LOCAL Houston | The City Guide May 2017 - Page 25

Food is entertainment, right? Absolutely. Especially when it's enjoyed in a restaurant outside the “norm.” This month with our Perfect Pair, we hope to introduce some of you (those of you who are not already ardent fans, which there seem to be plenty of) to ISTANBUL GRILL in Rice Village. Because, at its core, this is the type of restaurant that truly deserves your patronage...hard-working, family-owned/operated, long-running (19 years in business) and passionate about doing it right. Originally opened as a place for local Turks to convene and enjoy traditional food, over the years it’s grown to be a regular Turkish/Mediterranean spot for many fam- ilies and friends. Istanbul sits tucked into a corner on Morningside right by Gingerman and Woodrow’s – out front they have a little parking but more importantly, a nice area for covered outdoor din- ing, which is a Rice Village requirement in our mind. After passing through the door plastered in award stickers, inside, the quaint din- ing area shows most of the kitchen/food right there for the viewing, which to us usually alludes to quality (nothing to hide). There’s also plenty of Nazar all over the interior to keep that evil eye away. Diners speak many languages, as do the servers, and there’s al- ways room for the non-regulars amongst the passionate conversa- tions. Hot take, add Istanbul to your list of places you need to stop by soon. You’re likely in Rice Village often anyway, so why not? Aside from this being a perfectly traditional Turkish pairing (we’re still amazed by the diversity of cuisines available in this city), this Perfect Pair is good for the body. This right here is TURKISH YOGURT (AYRAN) made in house and full of probiotics, only adding water and salt to the base yogurt. Yes, this is a savory yogurt. We did say outside the “norm.” Which is partially why it pairs so well with the meat. While it helps settle the stomach and is quite enjoyable on its own, it really shines with the DONER KEBAP , a Turkish tradition of thin slabs of beef and lamb (butchered in-house, the only way to ensure highest-quality meat makes it on the skewer), marinated with Istanbul special seasonings and slowly grilled on a rotating vertical skewer, sliced by hand when ordered. This, friends, is not Verts. It’s plated over rice (full of chickpeas) with a simple house salad, just as it should be. While we obviously recommend this pairing as a great start to your dining adventures at Istanbul, we’d be remiss not to mention the lamb chops, and a Turkish coffee after every meal. And, oh man, that bread. Keyfini çıkarın! (Turkish for ‘enjoy!‘) By Mike Cook Photography by Anthony Rathbun ISTANBUL GRILL | 5613 Morningside Dr. | Houston, TX 77005 713.526.2800 | www.istanbulgrill.com may 17 | L O C A L 25