>> Al-Sham Restaurant | Eat the World NYC

20 June 2019

Al-Sham Restaurant


If you know nothing else about restaurant life in New York City, you know that it can be very fleeting. Interesting (and not interesting) places open up here and there, a neighborhood reacts and checks it out, maybe only for a short time, and by the time you think of going back, another place has opened up. This has happened on this exact corner of Bay Ridge twice in the last few years already, but after two recent visits to Al-Sham this trend is hopefully coming to an end.

Like many shawarma and gyro joints on 5th Avenue, Al-Sham has a spit right in the window. But the colossal rotating mass of chicken speaks to you almost in a different language. The meat just seems better than anything you've seen up and down the street. Or is that just the imposing size? Any place that plans on serving enough shawarma to get rid of this gigantic beauty must mean business.

On the first two visits, the neighborhood was definitely interested in Al-Sham. Men, women, old, young were all coming to place takeout orders as a few groups of young men stayed in to eat. At any place, muhammara is always at the front of an order queue, but unfortunately they had already discontinued the Aleppo red pepper and walnut dip and do not offer it any longer.

In its place was a refreshing bowl of smooth and creamy hummus ($6, above), the only dish that gets served on a real plate. The chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and olive oil are all working seamlessly together in their version, which comes with a side of warmed up pita bread for dipping.

The vegetable salad ($6, above) probably could have used some salt, but was useful in between bites of otherwise rich and fatty foods.

It was initially of note that every table had at least one bottle of ketchup on it, but after a while on that first visit it was noticed that the top orders here all came with the addition of fries. This is not much different than ordering a shawarma sandwich in many parts of the Middle East, the match is made in heaven.

Like first sampled at a nearby Jordanian restaurant Ruzana, Arabic-style shawarma ($7, above and below) seems to be taking over Bay Ridge. These sandwiches are served with the thin taboon or laffa flatbread popular in the Levant, crisped on the grill, and cut into sections. The fries ($2 extra on sandwich orders) are dusted with a subtle spice mix that makes them just a bit more enjoyable than most, probably not even needed that ketchup.

While the sandwich is lined with one pickle and plenty of garlic sauce, more of both are served alongside an order, ready to be eaten on their own or stuffed into the bread.

The sandwich actually outshines the kababs, which can be sampled by a mix grill ($15, below), one chicken kabab with two kufta kababs. While the chicken is moist and full of good seasoning, the kufta is a fair bit on the boring side. Fortunately the garlic sauce cures all ailments and can be mixed with bites of the ground beef and lamb and the fragrant rice.

The tastiest bit of the platter surprisingly may have been the toasted pitas that are brushed with some kind of spiced oil.

At least temporarily, Al-Sham is cash only, which led to an amazing gesture of hospitality. Noting that the bank would have to be traveled to before paying, the lady taking the order suggested it was not a problem and payment could be handled tomorrow if that was more convenient.

The decision was made to settle the debt immediately, but the gesture will not be forgotten.

Al-Sham Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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