Few people can claim to be the first of anything in the city that never sleeps, but “Toum” has the distinction of holding one of those titles. Being the very first food truck to offer Lebanese fare through the streets of NYC has garnered it a good amount of attention, as well as earning it a pretty positive reputation. The name comes from a thick sauce found common in that part of the world made with garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice, similar in texture to an aioli.
Their bright and colorful truck greets you with a smiling bulb of garlic, who is ready to sacrifice himself for your tastebuds. Serving meat and vegetarian options, I decided to indulge my inner T-rex and go Shawarma!
The Chicken Shawarma platter ($11, or $8 for just the sandwich) comes with a heap of the warm, thick slices of chicken. Hiding underneath the poultry is a mound of Lebanese style rice (complete with thin strips of brown vermicelli), accompanied with a hefty portion of homemade hummus and a tabbouleh salad made with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. You can also have your shawarma squirted with the usual white sauce or hot sauce, which I had added to the side to get a better photo of the meat. Aside from chicken, you can also get beef kebabs or Makanek, a Lebanese beef sausage made with pine nuts.
The plentiful chicken was overall tasty, with a nice brown color on it (since I got there early enough to get those first pieces of it). Some of the end pieces were a bit dry, but that is quickly remedied with a drop of hummus, and otherwise had a neutral flavor to it. The salad on the side may have been a bit too fresh with so much parsley overpowering the rest of it, but the hummus was amazing. Great consistency and a light color, this was not a concrete slab of hummus but a spreadable and tasty dip that paired nicely with the chicken and rice. Speaking of, I found the rice to be a bit soft and overcooked, and the vermicelli does little to add additional flavor or texture. It seems to be mostly there for color, but seeing how wet the rice was to begin with, the vermicelli suffered the most.
While it was a very hearty portion for the price, “Toum” feels like a major upgrade over the other Halal-style trucks that parade around every city corner. I mean that as a compliment of course, but I was not overly impressed. When I think Lebanese, I anticipate bold flavors and not the mostly bland ones that I got from this truck. Damp rice, chicken that would have benefited from a bit more flavor, and a wet salad that was supple in parsley and not much else – I would not say “Toum” is a truck you should skip but one to take with a grain of salt. The owners of the truck might want to try some salt too in their preparation, but regardless, it’s a mediocre truck with nothing special going on. They at least serves very clean and large portions of what you get from a Halal truck, and that’s a plus, but there are other places to get that, too. I just hope they can fix some of the bugs in their system before more Lebanese trucks come and knock them off their pedestal.
“Toum” travels around NYC, and you can track their truck on their website.