I was a bit wary with Jafar’s Shawarma Station, the stalls of which command a considerable following in Cebu these days. In each of their branches, they do not have a rotating skewer which is the shawarma experience that I’ve come to know and crave. The stacked meat portions would then have that distinct smoky flavor, evenly grilled, and then skillfully carved with every order.
In my pretentious culinary mind however, I realized that it is probably prohibitive to have one in these parts. Although I’ve seen successful franchises set-up an electronic grill even at jeepney terminals elsewhere.
Eventually I gave in after noticing that every time I am at Rustan’s, Jafar’s queues are noticeably longer than the grocery lane I am on. The customers seem to not mind that at all. They all stand while they wait, albeit in a pleasurable agony, as they see and smell all the wraps and rice meals prepared just in front of them.
So one random Tuesday evening, I dragged a good friend to try out Jafar’s with me. We both ordered minced beef wraps and pimped it up with chorizo. It is a flavor combination that screams ‘too much of a good thing’ but we went with it anyway.
Jafar’s shawarma wrap looks like an obese burrito already. It is huge. It is stuffed with the usual shredded cabbage, chopped onions, tomatoes and generously slathered with a savory, creamy yoghurt-based dressing.
I had a bit of a struggle though finishing my shawarma that evening. My choice of proteins became indeed too much of a good thing. The spicy sauce did little to cut through the richness of the beef-chorizo combo. An acidic contrast – some pickled vegetables as sides perhaps, would have done the trick.
The following day (yes, you read that right), I gave Jafar’s another try, but I ordered the shawarma rice this time. I had US Angus Beef, slightly expensive than most in the menu, and chose the non-spicy dressing/sauce.
I also went there a few minutes before lunch, which explains why the queue that morning was not that long. Shortly after I placed my orders however, the customers started to trickle in.
Just like Jafar’s shawarma wrap, their rice meal was enormous as well. Although I prefer my biryani rice to be less mushy, the non-spicy dressing this time tied everything together. It probably helped that the Angus slices were also tender and flavorful.
I’m still curious if this shawarma station is named after Aladdin’s nemesis. But I do not wonder anymore why Jafar’s has long queues. Although it’s not necessarily my favorite shawarma in the world, Jafar’s huge portions and better flavors (and in that order) present the best bang-for-buck among its kind in the metropolis.
Jafar’s Shawarma Station
Open: Mall hours at Banilad Town Center and Rustan’s Supermarket.