Istanbul Plaza Halvemaansteeg

Bonjour, Döner Fans. Confusing as it seems, this blog post is brought to you from Amsterdam, not Brussels. Yes, last weekend I was back in the Dutch capital for both business and pleasure. I met some of my favourite people (plus a few extra), though the brevity of my trip meant that many old friends had to be left out. But I will be back again soon!

Anyway, a triumphal return without a kebab is like a morning without a dawn: barren. Many of you will know how I feel about Dutch kebabs. But on Saturday night on Rembrandt Square I was in for a pleasant surprise. A companion and I were squeezing our way through the heaving crowd of stoned tourists and drunk people in Halloween costumes, when my eyes were drawn to a gleaming sign. It said, in tasteful neon: “Istanbul Döner-Kebab Halal Food Shoarma-Falafel.” So all its focus-keywords were nicely covered.

The staff at Istanbul Plaza clearly let an SEO agency do their marketing.

Hypnotised by this feat of food-Tourette’s, I shakily drew forth my photography device and took a shot. And as I did so, a man who was leaning outside the shop immediately invited us in, his face aglow with welcoming delight. I had thought he was a customer happily digesting his food. But no, he was the welcome committee. I am always suspicious of shops and restaurants that employ someone to lure in passers-by. But we were hungry, so we went in anyway.

Under the neon glare, the craftsmen of Istanbul Plaza create their art.

The staff were clearly used to drunk tourists, and immediately tried to offer us everything on the menu, including a ‘crisp clean Heineken’ each. But I have tried Heineken before, so I said no. My dinner companion and I both ordered the Dürüm Döner, and they set about making it. As this was Amsterdam, there were only two sauce choices: samba and garlic. Salad was ‘alles erop’. There was something comforting in this bland predictability. If nothing else, it saved me having to order in French and embarrass myself.

A peek into the eye of the breaded sheath. With a manicured hand in the background.

The kebab was actually surprisingly good. I don’t know if it was just because I was very hungry, but something about it made it a lot tastier than the usual disappointing fare you tend to get in Amsterdam’s kebab joints. The meat was moist, the salad was fresh, the bread was nice, and the sauces were flavourful. As such, it is one of the few döner shops in Amsterdam that I can heartily recommend. Just try not to be talked into buying everything on the menu along with copious drinks, as the service did come across as slightly pushy.

I am pretty sure that the dürüm was meant to cost 4,95 EUR. However, when I handed over a 5 EUR note, there was no sign of my 5 cents change. I let it slide this time. I wished the proprietors ‘iyi akşamlar’ and we went back out into the Halloween-infested night. They called out ‘iyi akşamlar’ after us, despite probably not being Turks. But that is no doubt part of the mystery and delight at Istanbul Plaza.

The 4,95 EUR price on the menu is approximate.

Results

Service: 2/5 (geared towards people who are drunk and/or stoned)

Atmosphere: 3/5 (meh)

Price: 3/5 (normal for Amsterdam, but don’t expect to get your 5 cents change)

Taste: 4/5 (very tasty)

Photographs taken by Dr. Döner

Turkuaz Kebap – Rue des Deux Églises

Bonjour et bienvenue, Döner Fans. Why the French? Well, Dr Döner has relocated to Brussels! (Or Brussel or Bruxelles, depending on which Belgian community you belong to…) Life is nothing without its variety; change is what adds spice to the floury lahmacun of existence. And so, in pursuit of new meaty horizons, Dr Döner has left the picturesque environs of Amsterdam and settled down in the Brussels neighbourhood of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, a mere drop-kick away from the European Institutions. And from this enviable vantage point I will be continuing my quest to force kebab policy up the agenda of the European Commission.

I have now been living here for almost two weeks, and the kebab-count is already high, Döner Fans. On moving to a new area, I find it advisable to go on a quick reconnoitre of the neighbourhood, to find out where the best kebabs are placed. So it was that while strolling down the Rue des Deux Églises, in the direction of Place Saint-Josse, I clocked a likely-looking establishment not far from the square. Döner Fans, I give you the great, the exceptional Turkuaz Kebap!

Turkuaz Kebap viewed from Tweekerkenstraat. Because all streets in Brussels have two names.

I was eager to pop my Brussels kebab cherry as early as possible. I had no wish to be asked “have you had a kebab in Brussels yet?” only to shake my head, blush, and say “no, not yet, I’m still working on it”. The social pressure to do so can be immense. It didn’t take long, though, before a night of fulsome Belgian beer led to that familiar kindling of the urges, and on walking home that evening I decided that yes, now was the time. Fleeing the cold, nocturnal Belgian streets, I strolled into Turkuaz, and was delighted to see a proper charcoal grill, a glistening meaty log of döner-rotisserie, and a display counter laden with köfte and other treasures. Affecting my best French, I ordered ‘un dürüm, s’il vous plait’, grabbed an ayran from the fridge, and settled down to wait.

Heavy breathing and pawing at the glass display table is normal.

The dürüm bread was first placed in the charcoal oven by one of the uniformed aficionados who manned the counter. One of them asked me which sauces I would like. I stumbled. My French no longer extended that far. I had been rumbled. Panicked, I said: ‘Chilli et…sarımsak!’ It was the Turkish word for garlic that fell out, and blew my cover. The uncertainty of my new surroundings had poked a hard finger through the wet tissue of my French, and connected with the solid bedrock of my faithful Turkish there below. From this point on, the Turkish staff of Turkuaz and I were firm friends. When it came to salad, I duly ordered ‘hepsi!’ And all seemed to be going swimmingly.

One word of warning, though. If you do visit Turkuaz and happen to go off in search of the lavatories, be warned that the ceiling on the staircase is very low. Dr Döner is no lumbering giant of a man (indeed, in Amsterdam I felt very much like a dwarf), but I managed to smack my head off the ceiling on the way down to the loos. Perhaps it was the Belgian beers. In any case, lesson learned. When I returned to the counter, my order was ready. I found also that the dürüm automatically came with a portion of Belgian frites covered in sauce. The novelty! I was also pleased to discover that in total one dürüm + one portion of frites + one ayran came to only 5 Euros. A bargain if ever I saw one, Döner Fans. Especially when you consider that one sad, soggy, disappointing döner in Amsterdam, whose sauces you have to apply yourself using one of their farting, sticky tubes, comes to 4,50 EUR all on its own. I took my meaty gains back to my penthouse apartment and consumed them there with gusto. And the verdict: delicious. The bread was fresh and had a tasty charcoal piquance, the meat was moist, and the sauces were flavourful. The salad consisted of shredded carrot, and something which was either shredded white cabbage or lettuce, which is not something I have seen before in a dürüm. In any case, it was very moist and added a satisfying counterpoint to the meat. Therefore, if you are ever in Saint-Josse, I urge you to try out Turkuaz Kebap. I am sure it will become a regular of mine!

Turkuaz kebab, with its garnish of shredded carrots and other mystery vegetables.

Results

Service: 4/5 (fast and friendly)

Atmosphere: 4/5 (bright and comfy)

Price: 4/5 (a good value deal!)

Taste: 5/5 (very nice)

Photographs taken by Dr. Döner