The shawarma, a popular food from the Levant, is marinated meat grilled on an upright skewer, then shaved off in bits and usually rolled in a pita. The resulting sandwich has been so well-received by Filipinos that you’ll be hard-pressed to find an area in Metro Manila without a cheap shawarma stall. Unfortunately, such popularity means that the sandwich has become pedestrianized so much to the point that what diners often get isn’t up to par with those found in the streets in the Middle East. To put it mildly, the shawarma we are accustomed to are inauthentic.
In a road that runs perpendicular to the food-tripper heaven Maginhawa Street, a newly opened dining place thus seeks to provide locals an access to Middle Eastern dishes that are as authentic as local resources and cheap price points would allow. That humble shawarma place is Meshwe, an outdoor-dining affair at the Z Food Court in Malingap Street. A couple of wooden tables and plastic chairs are placed in front of the little stall, which doubles as the kitchen and the counter.
Benjo and I visit at 4 p.m. on a weekday, one of few patrons when we enter, but the place quickly fills up around five. Club music pumps so loudly out of the speakers that I can’t hear the conversation at the tables next to ours.
Behind the counter is owner/chef Nathaniel Mounayer, a half-Filipino, half-Lebanese chef who rued the lack of authentic shawarma this side of the planet. Flying through ingredients with the focus and precision of an athlete, he assembles sandwiches and plates like clockwork.
We order Chicken Shawarma Sandwich first. This is a delicious, classic chicken shawarma with tender chicken chunks and tangy garlic sauce. And considering its quality, it’s a bargain, too.
As good as the sandwich is, things get better with the Chicken Shawarma Plate. The deconstructed sandwich reveals the fresh lettuce and tomatoes, as well as the rightly spiced fries and garlic sauce, creating a beautiful palette of colors along with the chicken chunks. Together, they taste great as well.
Of course, a restaurant in the Philippines isn’t complete without at least one rice dish on the menu. Here, there are three. We order the Chicken Tender Shawarma Rice, which are deep-fried breaded chicken served with spiced rice.
For vegetarians, there’s the falafel, which can either be rolled in a pita or served with french fries.
For the sides, there’s French Fries, Sambousek and Pita Chips. If you’re undecided which to order, a sampler plate is available where you get to have your fries and eat your chips, too.
33 Malingap Street,
Teacher’s Village – East,