Friday, March 10, 2017

Photo Friday: Doner Kebab

It's been a favourite place of mine for about 35 years.

And, with the exception of Chinese take-out and Italian food, it was my first foray into international cuisine.

When my father was selling cars, he sold a couple of vehicles to a young Lebanese man who was just opening a restaurant that wasn't very far from my neighbourhood. This restaurant, which offered takeout and delivery, specialized in a Turkish version of doner kebab, a spiced beef that was cooked on an upright rotisserie and shaved into strips that were rolled in pita bread with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and a special sauce.

It's similar to a beef shawarma.

The owner, Mike, told my father to bring his family to the restaurant, where he would treat us to a doner. My father, in turn, told me to check out the place, to ask for Mike, and to tell him who I was.

Being a hungry teenager, I was eager to try it out.

Mike was friendly and generous, and offered me two doners, on the house. He had a selection of four sauces: garlic, sweet and sour, hot, and yogurt. I selected one doner with the garlic sauce (he highly recommended it) and the other one with sweet and sour.

It's one of the messiest things I've ever eaten. The sauce is runny and, unlike a shawarma, both ends of the doner are open, so as you take a bite from one end, sauce drips out the other.

I would challenge myself to eat it with as few drips as possible. It's an impossible task.

The doner is absolutely delicious. The meat is succulent and full of flavour, and the sauce is intoxicating. Both the garlic and the sweet and sour. They're the only two sauces I eat, though I tried the hot sauce, once: it's good, but not as addictive.

After my first visit, I returned within a couple of days with some of my friends, and they were hooked. Romeo's Kebab House became our go-to place for late night food, knocking Go-Go Pizza down to second place after years as a favourite. Romeo's did make pizza, and we did try the Kebab pizza, but it was the doners that won our hearts.

I always ate the garlic doner first, finishing with the sweet and sour. I always bought two.

After many years behind the counter, Mike eventually sold his business to an East Asian couple, who learned how to make the doners as Mike had, and who perfected his sauce recipes. Apart from Mike's welcoming smile, Romeo's remained the same.

Even the interior of the restaurant has remained mostly unchanged over the 35 years.

It's still the same, to this day. The couple are always there. They know what I like. My wife and kids are also addicted to this Turkish treat, introduced by a Lebanese man, maintained by an Asian couple.

Whenever I drive on Merivale Road, where it meets with Meadowlands Drive, I see the animated neon sign of a portly man slicing beef from an impossibly large doner kebab, and I am drawn in.

For Photo Friday, I thought I'd focus on that sign. It's the first real photo that I have taken with my new smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy S7.

Happy Friday!

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