I am of the opinion that authenticity is something to consider with regard to dining at establishments specializing in the cuisine of specific countries or regions. For this reason, Japanese restaurants always seem to have a traditional aesthetic and Mexican taquerias always look like a mercado de la puebla in Oaxaca or Acapulco.
Following this unspoken, unwritten rule, many restaurants specializing in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Asian food look like the inside of a Persian harem with elaborately decorated lanterns, reproductions of Moghul Period art, and the requisite decorative hookah in the corner. So it comes as a surprise that The Kebab Factory looks absolutely modern – and pretty much looks like a standard-issue present-day cafeteria because the food is prepared at a steam table at one end of the restaurant and is served on dinky melamine plates.
But don’t let that keep you from enjoying the wealth of flavors this joint offers. In fact, a hint of quirkiness makes your meal more interesting. Case in point is the starter shown above: baba ganoush with flatbread is presented in a somewhat unusual manner. Instead of dishing up this tasty eggplant dip in a bowl or a small soup plate, this creamy melange of roasted eggplant, yogurt, and garlic is served in a highball glass with a drizzle of olive oil, a dusting of tart sumac with a hint of chili, and a whole green olive plunged into the center of the dip. Additional chopped olives are also mixed into the dip, the zingy tart taste balancing the smooth, creamy, smoky bitterness. Even the flatbread is presented differently: layered onto a paper spike – the kind you usually see in professional kitchens (for finished orders) or editorial offices (for finished assignments). Crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle, these wedges are the perfect size for scooping up the baba ganoush.
TKF also has platters to share under the heading Ultimate Plates. One nifty choice is the Kebab Trio which has a three-kebab assortment on top of a bright yellow biryani with crisp coriander-seed pappadums and grilled tomatoes on the side.
I daresay that no extenders seem to have been used in the kebabs as these were meaty all the way through with the cumin-spiced lamb becoming a personal favorite. The well-seasoned beef comes a close second, but the chicken – while perfectly spiced and flavorful – was on the dry side. The mildly spiced rice works a treat with the meats, complementing rather than overpowering the flavors.
That said, what The Kebab Factory lacks in aesthetics, it certainly more than makes up for in flavor and savor.
The Kebab Factory: Ground Floor – SM Jazz Mall, Nicanor Garcia cor. Jupiter Sts., Bel-Air, Makati