Last week I reviewed Shawarma King on Columbia Road NW. Long story short, I said I’d eaten better shawarma: The chicken was too dry, and I wanted someone to choose my toppings for me. (See full Shawarma King complaint here.)
I didn’t expect any noise—it was just a blurb, after all—but an error was edited into the review that made it seem as if I had actually eaten at Shawarma Spot on 18th St. NW. As a result, D.C. shawarma nuts have been calling Tim Carman every hour of the day and night for almost a week now, wanting to know which of the two restaurants I visited.
Butros Qumseya, the owner of Shawarma King, also noticed the error, assumed—as did so many others—that I had actually written about Shawarma Spot, and left a voicemail asking for a correction. While I chatted with Carman about the best way to tell Qumseya that yes, actually, I was talking about your restaurant, Qumseya hiked down Columbia to Washington City Paper‘s office on Champlain Street and demanded a meeting.
After I explained that I had indeed eaten at and written about his restaurant, Qumseya made his case for why I was wrong.
Point 1: Show up at the right time. I visited Shawarma King right around 5 p.m. on a Friday. According to Qumseya, that’s not the best time to go. When is? Around noon, or right before 6 p.m. Qumseya doesn’t like to waste meat—-he throws away unsold shawarma at closing time rather than using it the next day, an allegation he makes about “other” shawarma places—-so his spits aren’t overloaded. But Qumseya also starts with less beef and chicken on the skewer to begin with, which means there’s less juice and fat to keep the meat lubricated in between the lunch rush and just after 5 p.m., when Qumseya claims he reloads the spits for the supper crowd. “We keep the meat heated all day,” he adds. “Sometimes it gets dry.” Point 2: White meat is dry. Deal with it. Qumseya says that he uses only white meat, because that’s what people want, but white meat is naturally dry, especially after it’s rotating in front of a flame all day. Occasionally, he’ll request that his supplier add dark meat to the chicken shawarma, which helps keep it moist. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Qumseya is convinced that my review is going to hurt his business, if it didn’t already this past weekend. I’m not one for cursing restaurants, so I’ve agreed to swing by Shawarma King next Wednesday, sometime between 11 a.m. and noon, so that Qumseya can show me how he prepares his chicken and so that I can sample something a little fresher than what I had two weeks ago. He promises I’ll walk away with a different opinion.