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There’s a Turk in the kitchen

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Iskender Kebap

You would never imagine this setting in Makati’s red light district.

Lounge chairs fit for a country club or resort are laid out in the converted garage. Art promoting gay love is displayed on the walls. A flat TV screen presents what you fancy on cable TV. Adjacent to the kitchen is an air-conditioned red room for a private dinner.

And in the kitchen is a Turk whipping up recipes from home.

Truth be told, the place is a converted garage. You could be bitten by mosquitos. Recently the weather has been very friendly and cool but I think come May, you’ll want to wear your bathing suit.

The setting is not fancy but it has become pretty. The host has made the effort to make the setting beautiful and comfortable so that your experience is not just about the food but is also fun.

But the food manages nonetheless to steal the show. At Mehmet’s (talagang may “H” —“but nho, the ohwner ihs nhot Phinoy”) Turkish restaurant, you can expect authentic Turkish cuisine.

On my first visit, Mehmet very casually said, “You would need to pay around $4,000 for a Turkish chef to work here. But since I own this restaurant, you get authentic Turkish food for these (cheap) prices.”

Everything is made from scratch—the bread, the yoghurt, the kebabs, all made by chef-owner Mehmet Temizyurek himself, with love, especially the Iskender Kebab (sometimes called Kebap). You may or may not be familiar with this Turkish version of kebab; don’t expect it to be served on a stick. The meat is laid out on a plate: bite-sized pieces of lamb that punch your tongue with its flavor, lying on a bed of buttered bread and alongside a slab of sour yoghurt. Lezzetli!

They also have the usual Middle Eastern specialties: hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli— spelled slightly differently, presented slightly differently, but pretty much the same concept.

Then there are the kebabs on rice: hearty and spicy! Best of all, these are grilled in front of you, like in a barbecue party.

INTERIORS of Turkish resto

What’s new are the Italian influences, such as the kebabs on al dente pasta with butter, which make a curious combination, with a beautiful layering of herbs and spices nonetheless.

Instead of shawarma wraps, the restaurant which also calls itself a bakery, offers shawarma sandwiches. I believe there is wisdom in sticking to tradition. But do judge for yourself.

There are a lot of items that are frequently not on the menu, such as the baklava. But such are the birth pains of a small restaurant.

I would make my way to Mehmet’s veranda just for the Iskender Kebab/Kebap any day. It’s a great way to end the day, with a bottle of ice-cold Cerveza Negra.

Combos Bakery and Café/ Turkish Restaurant, 5911-B Matilde St., Barangay Poblacion, Makati. On Kalayaan Extension toward  Makati Avenue from Rockwell Drive, turn right on street after Grilla. No reservations required. Cash only. Wheelchair accessible. Closed on Mondays.

The author is at www.margauxlicious.com; Facebook.com/ margauxsalcedo; Twitter.com/ margauxsalcedo.


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