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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: May 14, 2018

You can eat just about anything at Top Kabab

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

When I got wind that a kebab place had opened in Westbrook, I paid it two visits over the course of about 10 days. It will make several more to try everything that it has to offer on the multi-page menu, but that might not be a good thing. I get the sense it’s trying to be too many things at once: kebab place, pizza parlor, fried chicken joint and purveyors of just about everything you can deep-fry or get on the side. Heck, you can even get an ice cream cone and breakfast at this place. But don’t me wrong, I enjoyed both of my lunches.

First off, Top Kabab Halal is aesthetically inviting, with Middle Eastern decor and comfortable-looking seating (though I got take-out both times). There’s a lot to look at, including a huge diorama of a desert scene in the front window that looks like it’s straight out of “Night at the Museum.” While it does have somewhat of a fast-food feel to it, there’s something about the patterned-fabric-covered walls and long benches with cushions that make a gal like me want to curl up for a little snooze. There’s also a sweet patio with a couple of tables and umbrellas that offers a little slice of sanctuary.

Now, onto the food. For my first visit, I, of course, had to order kebabs. My options were lamb, chicken, goat, seekh (spicy ground meat), shawarma (roasted meat) and korma (described on the menu as stew with lamb, goat and chicken). I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous, so chicken ($11.99) suited my taste buds just fine. It came with rice, a small salad and a huge portion of flat bread. Try as I might to identify the spices, I confess to having no idea, but I can report that the chicken and, especially, the rice were bursting with flavor. There may have even been something slightly floral about the rice. This meal wasn’t life-changing, but it was satisfying and offered up a new flavor palette to me, which was appreciated, as I rarely take risks with food.

On my second visit, I could not resist the allure of fried chicken. You heard me. Fried chicken! The last time I had it was many years ago at the sorely missed Norm’s East End. The two-piece meal ($6.25) came with either coleslaw or mashed potato and a roll. Because everything at Top Kabab Halal is made to order, it took a while for my order to be ready, so next time I’ll order ahead. The long wait was rewarded with a complimentary serving of a lamp soup. More on that in a moment.

When I got back to my office with my food, I didn’t realize I had made a misstep. They hadn’t aasked me if I had wanted mashed potatoes or coleslaw. Mashed potatoes are one of my reasons for living, so I would have chosen that, but I will say the coleslaw – which I actually ate the next day – was perfectly fine. They also forgot the roll, but my waistline was fine with that. As for the fried chicken, for real, it was absolutely delicious and worth the wait. It was also just the right amount of food, although for just $1 more, I could have gotten a three-piece meal, which I’m certain I would have devoured.

The soup didn’t interest me, so I offered it to a colleague, who was happy to take it off my hands and who I knew would provide me with a few very well-written sentences about it. Soon after, an email arrived, and she came through with flying colors. “The beans were soft, veering toward mushy. The tomato-based broth was unexciting and a little salty, though maybe there was the tiniest hint of cinnamon? There were sizable chunks of lamb bobbing in the soup that didn’t fit comfortably on a spoon – nor in your mouth. Fortunately, they were so tender, your teeth can act as knife, and it’s nice to see sometimes unappreciated lamb get some play. Altogether, a somewhat bland but comforting soup for a rainy day.”

Top Kabab Halal has been around for a little over six months, and I truly wish it well. It’s right in the heart of downtown Westbrook, the place is family-friendly, and, as I said before, the menu literally has something for everyone.

Top Kabab Halal

WHEN: 10 a.m. to midnight daily
WHERE: 888 Main St., Westbrook, (207) 591-0691. On Facebook.
WAIT: Five to 15 minutes depending on what you order
PARKING: Municipal lot
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Side entrance has a cement ramp

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