Kavkaz Kebab: Where the kebabs rule

Azerbaijani spot in an Owings Mills shopping center is an educational experience

March 05, 2010|By Rob Kasper | Baltimore Sun reporter

If you are in the mood for a little culinary tourism, travel to Kavkaz Kebab, an Owings Mills restaurant that offers excellent breads and juicy kebabs.

Kavkaz brings dishes from Azerbaijan to that all-American setting, a shopping center in the suburbs.

I confess I had to refer to geography books to pinpoint the location of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is in the Caucasus between the Black and Caspian seas, bordering Russia and the Republic of Georgia.

I also had to employ that almost outdated reference work, a street map, to find Boulevard Circle, the shopping center in Owings Mills that serves as home to the restaurant. I traveled north on Owings Mills Boulevard, and the shopping center was the third stop light past Reisterstown Road, just beyond the Owings Mills firehouse.

This location was new to me, but it seems to already be on the radar of many folks. The weeknight I pulled into the shopping center, the parking lot was jammed with cars and mounds of plowed snow.

But inside Kavkaz Kebab, it was relatively quiet. The restaurant has about 25 tables decorated in a tasteful faux-mahogany finish. Sconces light the rust-colored walls, which feature striking photographs of buildings in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital. The restaurant does not serve alcohol but allows customers to bring their own. There is a liquor store in the shopping center, and I was told that red wine is often paired with the meat kebabs.

The breads and pastries are outstanding and baked on the premises. For appetizers, we started with khachapuri ($4.99 for two), a cheese pie made with phyllo dough and filled with three cheeses: mozzarella, farmer and ricotta. The phyllo was feathery, the cheese warm and welcoming with smooth, balanced flavors. It was an ideal morsel for a raw winter night.

We also had an order of cheese cigars. I couldn't resist a dish that combines two of my favorite activities: eating cheese and holding a cigar in my hand. These cigars ($4.99 for three) are made of crisp dough, and the cheese, farmer and mozzarella, and flavored with cilantro. They were not as tasty as the khachapuri, but they felt better. (We later learned they might not be on the menu for much longer.)

Kebabs rule both the lunch and dinner menu. The chicken and lamb kebab ($17.99) was an artful mix of grilled chicken and lamb, sprinkled with a sumac spice and served with basmati rice, grilled tomatoes and fresh onions. As a backyard griller, I know the trick to cooking kebabs is to get the outer edges crisp while keeping the center juicy. These kebabs passed that test with flying colors.

The lulya kebab, a house specialty, was an intriguing mix of ground lamb and beef. The flavor reminded me of an onion-flavored gyro. A bottle of pomegranate syrup, not a condiment I see at most of my meals, was brought to the table. I applied it to the kebab with happy results.

The portions here are generous, so much so that we had to take home some of the lulya kebab, and the presentation, on white rectangular plates, was striking.

We did save room for dessert, opting for the shekebura, a crescent-shaped flour pastry filled with sweetened nuts. It was a nice finish to the meal, not too heavy, and went well with a pot of mild, Earl-Grey like, Kavkaz tea ( $3.99). The menu told me that the edges of the shekebura are "helically nipped." I had to look that up as well. It means the dough is pinched to resemble a helix.

Overall, a trip to Kavkaz Kebab is both toothsome and educational. You eat well, and you learn things.

Kavkaz Kebab
Where: 10902 Boulevard Circle, Owings Mills

Call: 410-998-9004

Open: Daily for lunch and dinner

Credit Cards: MC, Visa, Amex

Appetizers: $4.99-$5.99

Entrees: $12.99-$19.99

Food:

Service:

Atmosphere:

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Outstanding: Good: Fair or uneven: Poor:

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