What made our journey to Bay Shish Kebab, the restaurant I’ve reported on below, so memorable was not so much the food, which I recall was very good, but the effort it took to get there. This was Gerry’s pick and his research did not figure in how difficult it would be to get to Sheepshead Bay, where Bay Shish Kebab was located, from our respective locations in Manhattan and Westchester. The first attempt to get to Bay Shish Kebab was thwarted because of bumper to bumper traffic on the West Side Highway. To get to Sheepshead Bay at anywhere near the appointed time was next to impossible. Communicating through cellphones, we diverted to a mediocre, thus, unmemorable restaurant in Chinatown. Gerry tried again a month later, but on the day we were to go there were several cancellations; enough to cancel the outing altogether. Maybe it wasn’t to be; maybe Gerry just had to pick another destination? But no, he was determined and a month later, we set out again for Sheepshead Bay.
Bay Shish Kebab
Gerry was insistent. He wouldn’t let the hour and a half drive to Sheepshead Bay be a deterrent in his pursuit of Bay Shish Kebab. Despite repeated protestations by his fellow food hounds and even after two failed tries, he would not give up his obsessive quest. This was becoming an Iraq-like fiasco with no end in sight. We had no choice but to gas up our vehicles and be prepared to sit in rush hour traffic in the middle of two of New York’s worst thoroughfares; the BQE for Gerry and Eugene and the West Side Highway for myself and Zio. But enduring the horrific drive would be the only way to free Gerry from the demons that were driving him to lead us all into the outer fringes of Brooklyn for what he had us believe would be the exotic cuisine of Uzbekistan.
There were no miracles; the trip did take an hour and a half with a foreboding sky-darkening downpour accompanying us throughout the journey. Even more foreboding was the fact that we were eating at a Muslim-run establishment on the beginning of the Jewish New Year. But, after numerous griping calls to Gerry as we sat in traffic, we finally made it to Sheepshead Bay and the elusive Bay Shish Kebab.
The restaurant, nestled prominently in the middle of a strip mall, was bright, and practically empty, yet the owners were waiting anxiously for “Gerry’s party.” Of course we were ravenous and thankfully pide, or freshly-baked Turkish bread, was brought to the table. The bread was Turkish, as were most of the items on the menu. There were a few Uzbek dishes, but the owner proclaimed that Bay Shish Kebab was a Turkish restaurant, not a Uzbek restaurant.
As soon a Rick arrived; his drive from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn a mere 25 minutes, we began to order; cold mixed appetizers, mantu dumplings, and Turkish pies, similar to pizza, but minus the tomato sauce and heavy on the lamb. The mixed appetizers were mostly familiar; babagannus (as it was spelled on the menu), humus (also how it was spelled on the menu), stuffed grape leaves, tabuleh, but also a few surprises including a Turkish specialty called soslu patlican, eggplant with tomatoes, peppers, onions in a peppery red sauce. The pide was perfect to soak up the dips. Then the Turkish pies arrived along with the mantu dumplings, tiny ravioli-like dumplings stuffed with ground meat and swimming in Turkish yogurt.
Of course, the appetizers alone could have sustained us, but we were here for the famed kebabs. With the exception of chicken, the kebabs were all variations of lamb—hand-chopped, cubed, diced, and sliced. We ordered an assortment and one Uzbek specialty, palav, also known as pilaf, or rice with chunks of lamb, onions, carrots, and chick peas. The platters were gargantuan with the variations of lamb and chicken served either over rice or soaked in yogurt that was absorbed by cubes of bread and accompanied with hollowed-out, slightly hot peppers. The table suddenly became quiet as we began to work through the mounds of food, Zio, as usual, deft with his fork, leading the way. Gerry’s folly, and the long journey had been temporarily forgotten.
After all the meat, dessert was out of the question for me, but Gerry and Zio had much more in their reserves than I and ordered the Turkish rice pudding. They will have to elaborate on what made the rice pudding distinctly Turkish, as opposed to the familiar Greek variety. Others thought coffee might help digest the enormous quantity of lamb we had just ingested, but the look on Eugene’s face when he took his first sip of his Turkish coffee was not promising. It brought back memories of the famed Filipino dessert with kidney beans and the Russian soft drink, Kavas; two of Eugene’s less than favorite exotic global eating experiences.
We were all quite content with Bay Shish Kebab and proclaimed it a winner until we received the check and Eugene added up the damage. We were way above our $20 budget for this one, but knowing how bizarrely meaningful this pick was to Gerry, let him slide. Next time, however, he will be held accountable.
Like Staten Island, where there are potentially many places that would fit our criteria, getting to Sheepshead Bay during the week at the height of rush hour, makes it next to impossible to venture. Maybe someday soon we will rise to the challenge. As for Bay Shish Kebab, my research has shown that it closed in mid-2010 for “renovations.” In other words: R.I.P. Bay Shish Kebab.