An ace gourmet shawarma joint?

Aces Shawarma HouseIn a city that boasts more shawarma joints than taxis arriving on time, Aces Shawarma House in Dubai’s Al Wasl Square (opposite Safa Park) had to deliver something unique. And, on first impressions, it appeared the four Emirati brothers who created Aces have achieved this. The flexible seating pyramid is well executed and quirky, setting the scene for a fast but fun dining experience.

The glass walls encasing the menu on the opposite wall doubled as an amateur graffiti space and provided a sense of fun, but our joie de vivre fizzled out on ordering at the counter. The menu’s repetition of card names from a playing deck (King, Queen etc) was confusing even though it tied into the Aces branding. Shawarma, iskander, falafel, salad, shawarma pizza and pasta meals; sushi shawarma (!); side dishes and desserts. Mains are served with either fries or garlic bread, and a Pepsi range of soft drinks. Despite the pizza, pasta and sushi having a ‘shawarma’ moniker they appeared to be…typically standard pizza, pasta and sushi dishes.

Aces refers to its shawarma as ‘fusion style’. The most unusual combination of ingredients were in the King’s buffalo challenge, which featured chicken, buffalo sauce and celery – not really that unusual. To further differentiate Aces from other shawarma houses, I would have liked to see the ingredients (including beef, garlic mayonnaise, avocado and mango) listed for the shawarma sushi, in an actual shawarma – or perhaps the addition of some tweaked flavours, alongside the traditional.

We settled for chicken potato cakes (AED10), beef classic shawarma (AED28) and Aces iskander chicken (AED39). While fresh juices and yoghurt drinks were on the menu, these were not available as part of the combo. We were also advised that no substitutions to the combos were possible, despite offering to pay extra for the club’s garlic curve (garlic bread instead of chips).

Aces MainsAces Dessert

The beef classic was speedily served with a generous filling of flavoursome grilled beef, and the brown bread option was welcomed. The accompanying sumac, onion, and parsley could have been bolstered by additional tomato and parsley, and less tahini sauce (the levels of which were making the shawarma soggy before we had finished eating). The chicken iskander was served in a takeaway container that held layers of bread and grilled chicken, topped with fresh lettuce and tomato, separated by a yoghurt dill sauce. A few crunchy pine nuts graced the top of the dish, while the sliced pickles tied into the flavours of the dill sauce. The bread was placed, presumably, to soak up the sauce. Unfortunately it didn’t stand a chance, as the dish was overwhelmed by the drooling sauce, which drowned the other flavours. The accompanying fries were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, but could have done with further seasoning. Overall the ingredients in the main dishes were fresh, but played a lower hand to the sauces.

On the other hand, dessert trumped! The Queen’s caramel spa (AED13) featured freshly baked cinnamon bread sticks smothered with caramel sauce. This is definitely one for ‘Cinnabon’ lovers and made for a pleasant, sweet ending to the meal.

Aces is the kind of place that would make a good stop after a party night on the town when you want something other than a burger. At AED28 per shawarma combo, however, it would seem that there are better and cheaper options out there in this category, but I may have to reserve judgement until our next late nighter. A firm favourite is the chicken shawarma ‘hole in the wall’ jammed between Deepaks Fabrics and Desert Frames on Al Hudaiba Road aka ‘plant street’ in Satwa. It may not be ‘gourmet’ but at AED3.50, it comes crammed with juicy chicken, fries and garlic mayo – a tasty steal!

Where’s your go-to shawarma joint and how much would you pay for one?

Until next time,

Alex.

So who’s FooDiva’s new guest reviewer? Alex (and husband) make up #NZFoodies, two New Zealanders who for the last seven years have utilised Dubai as a springboard to travel (read eat!) extensively, including hot spots across the Middle East and Levant. They love to explore food, from street vendors through to the chef’s table.

  • Wasl Square (opposite Safa Park), Al Hadiqa Road
  • +971 4 4409302
  • Arabic, Middle Eastern, Shawarma
  • AED 30 - 60 per person
  • Open Saturday to Thursday 11am - midnight and Friday 1pm - 1am
  • http://instagram.com/aces_sh
  • Posted under
    Arabic, Dubai, Middle Eastern, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, Safa Park

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20 Responses to “An ace gourmet shawarma joint?”

  1. Sara August 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Hi I read your article and to be very honest I wasn’t impressed with what you wrote! The restaurant is well known among many ppl and they love the food. About the iskander’s bread being a sauce absorber, it was never meant to absorb the sauce! It is placed there to give the iskander dish a nice tasty warm feeling after eatting the dish. The ingredients that they used for their shawarma dishes are unique and I didn’t taste those recipies in any other restaurant. An example would be the Queen’s favourite mix; which is actually one of my favourites besides the chicken sushi; it has chicken, mayonnaise, bacon, mushroom and cheese. Where can you find those ingredients and flavours in a 3.50 shawarma shop!!!!

    • Ali August 24, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      This is a review Sara, and everyone has their own opinion. I’m looking forward to trying the place out.

      • Alex August 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

        Ali- You should try it out. I look forward to hearing your opinion when you do.

    • Alex August 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      I totally agree with your point about the quality of the ingredients – they are fresh, and combinations of the same could not be replicated in a AED3.50 shawarma. For this reason alone, I can understand why many may consider Aces as their “go-to” shawarma eatery. I would love to see combinations of current and additional ingredients in Aces’ shawarma to differentiate them from, amongst other things, burger fillings.

  2. Garry W August 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Very interesting – the Greeks get everywhere…… Although, ostensibly a Turkish dish, it seems the Iskender Kebab was named after Alexander the Great, whom the Persians called ‘Iskender.’ Apparently it was his favourite food.
    You have whetted my appetite and I will be sure to visit it soon.

