You know that feeling when you ‘discover’ some great new thing only to find out you were, in fact, the last person in Edmonton to know? Like, hey, you should try Padmanadi for vegetarian food, or, wow, Duchess makes great macarons.
That’s kind of how I feel about Turquaz Kebab House, the north side hotspot for Lebanese and Turkish cuisine that I had never heard of until recently
I stumbled across it as I drove along 137 Avenue some months ago, vowing to try it for a review. Little did I know when I showed up with three friends last Saturday night that dozens upon dozens of savvier folks had beat me to it. Even at 8 p.m., the crowd waiting in the foyer threatened to spill out into the parking lot.
I stayed long enough to find out the wait would be at least 30 minutes, and that, according to those in line, it was most certainly worth it.
We were too hungry to wait so my partner and I returned the next night, hoping it would be less busy. It was, but only moderately so. I will caution you now: go, but go between Monday and Thursday
While the size of the weekend crowd is daunting, it does add to the crazy, festive charm of the place. It’s a family place first and foremost, especially on weekends. Kids dash between the tables and babies are passed among multiple generations. Turquaz even has a play room with projectors that shine moving, multi-coloured light patterns on the floor, which small children chase enthusiastically, like kittens after a laser pointer
The restaurant, which serves halal food and no alcohol, includes separate prayer rooms for men and women, plus a wudu room for ritual washing before meals. Many of its customers are from the city’s Muslim communities, staff explained.
The restaurant is huge, extremely bright, and decorated in the neutral style of family restaurants, save for the lovely Moorish-style chandeliers in shades of blue that hang throughout the space. There are also two water features — a wall of illusory, streaming water behind glass that divides the two large seating areas on each side from the central, open kitchen and ordering counter.
The style is a cross between casual and sit-down dining, with patrons ordering and paying at the counter; the food is brought to the table by servers when it’s ready. In practice, the system — and there is most definitely a well-oiled system in place — was confusing to a newbie like me. When your number is called you order and pay at the counter, where you’re given yet another number, then a table, to which your food is delivered a little while later.
The friendly staff guided us efficiently through the process until we were seated right in the middle of one of the two large rooms. Before the entrees we ordered arrived, a complimentary basket of two plump, perfectly round pitas arrived, warm and fresh from the oven. They bore almost no resemblance to the dry and shriveled variety most of us are familiar with — these were delicately chewy and pillowy soft, served with a delicious tzatziki-like dip of lemon, garlic, yogurt and mint.
For our entrees we ordered the adana kebab ($16.95) and the trio kebab ($20.95). Each came on a huge platter, with skewers of perfectly charbroiled meat atop rice infused with a hint of allspice. Alongside was a generous dollop of smooth, tahini-rich hummus, thick and creamy garlic sauce, a tasty salad of mixed lettuce, cabbage, cucumber and tomato, and a good-sized handful of French fries.
The trio came with skewers of chicken breast, beef and kafta (spiced ground beef), each of which was deliciously moist and char-grilled. The adana kebab, made of slightly spicy ground lamb and beef, was equally great.
The least interesting item on the plate was the French fries, which were fine but unnecessary. The portions were so generous, a single platter would have been enough for two to share.
We also shared a fatouch salad ($7.95), a yummy version of the traditional tomato-cucumber-parsley-mint combination with crunchy pieces of pita, crisp sliced radishes, and a bright lemony vinaigrette.
Other interesting dishes we didn’t try include platters with whole fish (sea bream or pompano), as well as a falafel platter for non-meat eaters. Kebab wraps are also available for between $7 and $10, as are lunch-sized portions of the dinner entrees for $11.95. The lentil soup came highly recommended by a fellow behind us in line, but our appetites could only handle so much.
We did squeeze in a few small treats at the end (to go) — a small pistachio cookie, a black cumin seed cookie that was like a cumin-scented shortbread, and a walnut cookie stuffed with ground walnuts and soaked in honey syrup.
We enjoyed the experience so much, I was, for a moment, reluctant to share a review for fear the kebab house would be overrun with fans. But alas, it’s already too late.
Location: 13310 137 Ave.
Dinner for two (no alcohol is served): $40-$50
Noise level: Lively
More information: Visit turquazkebabhouse.com or call 780-476-4511