If you’re a regular follower of the food stories that are posted on this website, you may have noticed a pattern. Recently, we have been going to a lot of smaller, mom-and-pop places. Spots in strip malls. Spots that we may have walked by 20 times, and finally decided, heck, we need to try this place.
I wasn’t planning on going into El Fino. I was actually in Castledowns Plaza, looking to review another spot. But, that place was closed — and I thought, rather than simply leave the area, why not see what else is around. And I couldn’t resist the strong charcoal smell coming from El Fino. It’s a small kabab and shawarma spot and I thought — why not?
Well, boy was I happy to find this place. That’s because the Mixed Grill Kabab platter is totally worth telling the readers about. This is exactly the kind of thing I want to write about when I find a spot that qualifies as a neighbourhood gem.
First, you get a lot on your plate. Some pita, hummus and garlic dip, salad with lots of pomegranate, three types of meat and the rice, which is infused with charcoal smoke. The rice alone is a highlight, because I didn’t think you could make this grain taste like you’d taken it out of a smoker — but I guess you can.
The charcoal grilled chicken (shish tawook) comes in big cubes, with a savoury spice and still soft inside. The beef kefta, is maybe best described as a Middle Eastern meatball, stretched long and thin, and it’s got a real earthiness that simply screams for the charcoal finish. And the barbecue shish kebab — can you say “meat candy?” There are sour pickles and pickled turnips, which are must haves. The garlic sauce also has a strong sour kiss, and that’s what I’ve always felt has made Middle Eastern food so special; there is no fear when it comes to turning up the sour notes, and using them to act as a foil to the rich meats and sauces.
It’s a big platter, I think it could easily be shared. So, bring a friend.
And one day, as a total aside, I will figure it out. Why is it officially spelled “Castle Downs,” but so many people go with “Castledowns,” instead?
Caernarvon | 11832 145 Ave NW, Edmonton | 780.760.0120 | el-fino.ca
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