One thing I love about eating out at Mediterranean places is that each restaurant carries its own unique take on standard menu items. Let’s take the Gyros for example: I have tasted Gyros heavily seasoned with marjoram, made with lamb or chicken, thinly shaved into strips or generously sliced thick cuts. But here at Sultan Cafe in downtown Richardson TX, the thick-cut Gyros is charred and crisped over a searing-hot grill before serving.
One sunny April afternoon, after getting up at 5am and delivering a webinar to colleagues in Australia, I decided to treat myself with some Mediterranean comfort food for lunch. I picked Sultan Cafe because I hadn’t been to Little India for a while, and its nice little curb-side dining area seemed to be a good idea. After all, April and October are the only months in Texas that are patio-friendly.
- Price Range: $10 – $20 per person
- Parking: On-premises, Free
- Official Website
I ordered the Gyros and Chicken Shawarma Combo plate. From my past experience with Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants, I actually never had Chicken Shawarma that satisfied me. A typical Shawarma is a stack of sliced, marinated meat, sitting vertically over a big skewer. As the skewer rotates, the exterior of the meat stack is roasted by a vertical heat source. When a client orders the Shawarma, the chef will slice off a layer of browned meat, exposing deeper layers for further roasting. It works very well for meat with high fat-content such as beef and lamb, but for the chicken breast… It usually turns out dry and tough due to lack of fat. So, I was curious whether Sultan Cafe could solve this problem.
Combo Gyros And Chicken Shawarma Plate
Served with three mazza.
The dish came with two sides, and I chose hummus and “cauliflower”. The side-dish menu didn’t specify how the cauliflower was cooked, so I assume it was just fried cauliflower (which I love). When my order arrived, the first thing that caught my eyes was the Chicken Shawarma: it appeared to be chicken breast sliced into long, thin strips, marinated in Shawarma seasoning and sautéd in a skillet. It didn’t look like Shawarma at all.
Since I ordered two meats, the chicken came with a Lebanese garlic sauce, and for the Gyros it was a very thick yogurt sauce that tastes similar to Tzatziki, but without the chunky cucumbers and herbs. The sautéd chicken “Shawarma” was slightly dry, but it paired pretty well with the garlic sauce. In Lebanon, chicken dishes are usually accompanied by a thick sauce made from potatoes and lots of garlic, and it can get pretty pungent. Luckily Sultan Cafe’s version of the garlic sauce was fairly tame, so I was relieved knowing that I wouldn’t go back to work with major garlic breath!
The flat bread was amusingly similar to an Indian Naan. The bottom side of the bread was flat and lightly browned, while the top was bubbly with charred blisters. This can only be achieved using an oven where the air is much hotter than the floor or wall, such as an Indian Naan pit. The texture is a lot denser and chewier than Indian Naan. My opinion about the bread: unique and flavorful; slightly taxing to the chewing muscles; works well as a wrap for meats; doesn’t work well with Hummus due to it being too thin and limp.
I wish the Hummus had more Tahini (Middle-Eastern white sesame paste) in it, though it did taste fresh, creamy and lemony without being too sour.
My favorites of this dish were the Gyros and cauliflower salad. The Gyros slices were thick and satisfying. They were charred on a hot grill to the point where parts of the meat was crispy, giving that heavenly crunch and explosion of meaty “Oomph”. The cauliflower salad appeared to be roasted cauliflowers chopped and mixed with thick yogurt, mayonnaise and perhaps a hint of onion. It tasted like nothing I’ve had before. The only thing I have to say is: if you enjoy cauliflowers, you MUST give it a try. I loved it so much that I figured out how to make it at home.
Overall, I think Sultan Cafe is a great place for a relaxing lunch. It took a little less than 30 minutes between placing the order and finishing eating, so it’s work-friendly. I just wouldn’t take my family there because the in-door seating areas were permeated with hookah smoke, and the curb-side patio tables can only seat two people. I believe they do know what they are doing with their food, so I’m excited to go back and try some other dishes.