Dining review: Middle Eastern cuisine comes to Millcreek
A visit to Millcreek's Shawarma King is a sensory experience. As you step inside, you'll be bathed in a Pepto pink glow as you're seated in red banquettes topped by plastic flowers. Once you visually adjust, your taste buds are next in line for an uncommon taste experience.
So what is Shawarma King? A tour of the menu will unveil Middle Eastern cuisine with a smattering of Greek and another handful of random dishes like a hamburger ($4.50) and fajita sandwich ($7.99) presumably to draw in the midvalley crowd unsure of what Middle Eastern food might entail.
To start, there's shawarma. Two kinds spin on the shawarma cones at the front of the restaurant beef and chicken ($10.99). Before you think that shawarma is the same shaved meat served at the Greek fast-food locations, think again. This appears to be a true shawarma cone with layers of meats, fat and seasonings that are slow roasted on a vertical spit.
The beef shawarma was heavily seasoned with cinnamon and cardamom, a polarizing spice blend that you'll either love or hate. It's served with tahini and a "salad" of iceberg lettuce and chopped tomatoes along with a very stale and hard tortillalike bread (lavash) that would be better left untouched. Don't overlook the accompanying pickles, however; they offer a tangy contrast to the meat.
Of the two, the chicken shawarma was far more accessible to the average diner, although served with an amazing "garlic sauce" otherwise known as toum a creamy paste of pungent garlic and lemon that will leave you with fiery breath for several hours.
Lamb is perhaps my favorite protein offered at Shawarma King. Lamb tikka ($9.50) offers bite-size chunks of spicy meat alongside rice and salad, while lamb koozi ($12.99) outshone all others with juicy, fall-off-the-bone tender shreds of lamb over a rice pilaf-type presentation with onions, almonds and raisins.
If dining with a party of three or more, family-style meals ($49.99 for three, $69.95 for five) are available for sharing and offer a nice mix of the most popular items on the menu, including kabobs, tikka and shawarma.
Appetizers of a creamy smooth hummus ($2.99) and relatively dry tabouleh ($4.50) are nice to share around the table but are served with the aforementioned lavash and not necessary for a filling meal.
The eggplant soup special ($4.50) surprised me with the complex flavors that highlighted the slowly simmered aubergine, and I could easily see this becoming a wintertime favorite for lunch.
I've heard no shortage of complaints from trusted friends about the pace of service being painfully slow here, but in my three visits I couldn't have been happier with immediate seating, attentive drink delivery although they were often out of ice and downright speedy food arrival. In fact, the owner personally visited all the tables each time and on occasion even delivered food orders to us.
With so many new restaurants opening that introduce (or reacquaint) Utahns to different ethnic flavors, it's a pleasure to decide where to dine these days. If you're a fan of Greek food and want to branch out a bit more, head to Shawarma King for beef or chicken shawarma and lamb specialties.
Tribune restaurant reviewer Heather King runs Ladies Who Lunch. Find her on Twitter @slclunches. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Food • HH
Mood • Hhj
Service • Hhj
Noise • b
Shawarma King brings a touch of the Middle East to the Millcreek neighborhood. Highlights include lamb dishes and shawarma cones.
Location • 725 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-803-9434
Online • slcshawarmaking.com
Hours • Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday
Children's menu • No
Prices • $-$$
Liquor • No
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • All major