Sham Buffet

I am one of those people who love a good bargain. I am easily distracted by big signs that promise low prices, and I have no shame in haggling and negotiating so I can walk away with a prized item at less than sticker price. What isn’t helping my problem these days, is the onslaught of daily coupon sites that offer discounts through the power of group buys. My email is inundated with dozens of deals every day, and no word of a lie, I am suckered into buying at least one a day. It’s just so easy to shop from my desk, and the deals are so amazing – I almost feel guilty with how big the discounts are. Almost. 

Of course, not all the emails that come through are deals, because they are still pricy compared to other places; or, the deal is for a place that isn’t very good...the process of shopping online, especially for places you aren’t familiar with, is a gamble that you have to be willing to take.

Unfortunately for me, I took a risk that didn’t quite pay off when I purchased a deal for Sham Buffet one day. Being that it is a fairly new restaurant, my quick research online didn’t find many reviews or comments about it. I did learn that the name of the restaurant referred to the region of Syria, and not the Western take on the word (that’s a relief). The deal I purchased was 2 dinner buffets for $18 (normally, it is $18 per person at dinner) seemed like it would be a cheap meal for the boyfriend and I, and really, how bad could it be, right? Famous last words, I know.

Sham Buffet is located in a strip mall just East of Dixie, which looked a little sketchy. There is a Goodwill store on one end, and a few furniture stores on the other, but the whole plaza looks like it has seen better days. Hoping that it wasn’t a bad sign, we still decided to go in. The restaurant itself is huge on the inside, with three separate dining rooms which all connect to the buffet area in the middle. It is clean with linen tablecloths on the tables, and Middle Eastern music playing throughout (which I found to be too loud, and an eclectic mix – from pounding dance beats to soft ballads). 

I was a little concerned that although it was 6:30 in the evening, we were one of three couples in the entire restaurant. The other two couples were just finishing as we sat down, so halfway through the meal, we were the only customers in the whole place. 

The boyfriend ordered a small Sham Cocktail ($2.99) which was described as strawberry, mango, pineapple, kiwi and banana topped with crushed pistachios and honey. The presentation was lovely and it tasted light, sweet and fresh.
The buffet area is large, and Sham’s website claims that it is the “biggest Arabic Middle Eastern buffet in Ontario.” There are two hot foot banquets, one cold food, and one for dessert. There was also a grill area, and a spot for ice cream, though I did not see ice cream on the day we went. 

Not being overly familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine, I was excited for the opportunity to try new items I hadn’t heard of before, and to sample some of my favourite tried and true dishes. I started with the spicy shrimp soup, which had tiny, dried shrimp and plenty of vegetables in a tomato based broth. The broth was too sour for me, and the vegetables had been sitting in it so long, they had begun to dry and shrink. There was no spice, and I was only able to eat a couple spoonfuls before giving up. There are also a few different rice dishes – one with meat, one with vegetables and one that was plain. I tried a bit of each of the choices available; my favourite was the one with meat, which was a tender chunk of beef on top of flavourful rice. 
When the staff saw us sit down, meat was put on the grill and brought to the table for us, which I appreciated as a nice gesture. That being said, the finished product we were given tasted as though it was pre-cooked earlier and just warmed up for us because it was tough and dry. The kebabs were salty without any other distinguishing flavour, and the chicken didn’t taste as though there was any flavour at all. All in all, we found the hot food to be dry and lukewarm from sitting under the heat lamps too long. None of the hot food tasted fresh, nor was there much of each item to choose from (there was two or three pieces of each item in each tray).
The cold food fared a little better, and I enjoyed the baba ghanouj and the hummus, but wished that there were pitas to accompany them. The boyfriend really enjoyed the tabouleh and said it tasted fresh and homemade.
Lastly, the desserts were of the pre-packaged variety and nothing special to write home about. There were slices of Swiss rolls, Nanaimo bars and cream puffs – all of which were dried out from sitting out too long. There were a few other things as well, but nothing stood out as memorable.
The service was attentive to start, but after we were the only customers, we seemed to have been forgotten as the employees sat in the back dining room, chatting amongst each other. The food was disappointing because everything had been sitting out too long, and the majority of the food was dry and unappetizing. I did notice that they packaged take-out containers using the food from the buffet, so that is something you may want to consider if you’re going to be ordering from them. Also, their website and the signs labelling the food in the restaurant are riddled with mistakes – something that I think looks extremely unprofessional for an establishment open to the public. All in all, the silver lining to this experience was that we had dinner for a relatively inexpensive price – even though we both left hungry. Had I paid full price for the meal, I would have been much more upset. As it stands, it was an unfortunate risk I took that didn’t pay off, and I won’t be returning. This could have been a fun post if it was a good experience – and I could have said “Sham Wow!”, instead I will point out the irony of a restaurant that truly lives up to its name.

Sham Buffet on Urbanspoon
 Sham Buffet
1456 Dundas St. E., Mississauga


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