In order to make cağ kebab, which is thought to be the predecessor to döner kebab, lamb meat is sliced and impaled on a thick skewer and then cooked as it rotates on a horizontal spit. When the outer layer of meat is cooked, the meat is cut deep towards the middle into cubes and placed on thin skewers called cağ. The deeper parts are uncooked, so these parts are grilled and then served with lavaş (flatbread).
This is just a summary of the cooking method. However, describing the taste isn’t quite that easy; words fail when one tries to define this flavor. Without a doubt, the best cağ kebab you can eat is found at Dadaş Usta Cağ Kebapçısı (Dadaş Usta Cağ Kebab Maker). This franchise opened a cağ kebab restaurant in the Fatih district of İstanbul approximately one year ago. I recently found a chance to try it.
Dadaş Usta was among the first people to start a cağ kebab restaurant in İstanbul. Dadaş Usta, who became renowned first in the Beşiktaş district in 1992, then in Maslak and lastly in Büyükçekmece, is now hosting customers in his modest 100-person restaurant located on Fevzipaşa Street in Fatih. The location doesn’t have a highly impressive ambiance -- it’s a long and narrow place -- but the taste it offers is magnificent.
First of all, the ayran aşı (soup with yoghurt and wheat), for which Erzurum is famous, is great. People in Erzurum add small meatballs to this soup which they call “aş otu” but since İstanbulites don’t like it with meatballs the soup is made without them.
Unlike in other cağ kebab restaurants in İstanbul, the cubes of meat on cağ skewers are so thick and meaty that their flavor is intense. Dadaş Usta’s cooking time and the ratio of fat to meat he uses are right on the mark. Each cağ skewer with meat weighs around 80 grams. The cubes of meat which would be sliced very thinly in many other locations, becoming too dry, are sliced just the way they should be at Dadaş Usta’s place. Dadaş Usta, who is always minding the restaurant, says: “I use today’s meat. I never serve my customers meat that is left from the day before. I thread fresh meat on the skewer. The most important part of this business is using fresh meat. At the same time it is also important to use the meat of a 1-year-old sheep.”
Cağ kebab is served with onion, green peppers and tomatoes and should be followed by a dessert of kadayıf dolması (shredded wheat stuffed with walnuts and soaked in syrup). Dadaş Usta serves very good kadayıf dolması as well. This special dessert with walnuts is crispy and its syrup is properly dense. Dadaş Usta’s wife is the one who makes the kadayıf dolması, which is prepared just after it is ordered and fried in oil and served hot. These two dishes, cağ kebab and kadayıf dolması, are enough to satisfy anyone searching for a delicious meal. These two are quite enough, but if you want more, Dadaş Usta also serves a special meatball with onion dish, lamb and chicken shish, white beans from the İspir district of Erzurum, künefe (an oven-baked dessert made with shredded pastry and soft cheese filling in thick syrup) and kuzu kelle paça (soup made with lamb’s head and foot) cooked in the way specific to Erzurum.
If you want to have a feast, Dadaş Usta is the place to go. The only drawback will be that you will not be pleased with cağ kebabı in most other places after you’ve tasted the delicious cağ kebab made by Dadaş Usta. By the way, don’t forget to ask the waiter to “Stop serving,” or he will go on bringing you cağ kebab until you tell him to stop. I ate four skewers, but it is up to you how many skewers of cağ kebab you want to eat.
Why Dadaş Usta Cağ Kebabçısı?
The dishes I tried at Dadaş Usta Cağ Kebabçısı are very well made and fresh, and the service is fast. This place, managed by a staff of eight, is open between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. There is no private parking, so you need to park your car on the side of the road. Instead of a mescid, there is a mosque near the restaurant.The place isn’t decorated in a special way and the name of the previous restaurant that used to serve in the same location before Dadaş Usta is printed on the plates but this isn’t a big deal. Do focus on the meals!
The kadayıf dolması is served hot, for a change. You feel that you are eating real kadayıf dolması. There is a pistachio topping, which wasn’t originally added to kadayıf dolması. Lemon served for the salad was wrapped in a net in order to catch the seeds and ayran and water were served in glass bottles rather than plastic ones, which indicates the care that Dadaş Usta takes in providing a good meal to his customers.
The taste invites you!
Dadaş Usta Cağ Kebap
Fevzipaşa Cad. No: 126 Fatih, İstanbul Phone no: 0212 521 00 53-54
Delicious and affordable
Cağ dürüm (one skewer of cağ kebab wrapped in lavaş flatbread): TL 6
Lamb shish and çöp şiş (grilled small pieces of meat on a wooden skewer): TL 12
Special meatballs with onion: TL 9
Chicken shish and chicken wings: TL 9
Erzurum kuzu ayak çorbası (soup made with lamb’s foot as prepared in Erzurum): TL 6
Kuzu kelle paça soup: TL 6
Erzurum ayran aşı: TL 4
Smooth lentil soup with butter: TL 3
Various salads: TL 3-4
Kadayıf dolması: TL 3
Hatay künefe (a specialty from Hatay province): TL 5
Baked rice pudding (made with goat’s milk): TL 4
Cold beverages: TL 2