because of its steep new competition. So as we went out, looked at the original Persian restaurant in front, and what do you know, it is also Shawarma Snack Center! A doppelganger.

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