When we first heard of the new concept Shawarma-matic, brought to you by the same lovely people who have long been filling our bellies with Mais Alghanim, we were intrigued to say the least. As an item previously only available on their catering menu, the often requested Shawarma would, if nothing else, be more widely available. Having now been to the location, sampled the food, and basked in their many options, we are pleased to say that they have exceeded our already high expectations with a menu as delicious as it is vast.
The concept sounded futuristic enough: Shawarma served by robots? How can this be (I may have even camped out overnight in front like it was the opening of the next Star Wars movie)? However, the truth is, though not as futuristic as the child in me might have wanted, it still remains equally compelling to the taste buds. First, all of the actual cutting of the Shawarma meat is done automatically by a machine that does deliver on all the goodies that you would expect from an automated process: consistency of the cut, consistency of the amount served, cleanliness; all whilst cross-referencing in its motherboard the ever-changing circumference of the meat.
That said, it would be a real disservice to the menu overall to merely focus on such themes as the food here is worth going out of your way for. First the basics: when it comes to types of meats, they have 6 different kinds, ever spinning, in the slow roasted manner that you only get from the Shawarma experience: beef, chicken, Turkish Doner, Tandoori, Taouk, and Kabbab. When it comes to the breads, you have your choice of Lebanese, Samoun, Saj, or a baguette. Lastly, for toppings they have even more varieties with 9 different basics (of which you can pick four), 10 premium toppings for a slight up-charge, and over a dozen different sauces. With all of these toppings being as varied as hummus, cucumber sauce, caramelized onions, guacamole, or even French fries, there is no doubt that you could spend years here perfecting your perfect meal.
Being a bit of a purist as we are when it comes to such eateries, we opted to start out with the standard beef Shawarma (here called the Standdar), and work our way up to some of the more adventurous items on the menu. The first thing that you will likely notice is that you are definitely in for an upgrade from the norm with these guys; this is true both in sheer size, and the quality of ingredients. Weighing in at nearly 3 times the norm of traditional Shawarmas, these definitely make a meal unto themselves. The Saj bread was wonderfully fresh, warm, and presented hot off the grill with the help of a Panini-press-type melting and melding of all the inside goodness, before being presented to you. One other one we tried here was the Crunchy Julius, an inventive take on the mix of Shawarma (we had chicken), mixed with a Caesar salad. For our part this reminded us of the “wraps” craze that we all saw a while back, only with the freshness and inventiveness that many other restaurants missed in the shuffle. The Chubby Gonzales, a near burrito-like intersection of Mexican ingredient favorites (including salsa rice, chile’s and of course sour cream and guacamole, should you be so inclined) that could satisfy a more western urge for home.
With a playful menu that incorporates funny descriptions with wonderful and equally original flavor profiles, you are bound to find more than enough items to keep you coming back. They also indicate contests coming in the future where you can get a Shawarma named after yourself if you can come up with an original version all your own. The real essence of what they have done though, is presented an upgrade of your shawarma favorites via higher quality ingredients and larger portions, for a shawar-magical experience (yeah, that just happened).
When it comes to the sides there are a few that one definitely should not miss. The fried pickles were good, lightly breaded, and came with a dipping sauce. The Crispy Halloumi Bites were also delicious, with the perfect amount of cheese to bread ratio. I hear the Kibbeh balls are also delicious here, though sadly I was too stuffed to try them. For those who just want a sandwich, the Msa7ab Djeij was filled with a wonderfully moist pulled roasted chicken, French fries, pickles and garlic, and both the Batata-matic, and Rice-matic were wonderful standouts. I highly recommend repeated visits in order to try them all.
For our part here at the magazine, we have committed to daily visits as we work on flavor variations for an absolutely decadent bazaar-matic that no doubt would involve several upcharges, due to its use of at least 3 types of meat, an excess of toppings, and the ability to have a robot hand-feed us. In the mean time- head down there and see if you can come up with a more popular version than they have–you won’t regret it!
Shawarma-matic is open from 1pm to 1am. It is located in Salmiya, Block 10, Sayed Yasseen Street. Reach them by phone at 2225 6444 or check out their website at: www.shawarma-matic.com. You can also follow them on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook: @shawarmamatic