I went with a group to dinner last night at Bursa Kebab on West Portal. When the place opened, it was billed as a Turkish restaurant, but by now they have changed over to the less challenging Mediterranean designation. I dont know what they have deleted from their menu to make the change, but they did add such Med classics as Beef Stroganoff (and shawarma and baba ganouj and falafel and a few other classic mid-eastern dishes that are not Turkish). They did have enough Turkish dishes for us to taste:
The meal opened with warm leavened flatbread (corek), presented for some reason with olive oil and balsamic vinegar rather then the traditional butter and herbs (must have been the Mediterranean side of the house).a
* Dolma this was the cold, meatless kind of dolma more associated with Greek cookery. **
* Eggplant ezme (roast eggplant paste) excellent, flavorful, could have eaten much more of it. *****
* Mercimek kofte (falafel-like lenil and cracked wheat fritters) On the dry side. ***
* Cacik (cucumber salad in yoghurt) a Turkish version of a very popular mid-eastern and Punjabi dish. ***
* Icli kofte (ground beef and cracked wheat fritter) you would know a similar dish under the name kibbeh. Too dry. **
* Baba ganouj No flavor at all *
* Tabouli Ditto *
All servings were very generous and accompanied by an indifferent chopped green salad and a rather nice pilaf. Turkish pilaf is lighter than most and prepared with stock rather than butter. Bursas version had a pleasant hint of sour from an ingredient I could not identify.
* Adana kebab (spicy ground beef and lamb patty, grilled) nice flavor, served a little overcooked. ***
* Lamb shish kebab presented nicely on skewers but the meat was far too lean, making the kebab dry. **
* Chicken shish kebab white meat only in this dish, unusually. Nicely flavored if a little dry and overcooked. ***
* Rack of lamb I forget the Turkish name for this kebab, Bursa had the dish under this a little misleading name. The dish is really small lamb chops on the bone, grilled. In this case, over-grilled. **
* Beyti kebab (ground beef and lamb with herbs, served wrapped in lavash bread) the star of the meal, moist and flavorful, the golden standard for how ground-meat kebab should be prepared. *****
* Wine a small but pleasant list of US wines, with nothing over $29 and most under $25. We had a very pleasant 2001 syrah from the Willamette Valley.
* Ayran (salty yoghurt and mineral water drink, better known as dough) tasty but missing the required dry mint flakes. ***
Since the restaurant makes all their own desserts, I was rather looking forward to this course. Unfortunately, by the time it rolled around everyone was too full to really partake.
Bursa offers Turkish coffee, but we were all more interested in tea. Tea is much more often consumed in Turkey (in fact you cannot go into any establishment there without seeing a teapot on the boil), so we were very excited about a proper tea service. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when instead of the traditional pear-shaped glasses with strong tea accompanied by sugar cubes we got individual teapots with cups, all very pretty, that sported Lipton tea bags. There is just no excuse for this. No stars.
* Kunefe (small tubes of soft fillo stuffed with pishachios and cheese) much less sweet than I expected with a strong hint of cocoa. Unusual and very pleasant. ****
* Kadayif (baklava-type dessert with pistachios served in sweet syrup) again, less sweet than I expected but very nice. ****
Service and ambiance:
Service was enthusiastic and friendly but less than professional. Most requests had to be repeated, and we never did get the sumac and the pomegranate sauce we requested (both of which should have been n the table to begin with). The restaurant is clean and well lighted, with loud Turkish disco on the PA for that really authentic touch. It was packed and had a line outside on a Sunday night. **
Mezes are priced at $4-6, with a combination place at $12. Main courses are $12-18, most under $15. Desserts are $3-5.
Promising but not quite there. It would have been far better if they abandoned the non-Turkish dishes (which they clearly do not do as well) and worried less about pandering to what they perceive as Western tastes (like overcooking everything). **1/2
Bursa Kebab is at 60 West Portal. (415) 564-4006.
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