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By Phyllis C. Richman
Washington Post Restaurant Critic
From The Washington Post Dining Guide, November 1996

| 523 Maple Ave. W., Vienna, Va.
(703) 938-8948

Hours of Operation and Prices
Lunch: M-F 11-3; Entrees: $6-$12.50
Dinner: M-Th 5-10, F-Sat 5-11, Sun 4-10; Entrees: $13-$17.50
Closed: M

Other Information
• Credit Cards: All major
• Dress: Casual
• Reservations: Recommended
• Parking: Free lot
• Handicapped accessible

Even Istanbul has no better doner kebab than Nizam's (unfortunately, it's not served every night). And if you have only tasted doner kebab elsewhere in Washington, you are probably in for a surprise. Most of the restaurants, carryouts and fast-food stands that serve doner kebab - or gyros, as it is often called - buy it as a big frozen loaf of ground meat. It is cooked on a vertical spit and thinly sliced as the surface browns. But it still tastes like frozen hamburger meat. Nizam's starts from scratch, marinating paper-thin slices of lamb and stacking them on the spit to form a giant loaf. As it is served, each portion is a cross section of the thin slices of lamb that have melded together into a juicy, gently herbed and spiced web. It is luscious meat, with crisp edges and juicy texture. And at Nizam's you can have it plain or spread over chunks of sauteed pita bread with a bit of thick tomato sauce and dense, rich, tangy yogurt.

If you hit Nizam's when it's not doner kebab night, you can compensate with yogurtlu kebab, the same mix of bread and sauces with sauteed tenderloin.

The menu goes on to kebabs of swordfish, shrimp, cubed or ground lamb, plus the usual Turkish casseroles. Grilled meat is carefully cooked, but my favorite remains the doner kebab. I'd start dinner with the fine grape leaves stuffed with currants and pine nuts, or the highly peppered baba ghanouj; the borek here are heavy. And I'd look into the listing of Turkish wines. Platters are preceded by a salad and accompanied by pilaf - nothing exciting but rather nice. The black-tie service is a little shy and certainly efficient; the dining room is quiet and agreeable, with a few reminders of Turkey. In sum, for a moderate price you can get a meal that's both simple and exotic.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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