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Bursa Kebab

A Carnivorous Feast: Bursa Kebab Grills it Right

  • Bursa Kebab
    60 W Portal Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127 (Map)
    (415) 564-4006

Kebab has gotten a bad (w)rap in this country. When Americans think of kebab, often misspelled as kabob, what usually comes to mind is the gyros type sandwich composed of thin strips of lamb stuffed in a pita pocket with a couple of grilled tomato slices thrown in. Hardly satisfying fare for a kebab connoisseur such as myself. The word kebab refers to the way meat is prepared, first marinated and then grilled, preferably over an open flame. In fact, in countries where kebab is a specialty, and not just an affordable alternative to McD's, there are innumerable preparations of kebab. The tastiest of these are available for sampling at Bursa Kebab, a new Turkish restaurant in West Portal. Bursa Kebab offers a more refined dining experience than your standard kebab stand. Its soft lighting and elegant yet simple décor make it a good choice for intimate dates as well as larger parties. It has a two-tiered price structure for lunch and dinner, both of which are very reasonable, especially considering the generous portions.

The restaurant takes its name from Bursa, a city known for serving the best Iskender kebab in Turkey. The main ingredient in Iskender kebab is doner, those succulent strips of meat that are thinly carved from a giant, rotating skewer of lamb. Many may already be familiar with doner kebab as standard gyros fare. But the Iskender dish takes kebab to higher levels of culinary excess by sautéing the meat slices in butter, a tomato-meat sauce and cubes of crusty bread. This juicy mixture arrives at the table in its sizzling skillet, topped with a thick, creamy yogurt sauce and accompanied by flat lavash bread ($9.99 Lunch/$14.99 Dinner). Please do not feel compelled to finish the entire pile of meat in one sitting. Save room in your arteries for the baklava and take a kebab doggie bag for lunch the next day.

Other meat dishes worth sampling at Bursa Kebab include the Kofte kebab, a combination of seasoned, ground lamb and beef pressed onto skewers and grilled ($8.49 Lunch/$12.99 Dinner). A splendid variation on the Kofte dish is the Adana kebab, which offers a slightly more spicy seasoning of ground lamb and beef ($13.99) It comes with a lovely yogurt and mint dipping sauce which proves a perfect complement to the spicy meat. I found both dishes to be cooked to tender perfection, with a slightly smoky flavor added from the grill. The biggest menu surprise for me, however, was the Beyti kebab ($13.99). I have to admit that I had never before sampled this dish during visits to Turkey, and tried it for the first time at Bursa Kebab. Beyti is similar to the Kofte kebab, except that half way through the grilling process it is wrapped in a thin piece of lavash bread, and further grilled. The outer layer of bread preserves the juiciness of the meat and seals in all its flavor, yielding an especially moist and savory kebab. Bursa's Beyti kebab was served in cut layers, sitting over a sauce of garlic yogurt, with tomato sauce drizzled on top. For the kebab purists, the restaurant's menu also offers the familiar shish kabobs -- chunks of your choice of lamb, chicken or beef skewered and grilled, served on a bed of rice with an accompanying salad (ranging from $7.99 to $14.99). There's even a mixed vegetables kebab for the wayward vegetarian who accompanies the meat lover for a meal at Bursa Kebab ($7.99 Lunch/$11.99 Dinner).

I found most of the menu items served at Bursa kebab to taste very authentic, meaning that I could close my eyes and feel as though I was sitting and eating in a restaurant or a kebab house in Istanbul or Bursa. The menu selection is also very ambitious, with a surprising variety of items. Apologies to the reader whose familiarity with meat has been shattered by this review. If you thought you knew kebab, you may wish to revisit the possibilities. If you are left confused by the choices on hand, the friendly wait staff of Bursa Kebab are more than happy to suggest their favorite dishes.

Bursa Kebab
West Portal
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