Last week, Bai Shin and I were out looking for mohair yarn. Her mother knits and she wants a new mohair sweater, so she wanted to buy enough for her mom to make her one. We found a place called Nimblefingers on Memorial Drive in Houston, just west of Gessner. Upon arrival, I noticed a restaurant just a couple doors down and got curious. Its name is the Empire Turkish Grill. Well I was curious because I’ve never eaten Turkish food before, and I’m always willing to try something new. Fortunately, Bai Shin often is too.
So we’re inside the yarn store and I ask the two women there if they’ve tried the Grill, and they both said they had and that the food was very good. There was another customer in the store at the time, and she chimed in and said she’d just had lunch there, and that she had enjoyed it. Okay, well my stomach was starting to rumble so I started dropping hints in Bai Shin’s direction. She didn’t really say anything until we left the yarn store. Instead, she just started heading for the restaurant, basically saying, Well, you wanted to try it out — let’s give it a try. So we did.
Walking into the place, it sort of reminds me of a ladies tea house. Nice tables with linen table cloths and real cloth napkins all folded nice and pretty. No booths. The single largish dining room is painted a pastel sort of peach color. Not really at all what I was expecting based on the name of the place. It was about 3pm and the place was almost deserted. We were invited to take any table we liked, so we helped ourselves to one by the window. We were seen promptly by the waiter, who dropped off menus and took our drink order. The menu is about five pages deep and, if you are already familiar with Mediterranean food, then many of the items will already be familiar to you. E.g., falafals, hummus, tabouli, eggplant babaganush, kebobs, etc. We eventually decided on the Mixed Grill, which includes giros, lamb kebob, chicken kebob, and ground lamb kebob served over a bed of rice, along with thinly sliced onions, red cabbage, grilled bell peppers and tomato. It is $23.95, but it is meant to be shared by at least two people. We liked the idea that it had a variety of main courses. Since this was our first visit, it gave us the chance to sample their fare.
While we were waiting for the main course, we were served some delicious flat bread with extra virgin olive oil for dipping. The Mixed Grill arrived in a reasonable amount of time. Lemme tell ya, I was in love from the very first bite. The rice had a wonderful flavor that can only be achieved by cooking it in the juices of some of the meats, most likely the chicken. The chicken kebob consisted of breast meat. I’m not a big fan of chicken breast because it is often dry and gets stuck in my throat. But this was surprisingly moist and flavorful. The same can be said for the gyros, lamb and ground lamb kebobs. Spices were just right, and the dishes were not too salty. Over-salting food is a crime often committed by many restaurants and is one that Bai Shin and I especially don’t like. So it was nice getting a meal that had just enough salt without overdoing it.
We were pleasantly sated after eating our fill, and even took enough home for a late night snack or a light meal. Running into a place like this is always a treat. We will definitely be visiting it again.
Empire Turkish Grill
12448 Memorial Drive
Reservations: Recommended for Dinner
Incidentally, the photo was taken with my new Smartphone — a Samsung Galaxy S. It has a 5 mp camera built in and did a good job. No flash, though. About a month after I got this phone (signed a 2-year agreement, of course), Samsung comes out with the Galaxy S II, which among other things has an 8 mp camera. Grrr . . . Not much I can do about it now. If you click on the image twice, you’ll see it full-size.