Thursday, July 3, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: Shish Kebab Mediterranean Grill

1450 Bethel Road
Columbus, OH
(614) 273-4444

Okay, I'll admit it, the first two three restaurants I wrote about I have been to before and I already knew they had some menu items I might be interested in writing about.  And I'm sure I'll do it again soon enough, but for this post Lyndsay and I decided to try something new. Now, I have this strong apprehension about trying out new restaurants.  It's not that I don't like to try new things; I love it.  It's just that I love food so much that when I have a mediocre experience, one where I feel like my money would have been much better spent on something I know I like, I get literally mopey for the next several hours. Thankfully, I can say Shish Kebab was one the best experiences I've had in Columbus.

Shish Kebab's dining room is not terribly large, but is much nicer than I was expecting.  The beautiful wood interior means there is little need for further decoration.  We came for a very early dinner, so we were the first ones there, but by the time we left the dining room was more full.  

The quality of the decor extended to the attractive dish and glassware used, as well as plating, but more on that later.  Because we were the only party for awhile, our drink glasses never emptied and after we ordered our food came out quickly.  Most, if not all of the servers seemed to be Turkish which made communication slightly more labored, but no more so than any other restaurant where English is not the primary language.

The menu is full of the expected Turkish offerings like chicken kebabs and doner kebabs as well as quite a few seafood options and more.  We decided to start with zucchini pancakes, though I was also tempted to try the Turkish cigars, which looked like a mediterranean phyllo eggroll, and also the sauteed liver cubes.

But, before we ate our zucchini pancakes ($6.95), they brought us some of the best bread and dipping oil I've ever had.  The bread was crusty and had that deep dark flavor on the exterior that comes from using a hearth.  The oil was infused with sweet-sundried tomatoes and rosemary which made the bread even better.  The zucchini pancakes were perfectly flavored and cooked tasting primarily of feta and dill and the plain yogurt served alongside added a pleasant tanginess.

For our entrees, both Lyndsay and I were interested in the portion of their menu that pairs toasted garlic bread cubes with kebab meat, yogurt, and grilled vegetables and topped with a light sauce.  The meat was perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked and as much as I love lamb, I think Lyndsay's chicken kebab ($14.95) might have been even better than my doner kebab ($16.95) because it had a fuller caramelized flavor from the grill.  The yogurt was, again, a nice addition, though I thought perhaps a little less might have been good.  The garlic toasted bread cubes were an interesting addition, sort of taking the place of pasta or potatoes in the dish.

Rarely do I order dessert at a restaurant, but the food was so good that I decided to save some of my entree for later and order the milk custard.  Like everything else, it was delicious and was a nice cool and treat to end the meal.  Overall the experience was fantastic and I wholeheartedly recommend it.  They also have a lunch buffet for $8.99, which I will be back to try sometime soon.

How I was Inspired
I decided I wanted to try and make my own doner kebab meat and then top it with the zucchini pancake "batter" sort of a Turkish inspired adaptation of Beef Wellington.

First I started by the making the gyro meat. I pureed an onion and then wrapped it in a tea towel and squeezed out as much liquid as possible.  Then I mixed the dried pureed onion with ground lamb, minced fresh garlic, dried marjoram, dried ground rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Next, I shaped the ground lamb into eight bratwurst sized logs and baked at 350 degrees until they reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees.  However, I would recommend making much larger logs, around 3 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter to get the proper ratio of meat to zucchini pancake.

To make the zucchini pancakes, you take the zucchini and shred it on a box grater or using a food processor shredding disk.  Then you toss it in a little salt over a colander and let it sit for 30 minutes.  After that, you press on the zucchini with paper towels until mostly dry. This took me several bunches of towels before it wasn't completely soaking them through.

Next, you add the remaining ingredients: green onion, yellow onion, dill, parsley, feta, eggs, and flour and mix to make a thick "batter." I took my cooked doner kebabs, put them on a cookie sheet, and coated them on the top and sides with a thick layer of "batter."

Broil the "loaves" or bake at 550 degrees until well-browned (my broiler stinks so I never got the color I was looking for). Here is the recipe if you want to try it yourself.

Donor Kebab faux Wellingtons
  • 2 small yellow onions, grated
  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 Tbsp. dried ground rosemary
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs. zucchini
  • 3/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  1. Process half of the grated onions in a food processor for about 15 seconds until it is just pulp.  Put the pulp in a tea towel and squeeze all the onion juice out.  Mix the dried onion pulp with the lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined.
  2. Shape the meat into one or more large loaves, roughly 3 1/2 inches in diameter, put in a greased rimmed baking sheet and and bake at 350 until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, grate the zucchini and toss with a little salt in a colander and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Spread the zucchini on a quadruple thickness of paper towels and then press with another quadruple thickness of paper towels to dry.  Repeat this with fresh paper towels until the the moisture no longer bleeds through.
  4. Thoroughly mix the dried shredded zucchini with the scallions, remaining grated onion, dill, parsley, feta, eggs, and flour until you make a thick batter.  Spread the batter over the top and sides of the cooked doner kebabs and broil or bake at 550 degrees until well browned. Cut into slices and serve.
What is your favorite Turkish or other Mediterranean food? Where do you go for a good gyro? What restaurant should I visit next? Let me know in the comments below.

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