Turkish cuisine is just not known in Los Angeles, even though Turkish ingredients are easy to get--I even found pomegranate vinegar from Izmir at my neighborhood 99 Cents Only Store. Izmir is Turkey's third largest city.
To put customers at ease, The Kitchen @ Westwood calls its food Mediterranean. And Turkey does have a long Mediterranean coast. There is, however, a sign outside that says it offers Turkish cuisine--along with pastas and pizza.
In September, 2015, Huseyin Ilhan and his wife Havva (above) opened The Kitchen on Westwood Boulevard, which is lined with Persian, Lebanese and other international restaurants. They're from Denizli in southwestern Turkey, about 115 miles from Izmir. The food is what they grew up with.
Hava Ilhan says Denizli is known for vegetable dishes and plans to introduce some of those. For now the emphasis is on meat--doner and kebabs. Doner is meat cooked on a vertical spit, the same as shawarma. A photo of doner posted in the restaurant (above) makes clear what it is.
This platter holds another signature Turkish dish, kebabs. The meats are chicken and beef in chunks and ground beef formed into long rolls. They're appetizingly seasoned with Huseyin's secret blend of spices. The bread on the platter is focaccia, which he makes himself.
Underneath the kebabs is one of Turkey's most important products, bulgur wheat, which is produced mostly in the southeast around the city of Gaziantep, where a bulgur festival took place in May, 2016. Click here for a story about that.
Havva Ilhan cooked the bulgur with fine strands of caramelized pasta, vegetables and such tasty seasoning that it's delicious on its own, as a side dish. Here, she's bringing in a tray of hummus and other dips and the salad chobani, a fresh mix of tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, parsley and onion.
I was thrilled to meet up again with iskender kebab, which I had tasted only once, at a cafe in Istanbul. It's chicken or beef doner smothered with a tomatoey sauce, with croutons underneath and yogurt on the side. This is how it looked at that cafe.
And this is how it looks at The Kitchen. The sauce blends Turkish pepper and tomato pastes, crushed tomato, black pepper, cumin and mint. Underneath are toasted bits of pita bread. Yogurt and pickles are on the side.
I was impressed to find that Huseyin Ilhan makes the tiny meat-filled dumplings known as manti in Turkey and as ravioli at The Kitchen (above). The creamy sauce is yogurt, butter, garlic, paprika and mint.
Desserts, which come from outside, include Turkish style ice cream, Turkish delight and baklava (above). The baklava is filled with the famous pistachios of Gaziantep, which Turks consider the finest in the world.
The Ilhans came to the United States in 2003. A businessman in Turkey, Huseyin Ilhan turned himself into a chef and restaurateur here. For seven years, he owned the Jerusalem Pita Grill inside Valley Produce Market in Reseda. The name came from a previous owner.
Is his food as good as that in Turkey? "No," he says vehemently. He's not talking about how it's cooked, but about the meat. In Turkey, meat is tougher and more flavorful, he said. Here it is tender and bland.
I ate plenty of kebabs and other meats in Turkey, though, and I found nothing lacking in the kebabs and doner at The Kitchen.
The Kitchen @ Westwood, 1510 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024. (310) 474-8444.