Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Al-Aqsa (State Street)

(Original Review -- August 2011 at Salem Commercial St. SE location)

With Al-Aqsa's newest location on State Street (next to Subway and near Willamette University) opening up in late March, I decided to give this place one more shot. While this is different from the place I reviewed last August, the food served is practically the same as the South Commercial location (only adding a few new rice dishes at the State Street location).

The official grand opening for Al-Aqsa's State Street location was on March 28. The owner, Moe Jawad, plans to have a lunch and dinner buffet here once a week.

There was an older gentleman working the counter/register as an employee, perhaps just a couple days or so into his new endeavor. The younger man recognized me from my review of the other Al-Aqsa (on South Commercial).

I sampled their Turkish coffee, a soothing, fairly strong jolt with a friendly hint of cardamom. I loved their petite sampling cup...it also matched their countertop!

Turkish coffee in a lovely tiny cup!
The beef shawarma ($5.99) starts with a pita slightly heated on the flattop. Beef slices join the usual cast of characters (onions, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles) and a greenish condiment. No tzatziki here, fellas. This is Middle Eastern flare!

Beef shawarma
A better shot of the entire beef shawarma!
It looks delicious, I'll say that much
The veggies were fresh, and the pita was excellently toasted. Unfortunately, the beef was on the dry side and noticeably bland. That greenish condiment...it's herby, but didn't really help balance the dish for my tastes. I'd guess some mint was in there.

I probably should have gotten a piece of their baklava ($2). The portions appear larger than at some other places, and each looked delicious.

I didn't care for the South Commercial location last time, but admittedly was excessively harsh on reviewing. Regardless, the lackluster beef attempt here makes me second-guess a return visit. For the record, you'll get reasonable prices and fine service. I just wish I could say more positive things about the food. While I'm not the most knowledgeable person on Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cuisine (and probably don't appreciate it as much as others), I've simply had better shawarmas. 5/10

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