A good rule of thumb for food enthusiasts is that it’s wise to be wary of food establishments that replace letters with numerals in their name. Passion 4 Food on Clanbrassil Street, however, is the exception that proves the rule. This humble kebab shop has been buoyed by word of mouth since opening in 2009. There is something different about this place, something that is a cut above the rest. Even the Dublin Kebab Club has voted them the best kebab in Dublin for two years running.
At the helm is chef and manager Shwan “Alan” Ibrahim. “I grew up with kebabs,” he says, reminiscing about his childhood in Slemani in northern Iraq. “When my mother used to take me to town, even when I was four or five years old, I used to look forward to getting a kebab – although we call them shawarma back home.”
What might catch your eye when you place your order to eat-in or takeaway for a chicken or lamb doner at Passion 4 Food is the tandoori oven, also known as a taftoon. “Your bread is dough until you order it,” says Ibrahim. “We don’t pre-make the bread.” Instead, a pan of dough balls sit covered behind the counter. When an order comes in, they’re shaped by hand, rolled with a baking pin and thrown against the clay interior wall of the taftoon oven. It’s ready in a few minutes and served still warm from the oven.
This ethos runs through the kebabs. Where other shops might order in pre-made meat stacks, often with processed meat or even mince (Ibrahim shudders at the thought of that), the kebab stacks are built in Passion 4 Food’s kitchen using 100% Irish and halal meat, though not free-range. In the kitchen, we’re proudly shown a pile of chicken which is deboned, butterflied and marinated in a dose of paprika and Ibrahim’s secret spice mix. It’s more expensive to do it this way, of course, but Ibrahim wants to know exactly what is in his kebabs.
One of his team is assembling the kebab by carefully layering the chicken on the spike that holds the chicken doner (€8.30) together. The lamb doner (€8.30), one of their specialities, is made with lamb steaks and lamb shoulder marinated with a closely guarded secret mix. Both the chicken and lamb kebabs are slow-cooked for a few hours on the rotating doner kebab grills, and given an occasional blast of heat to get a crispy crust. The team here don’t pre-cut their kebab meat, leaving it to keep warm (and dry out) in a bain-marie. When an order comes in, the bread gets rolled and the meat gets cut.
The falafel (€8) are made in-house, and they’re not bad but there are better falafels elsewhere in town. Those not eating meat are better off going for the vegetarian kebab which features mediterranean vegetables blackened and sweetened on the hot grill, which is where another speciality, the grilled seabass (€12 and my personal favourite), gets its smokey flavour from. Most dishes are served with all the trimmings of the kebab, including Passion 4 Food’s housemade chilli sauce and garlic mayonnaise. Even the sweet yet light baklawa pastries are made by Ibrahim’s team. “The only thing we don’t make here is the tomato ketchup,” says Ibrahim. “Heinz do a good job of that so we use theirs.”
This is fast food with a lot of self-respect. Just because it’s speedy shouldn’t give cooks license to cut corners. At Passion 4 Food, short cuts are side-stepped in favour of passion for the craft of kebab. The difference is in the taste.
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photo: Killian Broderick
Passion 4 Food 27 Clanbrassil Street Lower Dublin 8