I first became familiar with doner kebab in Nova Scotia. Visiting a friend attending college in Halifax, I was consumed with (and myself consumed) the many iterations of meat sliced from the rotating cone. This was no gyro. The seasoning was completely different, but what I loved about gyros remained in the crisp-edged slivers of lamb-and-beef mix. The condensed milk-based sauce wasn’t exactly my favorite, but no matter. It turns out that’s only an issue in Canada, where, incidentally, it’s spelled donair.
I bring this up, because I’m falling in love again with the many ways of serving doner thanks to last month’s opening of Taste of Istanbul in Reston. Since starting life as a farmers market vendor in 2017, the Karaman family has been showing their command of the dish. Now, it’s served on their restaurant’s menu on pides, in wraps, and on platters. But my favorite way to enjoy the blistered, paper-thin slices is served over fresh bites of pita bread and bathed in tomato sauce as the iskender kebab.
As you can see from the photo above, though it’s pricy at $19, the iskender is a hulking portion. I had grand plans for leftovers. But they were thwarted by the sheer ease of eating the mild meat. The pleasure is simple; just sheets of meat combined with the warm pita and enough tomato sauce to thinly cover them. It’s served with fresh, tangy yogurt and a grilled tomato and chile. That’s it. But it disappears all too quickly.
1862 Explorer St., Reston
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