Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 3 to 10 p.m.
Atmosphere: Turkish exotic.
Price range: At lunch, appetizers from $1.75 to $5.95 and entrees from $3.95 to $6.95; at dinner, appetizers from $1.95 to $6.95 and entrees from $7.95 to $12.95.
Reservations: Recommended on Saturday and Sunday.
Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard.
Special facilities: No steps; plenty of parking.
A surprise was what we were after when we went to Kazan, a Turkish restaurant tucked into the McLean Shopping Center, and we got more than we bargained for.
The trip was part of our campaign to break our teen-aged daughter's longtime love affair with the quarter-pounder and the milkshake. Italian and Chinese cuisine had done little to dampen her devotion to burgers, so we felt it was time to go the exotic Turkish route, and invited her boyfriend along as an added attraction.
I called ahead to get an idea of the Kazan's dinner price range and its dress code and was told "most items start at $2.50" and "slacks and shirt will be fine."
The first surprise came when we got past the plain shopping mall exterior to discover a beautiful dining room awaiting us (the room seats 75). Our table was laid with crisp linen, sparkling stemware, a brass lamp and a fresh carnation. Behind the teal blue booths were walls set with deep blue tiles. Copper lighting fixtures overhead illuminated brass kitchen utensils set in niches. One of these was a kazan, a huge chafing dish of the kind used years ago to prepare food for the rulers of Turkey.
Although jackets and other dressy wear were much in evidence among the other diners, the restaurant staff made a special effort to make our casual group feel comfortable.
With Turkish music playing softly in the background, we eagerly turned to the menu, and that's when we got the second surprise. The items at the $2.50 level were all appetizers; the entrees ranged from $7.95 to $12.95, including bread, butter and a salad.
Mentally calculating our none-too-robust budget and fighting an impulse to make a bolt for burgerland, we decided to stick it out. So we received the third surprise: a dinner that was not only different but quite good, and a hit with all concerned.
After much discussion, we selected the mixed hors d'oeuvres ($6.95 for a platter for two) because it promised us a taste of several delicacies while staying within my budget. My wife, who likes to check kitchens against a universal standard, ordered chicken soup ($1.75).
With the appetizers came a basket of pita bread: warm, light and excellent. The mixed appetizers included dolma (grape leaves stuffed with ground meat and rice), sigara borek (little pastry fingers filled with meat and cheese), a smoothly satisfying feta cheese and a baba ganoush dip (pure'ed eggplant with some marvelous spices).
It all disappeared so quickly that our waiter laughingly added several sigara borek to the platter. They vanished too. Meanwhile, my wife pronounced the soup--creamy with rice and chunks of chicken--fit for a sultan, or just plain folks.
With our appetites more than whetted, we next debated the entrees, all 20 of them. We decided to go Turkish all the way and thereby eliminated the six Continental offerings, ranging from veal piccata milanaise to tournedos of beef.
My wife chose what is billed as authentic lamb shish kebab ($9.95). The lamb was properly marinated and seasoned, charcoal-grilled with tomato, green pepper and onion, and served over rice pilaf.
Our daughter's friend had abant shish kebab ($8.75), which added chicken morsels to the original version. The Kazan lamb special ($8.95), thin slices of lamb served with onion and smoked eggplant pure'e over rice pilaf, was my daughter's choice. A boneless lamb shanks a' la king ($8.95) for me, in a light tomato sauce with pure'ed eggplant and rice, completed the all-lamb selection.
The shish kebabs drew the best reactions, and the rice pilaf was without flaw. The lamb shanks were tender and moist, but I prefer them in their natural setting--on the bone. As for the eggplant, we felt we had reached our nightly limit with the appetizers.
Along with dinner was served a tossed salad with black olives, cucumbers and a delicate vinaigrette dressing--a delight except to one purist who wished iceberg lettuce had not been the only one used.
The hazlenut torte ($1.95), with a cream cheese icing, was the standout dessert, but the fresh strawberries with cream, the cre me caramel and the baklava all were outstanding.
Dinner for four, with tip, came to $63, a bit more than we had intended. But the food ranged from good to outstanding, the service was perfect, and we enjoyed the experience.