Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Borjstar Shawarma Shop (Gardena, CA)

Borj Star Shawarma Shop
1330 Rosecrans Ave, Gardena, CA 90247
Wed 05/01/2024, 08:35p-09:50p

Borjstar Shawarma Shop Exterior

I wanted to get some takeout in the South Bay, and decided to go Middle Eastern. My restaurant of choice was Borjstar (برج ستار), which draws its name from the Arabic word for "tower" (burj). The place is the creation of Khoushnaf Nasro(u), also known by his kunya Abu Jamil (ابو جميل). Nasro boasts a Syrian background, but raised his family in the Netherlands. He ran a used car dealership called W.N. Cars before opening the first Restaurant Borj (مطعم البرج) in The Hague in 2018. The success of the eatery resulted in a second location nearby, as well as outposts in Rotterdam and Zwolle. Interestingly, he was convinced to expand to the US by a regular customer who worked for Tesla and would visit Holland for business. After considering several locales, Nasro chose Southern California, in large part due to the weather, which reminded him of the climate of Syria. He left his Dutch businesses in the hands of a family member, and subsequently relocated to the United States, debuting Borjstar on August 26th last year.

Borjstar Shawarma Shop Interior
Borjstar occupies a strip mall storefront that was previously home to Tres de Asada Mexican Grill, and KL 99¢+Up Discount store before that. As you can see, the space is pretty spare, and although you can dine-in, this seems like more of a to-go spot. Note that Nasrou also operates the mini-market next door.

Shawarma Sample Borjstar Shawarma Shop Customer Notes
While I was waiting, the owner's son, Jamil Nasro (who's been helping his dad out since he was 13), kindly offered me a free sample of his shawarma and rice, in addition to soft serve in banana, strawberry, and chocolate flavors (not pictured). We also see a wall of supportive sticky notes left by customers. Click for a larger version.

Borjstar Shawarma Shop Menu Borjstar Shawarma Shop Menu
Borjstar Shawarma Shop Secondary Menu Borjstar Shawarma Shop Secondary Menu
As for the menu, it's centered on Borjstar's various halal meats, rendered in different forms, and accompanied by a selection of appropriate sides. Click for larger versions.

Chicken Shawarma Plate
Chicken Shawarma Plate [$14.99]
We'll get started with the chicken plate. The bird arrived superbly seasoned, with a bit of warmth and some nice touches of char. The included veggies and torshi pickles were much appreciated, as was that nutty hummus, but I have to give special credit to that long-grained mendi rice, which came out slick and delish.

Kibbeh (Cut Open)
Kibbeh [$9.99]
Kibbe featured crisp exteriors and juicy, nutty, savory insides (replete with pine nuts), while the provided sauce offered up a fruity, piquant accent. This was one of the best versions of the dish I've tried.

2023 Horus Augustus
The evening's first beverage was the 2023 Horus Augustus, an imperial stout aged in Booker's bourbon barrels for 33 months, with flaked-then-roasted Emperor's coconut added. The nose here was properly intense, with toasty, nutty, sugary coconut all over the place. Palate-wise, the beer drank thick and rich, its sweet coconut flavors commingled with more nutty notes and a bit of spicy heat. Quite simply the most coconut-forward beer I've had in a while.

Borjstar Shawarma Shop Sauces
Two types of sauce were provided gratis: a creamy, subtly garlicky white and a tangy, vegetal orange with a sharp, growing heat.

Kapsalon Bowl – Beef Shawarma
Kapsalon Bowl – Beef Shawarma [$12.99]
I believe that this was my first time having kapsalon, which is a shame, since it was delicious. I opted for beef, and the meat arrived with commendable sear and seasoning, and a real depth. The shawarma married swimmingly with the brightness of the veggies as well as that gooey cheese, while the fries reminded me of McDonald's', but in a good way. You could almost think of this as an improved version of carne asada fries.

2014 Deschutes Planète Rouge
My second bottle was something celebrating its 10th birthday this year: the 2014 Deschutes Planète Rouge, a blend of Flemish red-brown sour ales aged in 14 different barrels. The bouquet was super fragrant, teeming with yeasty, grapey nuances commixed with cherry. Taking a sip, I found the beer zippy and spicy and earthy, with a drying, tannic quality, while elements of juicy stone fruits were joined by a distinctly cacao-esque undertone. It was delightful and multifaceted, and had aged beautifully. I'd first had this upon release at the dearly departed Saint Martha a decade ago, so it was great to revisit it tonight.

Sheesh Tawook Wrap
Sheesh Tawook Wrap [$10.99]
I felt compelled to try one of Borjstar's wraps, and opted for the shish taouk. What struck me here was the griddling of that stretchy flatbread--there was just a lovely sear going on. The chicken itself was delectably spiced, though a bit dry in spots, and meshed seamlessly with both the French fries and pickled veggies rolled up in there.

Half Rotisserie Chicken Plate
Half Rotisserie Chicken Plate [$13.99]
Last up was the half-chicken plate. I started with the drumstick (typically my favorite part), and found it falling-off-the-bone tender and flavorsome, then moved on to the thigh, which was even more so. The wing had the most assertive spicing, while the breast was impressively moist, and also the most herbaceous cut, with some super flavorful skin to boot (I believe a muhammara-based sauce is used). As was the case above, both the rice and fries were on point, and I was a big fan of the zestiness from the raw onion, too.

I wound up quite happy with my meal at Borjstar. This was some of the best shawarma I've had, no doubt, and the rest of the food delivered as well. I feel like this place would definitely be on my rotation if it were located closer to me. Fortunately, it appears that there's a chance it might be. The Nasro family is already thinking of growing the business, and though nothing's nailed down so far, Jamil did mention that he'd love to expand to Long Beach next, so I guess we'll see.


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