Hot Plate

Everybody in the Middle East and Russia -- but especially Turkey, Armenia and Iran -- wants credit for inventing the shish kebab. Though its origin will always be disputed, this much can be agreed upon: The shish kebab was created thousands of years ago, and it was probably the first "to-go" food. For one of the city's finest examples of the seasoned stuff on a stick, you need go no farther than Istanbul Grill & Deli (5613 Morningside, 713-526-2800) in the Rice Village, where the Turkish owners use their mothers' and grandmothers' recipes to delight Ottoman and American taste buds alike. Served on a golden-brown bed of bulgur with a colorful side salad, the patlican kebab ($8.99) pairs thin slices of tender baby eggplant with meatballs made from minced lamb and peppers. The meatballs register relatively high on the heat index, but they're perfectly counterbalanced by the delicate taste of the accompanying patlican -- Turkish for "eggplant."
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Carol Rust