Shawarma abounds in the Baton Rouge area.
I don’t know how or why or who, but the person responsible deserves a prize. Especially if they are also responsible for the fried cheese that’s also usually on the menu.
Kamal’s Kafé in Gonzales has its work cut out for it. Strange as it may seem, Kamal’s isn’t the only Middle Eastern eatery in town, and they’re also situated hard against Sno’s Seafood & Steak House. The smell of those steaks was hard to resist, but Sno’s doesn’t have fried cheese.
Kamal’s does, and it lives up to its billing as the finest in town. It comes as an appetizer ($8.95), served with kalamata olives and slices of cucumber and tomato. Each strip was perfectly spiced and perfectly fried, crispy with a pop of warm olive oil on the outside and creamy, cheesy goodness on the inside. There was also plenty of oil and spices to sop up with warm pita bread while we waited for our entreés.
Following such perfection as the fried cheese is a tough bill for any main dish, but these were up to the challenge. The lamb kabob special ($13.95) featured tender, subltly spiced chunks of lamb, cooked to order, piled up with grilled peppers and onions, served over a bed of rice, with hummus. Usually an afterthought, the hummus shined, battling with the lamb for best food on the plate.
Kamal’s made-in-house hummus stands out with a fresh, bright, green flavor and a refreshing lemony note that was a great foil to the lamb and grilled vegetables. I may have skipped the pita and eaten some straight from the fork. The combination plate with gyros and chicken ($14.95), also served over rice and with a side of hummus, was generous, tasty and liberally spiced. Both dishes also came with a romaine salad topped with feta cheese and a vinaigrette.
We also ordered the kids’ chicken pita sandwich ($5.95) with fries for the younger diners. Much to our surprise, a full-size sandwich was served, far more than our children could eat at one sitting. We took half of it home and found we enjoyed it even more the next day, when the flavors had time to meld.
In addition to the fried cheese, Kamal’s service sets it apart from the crowd. Our waiter was attentive without being overbearing and anticipated even the needs of the 4-year-old, delighting her with pink lemonade and a candy after her meal.