Thursday, 6 December 2007
Tas Firin Ocakbasi Grill, Shoreditch
Like a moth drawn to a flame, I am genetically pre-programmed to try anywhere serving obscure ethnic cuisine with a silly name, even if said food turns out to be quite inedible and there's a very good reason for its obscurity. I have no idea how to pronounce Ocakbasi, but as far as I can tell from a quick Google it just means 'Turkish grill'. So, essentially a kebab shop then? It's amazing isn't it, how pretention to some sort of trendy "next big thing" can draw rave reviews of even the most mundane place from people desperate to say they were first to discover it. People like me, for example.
The decor treads a fine line between odd and very odd, with pictures of happy Turkish peasants on the wall next to a bizarre tiki-hut bar which is too small to sit at but dominates a good third of the tiny restaurant. There is also an impressive-looking wood-fired oven which looked to be in constant use over the course of our meal and yet all the bread we were served was cold and fairly bland so God knows where the fresh stuff was going.
Being just the two of us yesterday lunchtime, and attempting to get as much of an idea as possible of the skills of the kitchen, we chose a selection of hot starters (lamb livers, hummous, calamari, halloumi) and one chicken shish to see if their grilling was up to much. Livers were tasty but just on the wrong side of dry and had been cooked too long for my liking. They also arrived almost immediately so clearly had been prepared well in advance. The calamari were pretty bad too - greasy and unpleasant batter but the squid inside at least wasn't too rubbery. Halloumi was just as you'd expect - in fact we saw him opening the packet of the bog standard stuff you can get at ASDA. It was nice of course, but Halloumi is always nice isn't it?
Perhaps most disappointing though was the chicken shish kebab, which was mundanely spiced and a little on the dry side. Not exactly bad, just very boring, and again no better than anything you could get at any 2am kebab shop, never mind somewhere claiming to be a specialist grill house. The accompanying veg was equally uninspriring, although the rice was nice and buttery. Hummous was hummous - uniformly pallid and unlikely to have been made in house.
The one saving grace, I suppose, was that it was fairly inexpensive. Just over £20 for all that food, and the portions were nothing if not generous, so if you just want to fill a hole and aren't that bothered about quality then why not give it a go. Just don't expect to be blown away - despite the fancy subtitle, Tas Firin is just another standard kebab shop.