Ancient Eggplant

Ephesus Grill may be a new restaurant, but its cuisine is from way back in the day

Ephesus Grill on Westheimer wisely sidesteps the ethnic debates by billing itself as an Anatolian restaurant. The zatar of the Arabs, the butter of the steppes, the rice of Asia, and the garbanzos and pistachios of the ancients are all equally Anatolian, whether or not they're Turkish.

At lunch on a balmy afternoon, my companion isn't interested in taking off her shoes and reclining on the pillows. She opts instead for one of the tables outside on the sidewalk. Ephesus is located in a strip center, so the scenery isn't exactly bucolic. But she's happy because this arrangement allows her to smoke without getting up.

Skip the mixed appetizer plate and go straight for the 
kabobs (here, the patlican, front, and 
iskender varieties).
Troy Fields
Skip the mixed appetizer plate and go straight for the kabobs (here, the patlican, front, and iskender varieties).


Meze tabagi: $7.99
Iskender kabob: $10.99
Patlican kabob: $10.99
Mixed kabob: $16.99
Kunefe: $4.49
Turkish coffee: $1.99
6106 Westheimer, 713-526-2800. Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; noon to 10 p.m. Sundays

There's a table card with a few lunch specials advertised. Each begins with a soup, today's being hearty chicken flavored with lemon juice. I get kofte, which the menu describes as lamb meatballs with a "heady seasoning." The spicy ground lamb balls are very juicy with a nice charcoal flavor. They're flattened and grilled, then served over a bed of rice and bulgur.

The smoker gets the Adana chicken sandwich, which is a round of pita bread stuffed with lettuce, tomato, herbs and a generous serving of seasoned ground chicken cooked on a skewer. Adana is a formerly Syrian part of Turkey that's famous for its inhabitants' love of peppers. Unfortunately, they're pulling their punches at Ephesus. For pepper-crazed Houstonians, the Adana chicken here isn't even sort of spicy.

For dessert, we try kunefe, a dessert of shredded wheat stuffed with cheese, covered with honey and lightly baked. It's served with crushed pistachios on top. My companion smokes another cigarette and drinks a tiny cup of thick Turkish coffee. I keep picking at the dessert. The flavor is reminiscent of baklava, the Greek dessert with the Turkish name. But wheat, honey and pistachios are among the oldest ingredients in the world. It's a wonderful dessert. It's also amazing to look back across the millennia and think about how old it might be. As the Turkish poet Abdulhak Sinasi once said. "Do not dismiss the dish saying that it is simply food. The blessed thing is an entire civilization in itself."

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