Does anyone know who invented the kabob? Was it the Arabs? Persians? Turks? The Greeks? I know Israelis and Palestinians fight over who created the falafel like they fight over everything else, but the Great Kabob Debate is something I pondered while eating at Mama Kabob in Tustin over the weekend.
This spacious restaurant (made even larger by a hookah tent occupying the front patio) used to be a Hawaiian-Japanese restaurant that never quite pleased me. I had heard about Mama Kabob a while back, but only visited after another dive I'm scoping wasn't open and the Mama Kabob marquee shined bright enough to see from 17th Street, or whatever Tustin calls its stretch of the SanTana boulevard. I thought I was entering an Arab restaurant but was surprised when the waiter gave me a menu with Persian treats like polos and their funky pickled vegetables even though it advertised the meal as "Meditteranean." Last time I checked, Iran bordered the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman, not the Meditteranean.
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Then things got weirder. I ordered a beef plate, but what came out was more like Greek gyro. Perhaps the most famous encounter between the Greeks and Persians was Thermopylae, but what Mama Kabob offered wasn't bad--juicy, but a bit too burnt even for my carne asada-bred tongue. And what the hell was the pieces of lettuce masquerading as a salad topped with some weird corn dressing?
If you went to Mama Kabob, I wouldn't ridicule you afterwards, but if Mama Kabob wants to succeed, they need to drop prices and stop with its schizophrenic identity. And offering tiramisu instead of saffron pudding as dessert? Oy vey...
Mama Kabob, 13931 Carroll Way, Tustin, (714) 505-8922. Why is Persian food always more expensive than Arab cuisine?