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Meşhur Oltu Kebapçısı November 19, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine.
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Originating in the eastern Turkish province of Erzurum, cağ kebabı is a controversial dish. The exact location of its birth is a source of perennial dispute, with the cities of Tortum and Oltu both claiming ownership. As a result, this particular variety of kebab sometimes bears the name of either city, but also occasionally goes by the less-specific distinction of Erzurum kebabı.

Cağ kebabı is different from typical döner in that the lamb is marinated in a mixture of yogurt, black pepper and sliced onion for an entire day before being cooked horizontally on a spit over a wood fire. The result is a robustly flavored meat that combines spice and texture in the manner reminiscent of a Brazilian churrasqueria.

Cağ kebabı has the reputation of being a regional dish; I have met several people from Erzurum who insist that it simply cannot be found outside the city and its surroundings. But through a recommendation from the head chef at the very excellent Akdeniz Mutfağı restaurant in the Bilkent Hotel, I was able to find Sadık Usta’s Meşhur Oltu Kebapçısı, located on Atpazar Sk. by the castle in Ulus (Google Maps).

In previous posts, I’ve bemoaned restaurants that try to do too much, offering tomes as menus and producing mediocre food as a result. Meşhur Oltu Kebapçısı represents the antithesis of this approach: It prepares only one dish and does it beautifully. Eaten in tortilla-like lavaş bread with onions, pickles, spicy peppers and a tomato-cucumber mix, cağ kababı is a welcomed change from the ubiquitous et or tavuk döner around the city.

The prices at Meşhur Oltu Kebapçısı are reasonable, but a bit elevated (by Ulus standards) due to its location next to what is probably Ankara’s only tourist attraction. A sizable meal with a drink comes to about 15TL ($10 at 1.49TL/$).