It’s not every day that a restaurant expands from the Netherlands to Los Angeles, let alone to the South Bay city of Gardena. But that’s what owner Abu Jemil of Borjstar Shawarma Spot had in mind after operating two successful shawarma and rotisserie chicken restaurants in the Hague, Netherlands. Opened two weeks ago, this casual strip mall find lives at a busy stretch of Rosecrans Avenue in Gardena.
The affable Jemil has a specific service model in mind: He invites all diners to try both his chicken and beef (mixed with lamb) shawarma in freshly shaved sample trays and offers pouches of Capri Sun juice to children. A few bites of the thinly sliced meats should be able to convince anyone that Borjstar knows what it’s doing. Juicy, packed with spices, and gently seared from the electric burner, this is the kind of shawarma that’s beloved all across Europe. The beef one in particular, with a hint of gaminess from the lamb, is certainly superior to any other shawarma available in the South Bay.
Jemil, who hails from Syria, adds another Arabic-style shawarma specialist to the LA area, joining places like Simply Syria, Hollywood Shawarma, and Mama’s Shawarma. LA Times critic Bill Addison says some of the style’s notable spices include cumin, cardamom, and coriander. Borjstar’s main options are wraps and plates, the former served in thin, delicate flatbreads that manage to stay in one piece through the last bite, and the latter served with optional mendi rice, a Yemeni pilaf tinted bright yellow with hawajj (made with cumin, coriander, black pepper, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon), or thick french fries. Sides include an ultra-smooth hummus, baba ganoush, kibbeh, and salads like fattoush and tabbouleh.
Other than the two shawarma, Borjstar serves rotisserie chicken, shish tawok (grilled chicken skewers), falafel, and the perhaps never-before-seen-in-LA Dutch specialty of kapsalon, a loaded french fry dish topped with shaved meat, Gouda cheese, a choice of toppings like diced vegetables or sambal. Tasty baklava made on the premises is the only dessert, though Jemil might just offer a few pieces to first-timers.
Borjstar is pretty new and still has some kinks to work out, but given the quality and execution, it’s only a matter of time before locals line up for what could be the best new shawarma spot in LA.
Borjstar Shawarma Shop is located at 1330 Rosecrans Avenue, Gardena, CA 90247 and operates daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.