Let’s face it. There won’t be many cooler days for months to come. I limped on through the winter with a package unit heater with a broken air conditioner. I had put off calling a repairman to fix the air conditioner, waiting until the Alabama sun finally came out to prove to the ground hog, shadow or not, warm weather was coming sooner than later.
I don’t enjoy being tethered to my property waiting on a service call any more than you would, but I could not ignore the problem any longer. Air conditioning is of utmost importance to me, so I wasn’t complaining one bit when my tech, whom we will call Ken, showed up with a handful of tools to tackle my problem.
But you never know how long these things can take, so I figured it best if I ordered some takeout. The first thing that came to mind was Istanbul Grill. Ken was a nice enough fellow with the gift of gab so I asked him if he wanted anything. He politely declined but added, “They sure do have some good food over there.” Sounds like I was off to a good start.
I sent out for a generous amount of food to get a good cross section of this Turkish restaurant, and I probably got a little more than I should have. The appetizer menu was filled with the usual Mediterranean fare, some of which came with a Turkish twist. Kibbe, falafel, and a Turkish pizza called Lahmajun looked tempting, but I played it safe with an Istanbul combo platter ($10.99).
If you’d like to quickly and cheaply get full then this is for you. Turkish hummus has a nice flavor to it with pita wedges. It’s not overpowering, nor is it under-seasoned. The baba ghanoush is always something I can take or leave. If you don’t have your glasses on it’s tough to see the difference between it and the hummus. This version was no less appealing than others if you are into that sort of thing.
Stuffed grape leaves (aka dolma) were really different from the ones I am so familiar with. Maybe it was the combination of currents and pine nuts or the particular onion they used, but something gave this dish a pretty sharp first bite. The best part of this platter was the feta cheese rolls. These were deep fried phyllo dough rolled over feta cheese and fried. I guess you could call them Turkish cheese sticks. I call them excellent.
As if the appetizer combo wasn’t enough of a start I had to try the tubuli salad ($5.99). This refreshing salad is the version that is heavy on the parsley and has just the right amount of lemon juice and olive oil. Despite its fresh herbs and vegetables it keeps very well.
I wanted lamb chops but the nice lady informed me they no longer do the chops. She did, however, point me in the direction of the lamb shank ($14.99). This shank was so tender you could have gotten it off the bone with a sponge. When my mouth is ready for chops shank is no replacement, but this is about as close as they can get. Served over rice with a side of onions and a giant grilled pepper, I find no fault in this one.
With the entrees you get a choice of salad or lentil soup. For the lamb I had the lentil soup and it was heavenly. This was not a bad soup for a cold day or a day of sitting around in your newly repaired air conditioning. Lentils were never my favorite. I tip my hat to these.
I knew I had to at least try one kebab, but had trouble making up my mind. Luckily Istanbul offers an all-inclusive Istanbul kebab ($24.99). This is pretty much the combo platter of gyro (beef), kafta kebab (beef), lamb, and chicken shish kebabs. Served over rice with the same giant pepper, this was the highlight of the meal.
The fire roasted chicken had an odd texture and wasn’t one I would get again. The lamb was extremely good, as was the gyro. It was the kafta that took the blue ribbon. Kafta is ground meat, in this case beef, often shaped into meatballs or strips. Mine was loaded with seasoning and had a nice finish that had me reaching for the cucumber sauce. I imagine I may just get the kafta kebab next go round.
I have to say they do put a good deal of effort into the food at Istanbul Grill. The Yester Oaks shopping center is better off with them than without. Part of me felt that the cost was a little steep for what I was getting, but in the end I did have a great deal of food I will not be able to finish before it goes south. If $60-plus sounds steep for my lunch that would feed a few people then maybe consider their $10.99 lunch buffet or one of their many sandwiches in the $7 range.
So my honest opinion of Istanbul Grill is I like it. Turkish influence on popular Mediterranean food could take a little getting used to, and I do have an open mind. For the most part I found they are doing a very good job with a fairly large menu. If you mind your manners and watch what you order it isn’t nearly as expensive as it sounds.
Ken likes it. And Ken got my a/c running like a champ. Listen to Ken. Give it a try.
3702 Airport Blvd.
Mobile, AL 36608
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