Taste This

CORRESPONDENTMarch 26, 2010 

  • What: chicken shawarma

    How much: $4.99 (panini wrap) to $7.29 (platter with three sides)

    Where: Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro 2430 Hillsborough St., Raleigh; 1624 Walnut St., Cary; food court, Cary Towne Center Mall.

    755-9991 (Raleigh); 469-1112 (Cary Walnut St.); 468-8004 (Cary Towne Center)

    www.themediterranean bistro.com

To a foodie stuck in a mall at mealtime, finding a locally owned eatery in the food court feels like stumbling across an oasis in the desert. All too often, by the time the foodie returns to show off his discovery to friends, the eatery unfortunately has vanished like a mirage in the face of competition from national chains.

A happy exception is Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary in May. Jasmin's modest offering of mostly traditional Greek and Lebanese fare has rescued so many parched palates, in fact, that owner Nawwaf Said has since opened two larger counter service eateries (neither in a mall) with expanded menus. At the new Walnut Street location, you'll even find a small selection of kebab platters.

But Jasmin's signature dish is chicken shawarma. Said will proudly tell you that, unlike many versions you find hereabouts, his is still made the traditional way, starting with boneless, skin-on chicken breasts that have never been frozen. After being marinated in a secret spice blend for 24 hours or more, the breasts are stacked on the long skewers of a vertical spit, where they're flame-broiled until the skin crisps and melting fat permeates the meat. Shaved off in thin, succulent slices, the shawarma is available a number of ways: atop a Greek salad, in a lavash wrap grilled panini style, or as a platter, with your choice of sides.

You can get the shawarma at all three locations. Whichever you choose, it's savory proof that you don't need a multimillion-dollar advertising budget to thrive in a mall food court, after all.

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