Wraps Xpress - Irvine
Wraps Xpress might just be the most ambiguous restaurant name to have appeared in Irvine since Asian Tapas. It does not foretell of what's actually made inside the store in this innocuous Albertsons-anchored neighborhood shopping center called Quail Hill.
Every customer who strolled in from the cold had no idea that this place is, in fact, a lahmajoun specialist. Lahmajoun (also spelled lahmacun) is a Turkish pizza of sorts: dough stretched to a thinness of a crepe, baked with minced meat.
Greeted by a jolly, bald man with the pent-up enthusiasm of a car salesman, these customers come in meekly, not knowing exactly what they will be eating. The man explains, quite joyfully, that when you choose your "pizza", it's baked to order with either meat (beef or chicken), cheese, spinach or zaatar (herbs). After the oven, it's topped with a variety of veggies, sauces and condiments before being rolled up and eaten like a burrito, or yes, a wrap.
Behind him, you see a sparse and streamlined operation with two employees. The process is quite mesmerizing to observe. The first employee feeds a ball of dough through an upright contraption that flattens it thinner and thinner under a series of motor-driven rollers.
Once the overgrown pasta machine is done, she dots the now tortilla-flat dough disk to prevent puffing. A spiced minced meat, onion and tomato mixture is applied by an ice cream scoop and summarily spread thin across the surface. The "pizza" is then sent down a conveyor-belted oven to bake, fusing the meat onto the dough and blistering the edges.
When it comes out, the second employee intercepts it at the exit, whereupon he will ask what toppings you want added before it is folded, and yes, wrapped.
I chose parsley, olives, a bit more shredded cheese, yogurt, a special sauce he said would taste like chipotle mayo (he was right), some lettuce, and a side of hummus. From start to finish, the whole thing took about five minutes.
Eating the burrito-cum-pizza-cum-calzone took less than ten. The crispy crust is akin to, well, a thin-crusted pizza. The subtly spicy ground beef topping had hints of cumin. The yogurt was as coolly refreshing as the leaves of parsley was cleansing. Like its catch phrase says "It is more than a wrap". It is lahmajoun.
On second thought, perhaps the generic title of "wrap" is perfect. "Lahmajoun Xpress" would have those Irvine heads scratching, never daring to step even a foot inside. A little ambiguity works once in a while.
6779 Quail Hill Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92603
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