Thursday, March 23, 2017

Istanbul Grill Take Two

Istanbul Grill
18010 Newhope St. #D
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Doing what we do, reviewing restaurants, we do not often get back around to repeat visits to restaurants. There's always something new to try, and we want to give our take. It usually takes a special circumstance for us to make a return visit to a restaurant, and this trip to Istanbul Grill in Fountain Valley is one of those special trips.

Our original visit was early last year, and not to let the cat out of the bag, but we really enjoyed the food here. I was all set to write my review, and then my computer hemorrhaged, and I lost all of my photos. Yep, that's right, no backups either. So a year and a few months later, my new computer is working like a champ, and we finally made a return trip to Istanbul Grill

Istanbul Grill has been open in this easily accessible shopping plaza for going on four years now. Located right across the street from Costco, on the corner of Talbert and Newhope, right next to the Flame Broiler and Cancun Fresh restaurants. Istanbul Grill is a Turkish restaurant, but much like the city of Istanbul, which sits on the Bosphorus Strait, which straddles both the continents of Europe and Asia, most people will recognize items on the menu here as something they have had before in a Mediterranean restaurant. Enough of the geography lesson, let's check out Istanbul Grill.

Istanbul Grill is a very comfortable restaurant. Both times we had been here, we got sat right away. There's probably about twenty tables and a patio area with a few more, but we haven't seen anyone sit out there the two times we've been here. Through the decor here you can tell that they are very proud of Turkey, with plenty of pictures on the walls and a large flatscreen flashing pictures from that unique country and some shots of their food. The wait staff is very good answering questions about their menu. Let's see what came out for us on this second trip to Istanbul Grill.

Starting things off would probably be the Turkish equivalent of chips and salsa in a Mexican restaurant. The bread is a little thicker than most pita bread slices we have had but tasted very fresh. I did not catch the name of the sauce that came with this, but I'd guess that it was oil based with some Turkish spices included. It was mild, with an earthy feel to it. Katie seemed to like it a lot better than I did.

When dining in a Turkish restaurant, or any Mediterranian restaurant, it's a must to give their Hummus ($6.95) a try. This one at Istanbul Grill had a very smooth consistency to it. One of the smoothest I have had. Unfortunately, the tradeoff was that it kind of lacked in the flavor department. The tahini, garlic, and lemon did little to lift this hummus anywhere above average. Next time I'm going to ask if they have a spicy version.

After being up in the valley a few years ago for a party, I've been on the lookout for a Falafel ($7.95) that rivaled the one I had all those years ago. This one was fine, but not even close. These small balls of chickpeas flavored with garlic, parsley, and cilantro were a little on the dry side and packed a little too dense, so they lacked a lightness that I appreciate in my falafel. This came with a very good tahini sauce, which helped these out a bit. Katie's a big fan of garlic sauce, and liked this one, but was not blown away by it, like the one she had by her former workplace in Ontario.

Entrees are where Istanbul Grill really shined for us. I had the Kebab Combination ($15.95) and could not have been happier. The only difficulty was picking the two that I wanted. I settled on the Lamb and Ribeye Steak Kebabs. Not a bad bite out of the bunch. The lamb was strong here, with a good amount of spices included, and the meat itself really lacked the gaminess that most people complain about when eating lamb. I really liked that they asked how I wanted the ribeye to be cooked when I ordered it. I had it come out medium rare, and that's how they made it. Tender and juicy. Not that it needed it but I alternated using the garlic sauce and the humus with each bite of meat. This also came with rice pilaf and veggies, which also were pretty solid for side items. A very satisfying meal.

Katie was also pretty pleased with her dinner selection on this evening, the Chicken Shish Kebab ($13.95). I'm alway very wary when she orders chicken in restaurants because a lot of times it's way overcooked. Not the case here. This was some very tender cubes of chicken that were marinated nicely in their special sauce and then chargrilled. She was extremely happy with this meal.

When it was time for the check to come, a man, who I assume is the manager or owner came by and asked us how everything was. We told him it was great, and he offered us a piece of Turkish Delight and a Turkish Coffee. Katie took the coffee and I had a piece of the Turkish delight. After this encounter with Turkish delight, I can now confirm I am not a fan of this gel encased, licorice-flavored candy. It reminded me of a candy that grandmothers would have sitting out to trick their grandkids. Katie was a fan of the small, but powerful Turkish coffee, which was strong, and packed a mean caffeine punch, which kept her up even longer than usual on her phone.

Our second trip to Istanbul Grill was just as good as our first and really showed us why this restaurant is always mentioned in the upper echelon of Mediterranian restaurants in OC. Yes, I expected a little more from the falafel and the average hummus, but the entrees were excellent, and even a better value at lunch, where you get a starter, entree, dessert, and pita bread for $8.95. A savings of over 50 percent, and the perfect opportunity to try this Turkish restaurant, without a large investment. Even if you are here for dinner, you'll still enjoy it. The kebabs are some of the best we have found in OC and the service has been warm and friendly both times we've been here. I'm still not happy that my computer crashed, but it did necessitate a return trip here, which we will have to make more of a habit of doing.

Out of five tubs of popcorn, (because the first movie theater debuted in Istanbul in 1896, and has lead to this city becoming the hub for the Turkish film industry), five being best to zero being worst, Istanbul Grill gets 3.5 tubs of popcorn.

For more information about Istanbul Grill, head to their website here:

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