After Hours: Istanbul Kebab House, Okinawa
October 18, 2010
This place has been on my mind for a long time. Not being a lamb-eater, though, I’ve also stayed away from it for a long time. But I could no longer resist my curiosity. The word Istanbul in the name of the restaurant was too fascinating to ignore.
A recent visit to Istanbul Kebab House, near Sunabe Seawall in Chatan, made me regret my groundless prejudice. The Turkish restaurant with a homey atmosphere is owned by Askin Antonio Yildirim from Istanbul and his Japanese wife, Mitsuyo, from Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo.
The couple moved to Okinawa in 2005 and opened a Turkish restaurant in Naha but moved to the present place two years later “at the requests” of many Americans living on near the major military bases in the central part of the island, Mitsuyo Yildirim said.
Istanbul Kebab House was very accommodating even for a person like me who is not a big lamb fan. The Osmanli chicken kebab was superb. Seasoning lavished with a variety of herbs offered a taste of chicken that I have never experienced.
We also had Iskender kebab, shredded grilled beef in tomato sauce with yogurt over pita bread.
Before the main dishes, a large plate loaded with appetizers was served. A giant stuffed green pepper and flavory chickpea paste were my favorites.
The Yildirims said they are planning a trip to Istanbul in November to buy spices and other ingredients. It’s no wonder the food at this restaurant is genuinely exotic.
The highlight of the meal was yet to come. The famous Turkish ice cream was my dessert for the evening. It takes practice to deftly stretch the ice cream to add sweetness. At the sight of our awkward manner, the owner offered help. Skillfully, he began to churn the white ice cream, which in no time started magically developing elasticity as if it was transformed into a long white candy bar. The texture was much firmer than regular ice cream and tasted rich yet so smooth. Our culinary trip of the evening was full of new discoveries.
Location: Chatan, Okinawa
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Thursday
Prices: Set course 2,900 yen; kebabs about 1,100 yen; appetizers including falafel balls, cacik (yoghurt with cucumber), chickpea soup and stuffed green peppers, 400 to 800 yen; dondurma (Turkish ice cream) 400 yen; Turkish beer 700 yen; Turkish raki (anise-flavored spirit) 600 yen.
Specialties: Turkish dishes
English menu: Yes, with pictures
Clientele: Mostly Americans with some locals and Japanese tourists
Directions: From Kadena Air Base’s Gate 1, turn left on Highway 58 and turn right at the immediate traffic signal. Keep driving until you reach the third traffic signal shortly after passing a belly dance studio on your right. Turn right at the crossing; Istanbul Kebab House is on your left.