Zuma Kitchen

Photo credit: Stacey Sun

Channeling Istanbul in Westwood

By Joshua Lurie

When he moved from Istanbul to Los Angeles to attend UCLA, Savas Sirikci had no intention of opening a restaurant. He opted instead for real estate, and went on to launch Zuma Housing. He also became a regular at Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant in Westwood Boulevard’s Persian Square, and eventually made the owners an offer they couldn’t refuse. Today he runs Zuma Kitchen out of the same location, in a modernized space that sports brick, tile, wood walls, Istanbul posters, and plenty of open air.

The diverse menu of starters, salads, and kebabs includes cafeteria-style steam trays that feature hot dishes like meatballs and eggplant stew. Twin spits turning in the open, kitchen, loaded with doner and chicken, yield shavings for sandwiches and plates, which come with rice, salad, warm, pull-apart pita bread, and grilled vegetables.

Chunks of chicken, lamb and salmon or adana—skewered ground beef—all get a crisp crust from grilling over an open flame. Slather on ezme, a thick, well-spiced tomato paste, or investigate the cacik, aka tzatziki, a creamy, strained yogurt sauce folded with garlic and cucumbers and finished with olive oil. For a balance experience, go for the Iskender, the crisped doner shavings lavished with tomato sauce and tangy yogurt sauce.
Zuma Kitchen prepares especially good baklava, rectangles of flaky puff pastry up top, crushed nuts in the middle, and dense, syrup-soaked pastry at the base. The natural pairing is hot Turkish tea, which packs a bitterness to temper baklava’s sweetness.

A great way to experience a range of flavors is to order Turkish breakfast, which goes for $15.95 and is available on weekends from 9 AM to 1 PM. The dizzying array of dishes includes cheeses, olives, sesame-studded cheese borek, hard-boiled egg, sujuk stir-fried with peppers and eggs, fluffy pita, murky Turkish coffee, tea, and yogurt drink.

hours

Mon–Fri noon–midnight; Sat–Sun 9 AM–midnight

price range

$9.95 (beef doner plate) to $18.95 (Zuma mix kebap)
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