Two friends of mine are planning an extended trip to Turkey this spring. They will be spending 10 whole days in Istanbul, allowing themselves to get to know the place a little deeper than the typical tourist. They did something similar with Finland a few years ago. They make the experience last well beyond those 10 nights in Istanbul by thoroughly indulging themselves in anticipatory behavior such as reading English-language Istanbul newspapers and Istanbul: Memories and the City by the Nobel prize winning author, Ferit Orhan Pamuk. Fortunately for you and me, one of their anticipatory activities is searching out good Turkish restaurants in the area!
The Tampa Bay area encompasses about 2,554.5 sq. mi. with a population of almost 2.8 million people.[ref] That’s the 19th largest metro area in the US. It sprawls around Tampa Bay with St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and other beach towns on the Pinellas County peninsula to the west and Tampa, Brandon, Bradenton, and Sarasota on the larger peninsula of Florida, itself, to the east and southeast. It definitely presents a challenge to those who feel compelled to sample all the wonderful restaurants available in the area.
In their quest for local Turkish restaurants, my friends found one that demanded to be visited. It’s on Hillsborough Avenue, west of the Veterans Expressway–quite a “fer piece” from either St. Petersburg or most of Tampa. However, my friends and I took the trek this past week, and the trek was worth it. In their mental preparations for their coming trip, my friends have discovered a goldmine: Shish Kebab & Turkish Cuisine (www.ShishTampa.com), 10061 W. Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, FL 33615, 813-443-5118.
MEDITERRANEAN SALAD AND ADANA KEBAB
I recommend this restaurant, very highly. It’s too far for me to visit except on special occasions, but I will definitely be back. My friends and I went at lunch-time. The Shish website has a complete menu; view it, and you can see that they have very reasonably priced lunch specials. These “lunch size portions” are huge! One look at the photos in this post and you can see what I’m talking about. I can’t imagine what the dinner sized portions are like.
I want to go for dinner some evening, because the entire outside area in front of Shish has been set up with torches and numerous low, easy-chairs with equally low tables among them for those who come to smoke the hookah in the evenings–and, there is such a group; you’ll notice similar gatherings outside the S. Dale Mabry Borders coffee shop in the evenings and on weekends. The interior of Shish is equally exotic and restful, decorated with black and white prints of evocative photos of Turkey by the Tampa fine art photographer, Richard Stewart.
MIXED GREEN SALAD AND DONER KEBAB
One of my friends had Mixed Greens Salad with lemon and olive oil dressing and the Adana Kebab (chopped lamb flavored with red bell peppers and paprika). My other friend had the Mediterranean Salad (romaine, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, black olives, lemon juice, olive oil, and feta cheese) with the Doner Kebab (spit grilled, thinly sliced, marinated ground lamb). I had a combination of two different dishes. They have a cold mixed appetizers and hot mixed appetizers. I asked if I could have some of each; they said yes. I selected my favorites: babaganush (pureed eggplant, sesame oil, lemon and garlic), stuffed grape leaves (rice, onion, currants, raisins, pine nuts and olive oil wrapped in grape leaves), falafel (deep fried patties of chickpea, parsley, onions, and mashed garlic) on top of humus (mashed chickpeas with lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, and garlic), and rolled cheese pie (lightly friend phyllo dough stuffed with feta cheese and parley).
All of this was preceded by sliced pita bread and a shared dish of cacik (homemade yogurt mixed with cucumber, mint, olive oil, and garlic). Following the meal, two of us pigged out on baklava for dessert. The other friend and I each had Turkish tea. When you go to Shish, have this tea–it’s not to be missed. I’m a bit of a “tea snob,” but most of my tea experience is limited to Chinese teas. I’m now a convert to Turkish tea as well; it has a most unusual taste. Throughout the meal, we sampled each other’s dishes and we were in complete agreement that this was very tasty eating. We swore to return. Here is a link to a full-sized SLIDESHOW of all the pictures in this post plus close-ups of each of the dishes mentioned above.
Best wishes to my friends on their enviable coming visit to Istanbul and many thanks for turning me on to Shish.
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