In Turkish, kebap, which means "roasted meats," is spelled with a P, a distinction I learned after calling Jaffar Neamatollha at the Turkshish Kebap House in Columbia to see if his Web site contained a typo. The owner of a handful of pizza parlors in Howard County (including the wildly popular Columbia Waterloo at an Exxon station) and a native of Iran, Neamatollha lived in Turkey for a few years and has worked as a translator, so there's no reason to doubt him.
The no-frills Turkshish, with seating for 16 as well as carryout (and delivery within an eight-mile radius) in a Little Patuxent Parkway strip mall, serves generous portions of Middle Eastern dishes made with fresh ingredients.
The menu is divided into four sections; five if you include the listing of boat-shaped pizzas (or pide, $7.50 to $7.99) loaded with such cargo as ground lamb, eggplant and peppers, or Turkish sausage; six if you count the desserts, baklava and kadayif ($4.99), both sweet with honey between layers of buttered filo.
There are mezze, familiar appetizers including a generous portion of hummus made with fresh chickpeas and drizzled with a sharp olive oil, and acilli ezme, a tangy spread of diced tomatoes and peppers with pomegranate sauce. The accompanying bread consists of large, chewy wedges dusted in flour, with the occasional black char.
Soups and salads include red lentil soup with garlic and dried mint ($3.50); a fresh diced salad of tomatoes, green peppers and parsley, sprinkled with pomegranate sauce ($5.50); and a Mediterranean salad with feta, artichoke and stuffed grape leaves ($6.99).
In the Specialties section, you'll find doner kebap ($11.50), a mix of tender meats sliced from the vertical spit, served with yogurt and rice. The chicken pirzola ($11.99) is grilled meat that falls from the bone, sprinkled with paprika and herbs. There are several shish kebaps: chunks of lamb, beef or chicken on a skewer with vegetables, or the vegetables alone ($9.99 to $11.99).
You might find the falafel dry, but that's because here it's made with ground-chickpea flour; the results are crumbly and densely flavored.
Most of the dishes that appear in the Specialties section also can be found in sandwich form as smaller portions wrapped in flatbread and accompanied by spiced fries and yogurt sauce ($7.50 to $9.99).
While waiting for a carryout order recently, I watched as a meat truck pulled up and a butcher in a stained white coat strode in with half a fresh lamb slung over his shoulder. When Neamatollha decided to open his kebap restaurant, he sought out vendors - including a halal butcher - and a Turkish-born chef to help the place live up to its authentic name.
- Martha Thomas, (Good to Go, Dec. 8, 2010)