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Powerhouse Shawarma Review

 After spring break, the folks at Bon Appétite and the Powerhouse introduced shawarma. Although its authenticity can certainly be questioned, the shawarma is actually pretty good and, most notably, better than its predecessor. Indeed, I was not a huge fan of the noodle and rice bowls, finding them to be bland and monotonous. 

   Sam Irwin’25 notes the differences between the bowls and shawarma from a cook’s perspective; “For this, the main things that we cook are the falafel, the pita chips… we heat up the bread, and cook the chicken, obviously.” On the cook’s side of things, there is actually a lot less cooking than for the bowls. Irwin describes having to put together the bowls and saute them together; in contrast, the shawarma has turned out to be more of an assembly-like process.

   Recently, the falafel recipe has changed at the Powerhouse, favoring one that is slightly more authentic. This new version of the falafel is quite good, especially when paired with the other components. On that note, the marinated chicken is very good, perhaps one of the most flavorful foodstuffs offered at Beloit College. The chicken is moist, tender, and especially excellent with the accompaniment of the yogurt sauce. Irwin suggests that more people should add tapenade to their orders, mentioning that “tapenade is super good on the shawarma, but nobody ever orders it.” Personally, I find feta, onions, tapenade, and tomato to be the best accompaniment of toppings. 

   Perhaps an untraditional manner of consuming shawarma, I tend to eat the chicken, falafel, tofu, and their toppings before the naan bread that they lay atop. This is because the naan pairs particularly well with the garlic sauce when they are consumed together. It also serves as a nice way to eat all of the scraps left on the naan. 

   On the topic of authenticity, one common complaint is that the shawarma is not so. There is certainly an expectation that the food service cannot effectively handle ethnic foods properly. Irwin comments on this; “I don’t think that any of our meals are as authentic as we hope they could be.” Certainly, there is a strive for authenticity at Bon Appétite, with the aforementioned falafel recipe change serving as a testament to that. Even if the shawarma, or any other dish in truth, are not exactly authentic, what matters is if they taste good. In that light, I find the shawarma to taste good, and thus be sufficient.

   However true, there are still some issues with it. The one that stands out to me the most is the hummus and pita chips. The chips taste like fried flour tortillas and the hummus is incredibly underseasoned. This combination leads to a deeply bland side, especially when juxtaposed against a surprisingly flavorful main dish. The other sides have similar issues, lacking much flavor and salt.

   Ultimately, the shawarma is surprisingly good. It is flavorful and offers a strong alternative to the menu at Commons. Although it may not be perfect, it does the job it is supposed to do, and it does so well.

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