By Terry Miller
Sam’s Mediterranean Kabob Room on South Myrtle in Monrovia was abuzz with FOX television crews, dozens of cameras and producers recently when they were filming a popular show which attempts to turn around ailing restaurants…and do so on television.
Sam Najjar and his wife Ahlam have had many issues at their Monrovia restaurant over the years, and many with whom we spoke were simply turned off by the dark atmosphere let alone the “lousy food and service” according to one Monrovian who preferred to remain anonymous.
This, however, is nothing a well-known Scottish Chef couldn’t cure, or at the very least have a bloody good, British crack at.
Enter Gordon Ramsay, host and highly-charged chef of the popular BBC America and FOX TV show called ‘Kitchen Nightmares’. Ramsay, literally took over the Kabob joint last week and placed his tender loving, albeit tough-talking , loose-lipped persona, to help the restaurant get back on its feet.
A producer from Kitchen Nightmares invited Beacon Media along after the kitchen makeover, to see first hand what all the fuss was about. Five members of Beacon media’s staff were escorted into the newly remodeled restaurant to try out some of the menu items and check out the new décor which had apparently changed considerably as did the attentiveness of the wait staff.
One staff member, Andrea Olivas said the “baked peach dessert was really, really good…I could eat this forever” she said. However, the namesake of the restaurant, the Kabob, left her wanting much more flavor, more of the “wow” factor as she so eloquently put it.
Not everyone in Beacon’s party agreed. Nvaire Shamon, who knows and loves Middle Eastern foods, said the Kabobs were excellent with just the right amount of spices. She also agreed the desserts were superb. One complaint, Shamon said, was the small portions.
Tina Shamon, who is a student at Le Cordon Bleu California School for the Culinary Arts, Pastry program, said her food , chicken Shawarma was good. She had no complaints, whatsoever. High praise indeed from a young woman about to devote her life to the business of food.
One of our esteemed food critics, Victor Buell, who also moonlights as an advertising executive for Beacon, had this to say about his experience. “I thought the presentation was interesting and very clean and light. The staff was obviously under a lot of pressure but they seemed to weather it well, at least in the start. We shared appetizers of Feta Dip with dill and a dash of chili, which was addicting, and the Mezze Platter with two kinds of hummus, olives, falafel, and crispy zucchini fritters. After that the service slowed noticeably, and the wait staff couldn’t do much but apologize and look hopefully at the kitchen. I knocked over a full glass of wine, which they replaced immediately and without a question, a very nice gesture. When the entrees finally arrived, I was happily surprised with what I got. I half-expected the overwhelmed kitchen to turn out a less-than-savory flank steak sandwich. But it was hot, fresh, tasty and tender. “
Daniela Pina, a self – described ‘foodie’ said the food was “underseasoned” and she was not terribly pleased with the “chuncks of dust in the light fixtures above the table,” which she felt were about to drop on her food at any given moment. She added that the place reminded her of a college hangout spot and added that the service left a lot to be desired.
The wait for the food, was, understandably a little longer than expected due to the pressure of not only being on television but trying out a new menu in a packed restaurant which is not use to being so full. We asked FOX what major changes took place at the restaurant and Joanna Wolf responded:
“As far as specifics about changes, we will have to wait till closer to the date that the episode will air so we do not spoil for viewers. The season starts on September 28 at 8 PM on FOX, so your readers can tune in. “
Stay tuned to Beacon Media for details.
Chef Ramsay holds a new menu for the Kabob Room. -Photo Courtesy of FOX TV