I don’t think that anyone who lives in Paris is not familiar with Noura – a Lebanese restaurant and caterer. This renowned restaurant has been serving Lebanese specialties for the past 20 years or so. With more than 8 different locations distributed around the French capital, Noura has played a role as one of Lebanon’s ambassadors, providing quality everyone respects. Today, walking around the Val D'Europe mall, I came across one of their branches by pure coincidence and decided to check out what or how a Shawarma sandwich tastes-like in France, or at least how Noura prepares it.
The Shawarma, -called a Kebab sandwich in Europe- trend in Lebanon is developing at a phenomenal speed where dozens of new brands are seeing the light and promising to open hundreds of new shops or franchises locally, regionally and maybe internationally. Names like Shawarma Show, Shawarmanji, Joseph, Makhlouf, Jabbour, Barbar, Shawarma Republic and Boubouffe are a few at the top of my head. Today, with all these developments and popularity, the bar has been raised even higher and this one of a kind sandwich has minimal standards to abide with.
Noura Val D'Europe:
- Located in the heart of Val D'Europe mall
- The restaurant occupies the corner of the right side after entering the food court
- A fast food walk-in and a restaurant able to host up to 50 guests at once
- Red walls, green and pink leather chairs around square tables
- Dimmed lighting and a cozy ambiance
- The sandwich area hosts several fridges: Prepared salads, hummus, ice cream, baklava, cheese rolls and Lebanese bites, falafel in addition to two Shawarma rolls
- A staff of four, handles the restaurant helped by chefs (three of whom I have seen)
- Lebanese items like Caffe Najjar Arabic coffee, Kasatly Chtaura syrups, Lebanese bread, Baklava sweets, roasted nuts, maamoul, Cortas canned hummus and foul, pre-prepared desserts are here for sale
Four screens on each side, displaying the menu:
- Nos Duo Mezzes (Hummus, Tabboule, Loubieh, Mousakaa, Samke harra, Stuffed vine leaves, Loubie, Bemiye...) 6,9euros
- Nos Salades (8 choices) 6,9 euros
- Nos Menus (Vegetarien, fraicheur, detente, vital) 7,5-12,9 euros
- Nos Sandwiches (Labne, makanek, taouk, kafta, sojok, chawarma...) 5,9-6,5 euros
- Nos Pizzas (not the Italian ones, but our local baked ones on round bread: Manakeesh, Arayess, Kellage, Lahme Beajine) 5,9-6,9 euros
- Nos Accompagnements 5,9-6,9 euros
- Nos Desserts 1,75-5,9 euros
I had for lunch:
two shawarma sandwiches – one chicken and one meat. I normally have minuscule sandwiches in France that are expensive. When I saw the sandwich at Noura I was impressed. Visually appetizing, both shawarma sandwiches are rolled in two layers of bread and filled up generously. The bread is fresh and a bit thicker than the one in Lebanon. A good quantity of meat (non chewy nor greasy) and vegetables are added into each sandwich: At 5,9 euros each, it looks worth it.
Now let’s taste them:
Shawarma meat: The parsley sandwich, oh sorry, the meat sandwich is a failure. There is more parsley inside than meat making it so unpleasant to chew. Parsley gets stuck everywhere in your mouth and makes the taste of the meat obsolete. Even dryer than the chicken, the meat is not marinated. Unfortunately the slice of tomato didn't help making the wrap juicier. Dry, over cooked and wrapped with two layers of bread, the final product is not pleasant to eat. More so, the hummus and tarator are too sour. A strong lemon taste is annoying. Three bites and I stopped. The meat sandwich was not edible.
What I think:
- Marinate the meat more and cook it less
- Check again the proportions of vegetables vs. meat inside the sandwich
- I would definitely use one single layer of bread and not two
Shawarma chicken: The chicken is way too dry. A pity! Imagine dry bread- two layers of it - filled with dry chicken. What an unpleasant sandwich this is. The shredded lettuce, beetroot pickles, cucumber pickles and the garlic (in my case I substituted it with hummus) are not enough to make this sandwich juicy. Generous and fulfilling, some fine tuning is needed to make it as tasty as a real Shawarma, the way it should be served.
What I think:
- Marinate the chicken more and cook it less
- Use one single layer of bread. Two is really too much, especially since its thicker than the ones we are used to in Lebanon. You end up feeling the bread which covers all your taste buds. The sandwich becomes too chewy
In both cases: Toasted before serving, the idea is nice but the feeling of crunchiness would have been felt more if only they use less bread.
The Verdict: It's a pity to see such a premium meat and chicken quality assembled in a bad sandwich. A perfect result can be obtained if fine tuned
The backlava piece offered with the sandwiches is good for a French product. It’s a bit far from our local creations but good enough for the foreigners who don’t really have something else to compare it with. I enjoyed it. The best part of it is the fact that it doesn’t cause a heartburn. I ate it and continued my day normally.
I am confident that Noura serves good Lebanese food, or to be more specific a revisited version of Lebanese food that French people appreciate. As for us Lebanese, we are more exigent about the taste of our country dishes. With some minor fine-tuning, Noura can be just great. I hope they consider them.