Mediterranean Turkish Grill
(in the shopping village; enter from Rector Street)
It is a phenomenon observed and reported on everywhere, and for as long as I can remember: waiters and waitresses who have given exemplary service, from the time you take a table at a restaurant until the last entrée is served, suddenly disappear, leaving you to sit waiting to complete the transaction by paying the bill. Where do they go? What do they do? Are they huddled in the back, peeking through the kitchen door, as though they feared us? Are they hiding in the walk-in freezer, out of some sense of shame? I just don't know.
Anyway, it happened again tonight, at the Mediterranean Turkish Grill, a fairly new Turkish place in town. Since I've always enjoyed the other Turkish place in town, I thought I would give it a try. It seems easier to get to from where I live, though it's not really. It's just more in a slice of town that I frequent more.
It's an unassuming little place, two units in a standard strip-center building, with four or five tables for four, and, uncommonly for an American restaurant, quite a few more tables for six or more. This is a good sign in an ethnic restaurant, for it means that it expects to get a lot of its business from members of the ethnic community, who haven't been in the US long enough for their traditional extended-family bonds to atrophy. It usually means the food is authentic.
When first seated, we were brought bread and oil. The bread was thick and fluffy, and looked delicious, sort of like naan on steroids, or focaccia without the oil. It was, however, strangely tasteless; and dipping it in the seasoned oil didn't do a great deal to help it. The oil in the dish is so deep that, in order to get to the seasonings at the bottom, you have to swirl the bread in it. You end up with a lot of oil and a little season.
Luckily, though, we didn't rely on the bread to occupy us until our main dishes arrived; we ordered Lahmacum, which, according to Google Translations, literally means "pizza." (It's listed under Pideler, which the same source says means "pita.") It consists of a tortilla-thin crust covered with a mix of ground beef, lamb and vegetables. It's not listed as an appetizer but it performs that function admirably. And at $2.85, it's also much cheaper than the appetizers on the menu.
For our main dishes, I chose Adana kebab, a grilled-meat dish that I was familiar with from my one trip to Turkey six years ago, and from my visits to the other local Turkish restaurant. My wife went with Lamb tava, which was called a casserole on the menu but was really more of a stew. Both were delicious.
|The city of San Antonio has not|
yet inspected this restaurant.
Adana kebab is simply ground beef and lamb pressed into a kind of small log; it comes off the grill with a slight crustiness that gives it a marvelous texture, and the seasonings are, to my taste, the paradigm of Turkey. True, they're about the same kinds of seasonings you'd find in Greek or Lebanese food -- differences between any of the eastern Mediterranean cuisines are subtle -- but in this context, it almost is enough to transport me back to western Asia. It is served with a large pile of fluffy basmati rice mixed with pine nuts, some sliced and seasoned onion, and a German-looking serving of sweet cabbage.
Lamb tava is served in a small crock, with rice on the side. It is a dark, rich stew, with chunks of nicely cooked lamb meat and vegetables in a thick seasoned broth. I gave some thought to offering to swap my Adana kebab, but decided to stick with what I had when I took another bite. I don't know why lamb in Mediterranean restaurants is so much better than in other places.
After we'd finished, we turned our minds to dessert. There were four listed on the menu, and two of them had struck chords in us. We had just about decided to split a serving of rice pudding (sutlac), but when, after a long, long, long hiatus, the waitress returned, she brought the check and neither asked about dessert nor stayed long enough for us to request it. We took that as a sign from God, paid the (quite reasonable) bill, and went to TCBY on Broadway.