A dear friend recently visited Israel and tempted me with photos of delicious shawarma(s). That led to an elevated curiosity and craving towards the exotic world of Arabic Cuisine. Arabesque Cafe Family Restaurant has a fast-food/express branch on Philip Street in Waterloo, but I decided to check out their main location on Kitchener’s busy Victoria Street.
For Arab Cuisine newbs (ie. me before dear friend Wikipedia provided enlightenment), here is a 30-second Arab Food 101 crash course:
The Arabic cuisine is mainly a combination of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian food. It has been affected by the mingling of Arab and non-Arabs over the centuries. European cultures such as the Spanish, Italian, French and Greek also had impact on the Arab cooking.
Some common Middle Eastern food:
- Hummus – dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic
- Baba Ghanoush – dish of eggplant mashed and mixed with virgin olive oil and various seasonings
- Falafel – deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both
- Tabbouleh – a Levantine Arab salad traditionally made of bulgur, tomato,and finely chopped parsley and mint, often including onion and garlic, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt
- Shawarma – meats are placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit in restaurants), and may be grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments), “shawarma” also refers to a pita bread sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat
- Kebab – meat that is cooked over or next to flames; large or small cuts of meat, or even ground meat; it may be served on plates, in sandwiches, or in bowls. The traditional meat for kebab is lamb
- Baklava – rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey
Exotic food excites me. (:
The obscene amounts of food to be reviewed in this entry is based on two visits (*chants* I am not a glutton I am not a glutton..). Viewer discretion is advised.
First trip was a cold & rainy day. Second visit was a warm & sunny day. The restaurant was not too busy for either, despite being weekend dinners.
This has to be one of the biggest restaurants in KW. The large interior is an accurate reflection of their ginormous food portions.
Service was terrific on my first visit. Our lady server promptly provided drinks and insightful recommendations. She even gave us extra portions of salad and tahini dressing! Thumbs up! The meal was done in slightly over an hour.
For the second dinner, service was terrible mess.
- 7pm arrival – patio request was ignored
- 7.15pm – Menus finally came
- 7.30pm – Water finally came
- 8pm – WHERE IS MY FOOD!?
Good food is worth the wait, but extreme slow service and lack of attention from the server in a not-busy restaurant is unacceptable. Thankfully, I have had a good experience here so that was not a deal breaker. Nonetheless, please, work on the service.
On the Table for Maple:
- Dip Sampler ($12.99)
- Moe Plate ($16.99)
- Lamb Loin Chops ($16.99)
- Beef Kebab Plate ($12.99)
- Fried Red Snapper ($18.99)
*All entrees served with bread & hummus & rice/fries & salad.
Hummus (chick peas), mutabal (spicy eggplant) , baba ghanoush (eggplant) & labaneh (yoghurt & mint) dip
This dip sampler is perfect for the indecisive. I enjoyed all except for the Labaneh – mint was a tad too strong. The eggplant-based dips were pleasant surprises, definitely worth trying!
Special mention – hummus was amazing!! So creamy!! So smooth!!
What others ordered:
Moe Plate – Grilled skewer kefta, shish kebab, shish tawook
Fatoush Salad – lettuce, tomato, parsley, cucumber, peppers, lemon juice & olive oil
Beef Kebab Plate – Broiled ground beef mixed with parsley & onions
Tabouli Salad – Parsley, tomatoes, onion, crushed wheat with lemon juice & olive oil
Y’s order – Lamb Loin Chops & Tabouli Salad
Y enjoyed the tasty lamb, but that cut of lamb had simply too much marbled fats for him to possibly finish.
Tabouli salad did not receive any compliments from the table. Waaaaay too much parsley in one salad!
What I ordered:
First visit: Lamb Loin Chops with Jerusalem salad – tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, lemon juice & tahini (sesame paste)
I love the refreshing salad complimented with fresh smooth tahini. Similiar to Y’s comments, I found the lamb to be 80% fat and barely any meat. Very generous servings though (5 pieces for mine).
Second Visit: Fried Red Snapper with Jerusalem salad
This time, I was smart(er). As I stared doe-eyed at the server, I made a ridiculous request…
Can I substitute the bread/fries/rice with… *drum roll*… MORE HUMMUS??!
One fine day, hummus might just take over peanut butter as the world’s most popular spread.
The red snapper was great. However, I ordered it “spicy” but there was absolutely zero spice in that dish. Awww.
Yes – plentiful. Only one warrior successfully finished his plate.
Overall, Arabesque provides extremely good value for the price you pay. Each entree can technically be divided into two meals. I loved how each plate was fresh, colourful, and very appealing. So please Arabesque, work on your service. You will thank yourself for that.
Can’t stress enough – yummy hummus!!
1) $$ price, reasonable with great value
2) Very spacious, never over-crowded or too busy
3) Hit or miss service
4) Terrific value » One entree order = Two meals