    • Alex August 24, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Gary- it is always great to learn the provenance of a dish, especially when wikipedia didn’t go into it in so much detail. If you do try the iskander when you visit, please let us know what you think.

  3. Kelly August 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I can only write about the popular Greek Gyros – the equivalent to shawarma – which is slowly cooked on a vertical spit and shavings of the meat are then served in a pitta/wrap together with sliced tomatoes, onions and tzatziki (yoghourt) and french fries of course. Simple and tasty!
    My remark about this place as I understood in review: it would be nice to offer a choice of accompaniments. The aim after all, should be to keep customers happy!

    • Alex August 24, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      Kelly- I adore an authentic gyro. “Love” is saved for souvlaki (just as the meat pieces are larger!). Especially a slow cooked lamb one served in fresh bread. You have bought back fond memories of Greece and Dimitris, Christchurch, New Zealand (see http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g255118-d722854-Reviews-Dimitris_Greek_Food-Christchurch_Canterbury_Region_South_Island.html)

      • Afnan August 24, 2014 at 2:48 pm

        This review took the wrong turn in comparing Aces Shawarma House to the 3.50 shawarma places. It is obviously clear that it was not designed and intended as a ‘cafeteria’ kind of place. They took the shawarma idea and modernized it to fit a high quality level. It is meant to be categories with fastfood chains like Johnny Rockets, fat burger, and shake shack kind of places. Which makes the prices pretty good compared to these types of places. They have also managed to brand all their shawarmas and made them unique to thier own aesthetics even taste wise. I appreciate your opinion, buts thats just it, one persons opinion, and your intittled for it. But I love the place, the concept, and their food; and thats my opinion.

        • Alex August 24, 2014 at 9:26 pm

          Afnan- I agree that Aces Shawarma House is not in the same genre as cheaper eateries, including the personal ‘cheap’ favourite highlighted to readers at the end of the piece (not in comparison). Aces has set itself apart from these type of eateries by its: excellent fit out, location, use of fresh ingredients; and cost. The concept of Aces’ is great, but I believe it could be further refined to something outstanding.

  4. Hamad August 25, 2014 at 7:42 am

    I think the article is more of personal review than a foodie review. It sounds more attacking tone than sharing a constructive meaningful review. I went there several times with my family and friends and we have enjoyed every moment. I have tried the different types of their Iskander Chicken, it was served the way iskander should be. There is no comparison whatsoever with food quality and a shawarma that cost 3.5 dhs. Moewover, i didnt understand when you said the fries required further seasoning – isnt it salted!! if not, there is a salt portions.

    • Alex August 25, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Hamad- the purpose of my review is to share my experience, objectively and constructively. I appreciate that everyone will, of course, have their own opinion and will have a different experience to my own (which was not a bad one!). Aces has many wonderful things, which I highlighted on in my review and have touched upon again in the above comments.

  5. Love August 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Hi! I am a food lover and also a food blogger. I am going to visit Aces maybe this weekend. I will let you all know what my fair share of critic about the food and the place. Thank you. Have a nice day!

    • Love August 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

      *fair share of critic is

      • Love August 27, 2014 at 10:35 am

        *fair share of criticism

        -Sorry super typographic error

        • Alex August 30, 2014 at 8:31 pm

          Love- it is always interesting to hear others feedback, especially those who love food as much as I do. As I mentioned above, there are some wonderful things happening at Aces, and others that have some room for development.

  6. Mariam August 28, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    “I have been to the reviewed restaurant couple of times and tried ordering variety of the options from their menu and to my taste it is refined and outstanding. As a citizen, I know much more about the shawarma in the country, you will never find a shawarma based foods as their menu anywhere else. I liked their sandwiches with the different concepts and their homemade sauces takes it even further. I have tried the classic chicken which has no comparison to the 3.5AED, I have experienced their pizza it is light and tastes delicious. I love to try thier pasta and of course this is the only place to get the pasta with chicken shawarma embedded with their carbonara sauce, and it is well balanced for such mix” 

    • Alex August 30, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Mariam- it is great to hear from a fellow shawarma lover. I have slowly eaten my way through numerous Middle Eastern cities, including Dubai, to build up my familiarity with this dish (including non-falafal vegetarian options). Thank you for the feedback on the pasta and pizza- something we did not try, and therefore did not comment on. As noted in my replies above, no comparison was made between Aces’ shawarma and a 3.50AED shawarma. Once again, the concept of Aces is great, and I look forward to it continuing to evolve and grow in response to customer feedback.

  7. Amna September 26, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Dear you have to compare resturents from the same level. Your review is really not clear I cant understand your message behind it! Are you recommending Aces or not? Its always better to write a review after we try soooo many resturents firse later on I suggest that foodiva set a criteria for people who like to share thier experince to make it clear simple for people who wanna post something and for the readers.
    I tried Aces shwarma and I highly recommend it ..

  8. Alex September 29, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Amna – I am glad that you enjoy eating at Aces. Please be assured I have eaten at many restaurants, including different shawarma houses/ holes in walls and street vendors throughout the United Arab Emirates and beyond, including but not limited to: Syria, Jordan and Egypt. With regard to Aces, from my one experience as an impartial reviewer (one who has paid for her own meal, and has no links to the restaurant) is that: the restaurant location is handy, decor great, the food is fresh; but the flavours and presentation of dishes, and the menu could be better. This level of commentary enables our readers to draw their own conclusions as to whether they will visit. If I wished to compare Aces with other restaurants, I would have done so explicitly – I merely told readers where I purchase a personal favourite. As to the criteria for reviews, please see the editorial policy at the following link. http://www.foodiva.net/editorial-policy/ Thank you for dropping in with a comment.

I’d love to receive your feedback, so feel free to comment any time.