Somehow, some way, Fountain Valley has become the focal point for Turkish cuisine in Orange County, a fast-growing genre that was almost invisible not even five years ago. There's now a bakery, two restaurants, a grocery store and even more eateries in the works. Why Fountain Valley? No clue; most of the Turks I know live in Irvine and other South County cities.
The community is still in an embryonic state, but there's already a Little Istanbul growing on Warner Avenue just east of the 405 freeway. That's where Mr. Kebap recently opened, a long, skinny space in the same strip mall as the legendary Paul's Coffee Shop. Believe its name: Mr. Kebap is devoted to the art of grilling meats, with 10 combo plates, four wraps, and Turkish-style burgers and sandwiches. The cooks offer beef and chicken chopped, as a steak, as shish kebabs, as patties—even cubed—but all follow the central philosophy that meat needs a great grilling on the outside yet must remain juicy within. The best plate is also the rarest in these parts: Inegol kofta, a type of smoky, oblong Turkish meatball served six to an order around a mound of rice so buttery you almost get the urge to spread it on pancakes.
Vegetarians need not avoid Mr. Kebap; in addition to dolmas and daily casserole specials (think cheesy, hefty eggplant and bell pepper dishes), there's also an array of dips. The servings could be a bit more generous, but you won't complain after trying the yogurtlu havuc: fried carrots in yogurt, a spread that combines the savoriness of baba ghanoush with the zest of a great hummus. Even better is the tangy yogurtlu semizotu, the only use of purslane I know in culinary OC right now outside of a Mexican restaurant.
Mr. Kebap promises a breakfast menu soon, and it's already catering many Turkish parties across OC. Even better: There's a multicultural crowd whenever I visit. Will Turkish food join Vietnamese, Mexican and Middle Eastern as part of our culinary lingua franca? Let's hope so—and let's give credit to Fountain Valley for giving it a start.