Some of Ottawa's best shawarma takeout
Mid-East take out when dinner needs to be quick.
Alissar Lebanese Cuisine
Name + address: Alissar Lebanese Cuisine, 1765 St. Laurent Blvd.
Type of food: Lebanese
Side orders: $6-$7
Diet: Meat, seafood, vegetarian
Wheelchair accessibility: Yes
LCBO Licensed: No
In Ottawa we’re spoiled for choice and let’s be honest — we’ve all said out loud at the latest restaurant opening, “Another shawarma shop? Really?” — but there’s no arguing with success. Ottawans love this food.
For 23 years Alissar has been serving Lebanese cuisine from its shop in this strip mall along St. Laurent. If you have trouble picturing it, it’s next to the Lindt store.
On the surface, the similarities from one to another restaurant are obvious: rotating spits of meat, a counter with prepared salads, pickled vegetables and an assortment of sauces and dips. The differences will often lie in the seasonings used on the meats or the dips and sauces if they’re house made.
Here at Alissar for example, you’ll find cinnamon used to season the beef shawarma meat. Although it is traditional, I don’t enjoy cinnamon in savory Middle Eastern cooking. This is not something you’ll find at all shawarma shops so it is a differentiator and it’s good to note that Alissar has its own recipe.
Beef and chicken dinner. Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout
There’s little question that even at a take out level, the hospitality shows itself when the shopkeeper asks you if you’d like more of this or that, wanting to ensure that you’ll be well fed. So it is at Alissar.
It’s a warm gesture and a welcome one when the food is good.
In the past I’d had the whole BBQ chicken dinner ($40) which comes with the usual sides of pita bread, salads, dips and sauces and garlic potatoes. Each time I thought, “This is worth ordering again.” Especially since it’s enough to feed four.
This time I wanted to try the beef and chicken combination platter ($22). There was enough food here to feed two and my only quibble was that the container was too small. Hummus, toum, tabouli, two meats, rice with lentils, roast potatoes, mixed salad and two types of pickle were crammed in making it difficult to separate out the elements.
I also added a small donair sandwich and pop ($8.50) which was sufficient to tamp down an appetite making it a good choice for a quick bite. The donair meat was a minced and pressed affair that was then sliced off the rotating spit and heated in a frying pan. You then had your choice of sauces and vegetables.
It was amusing to note that I was offered a sweet garlic sauce for this sandwich which is not a traditional Lebanese topping but was invented in Halifax in the early 70s. I won’t overstate this trading of culinary influences, but I think it’s a beautiful thing.