EVERETT — The food court at the Everett Mall had changed since the last time I visited, sometime during George H.W. Bush’s presidency.
For one thing, there was no sign of a Sbarro, which begs the question: Can a mall food court be a mall food court without a Sbarro? Apparently it can, though I’d hate to see what would happen if Orange Julius went away.
The change that’s actually worth a little celebration was the presence of some independent ethnic food vendors. With the decline of some brick-and-mortar retailers, perhaps mall food court rental costs are affordable for mom-and-pop operations.
Whatever the case, I’ll take an independent over the Subways and Panda Expresses any day.
At the Everett Mall, one of those independents is Navid Food, where chef Yahya Navid Kazemi, raised in Iran and trained in Turkey, has been serving up flavorful Turkish kebabs and more since opening for business about a month ago.
Sandwiched between a Baskin-Robbins and something called Pretzel Twister, Navid Food currently offers a short, 10-item menu — but, as Gordon Ramsay always says on his endless parade of TV shows, short menus are a plus because they signal that the cook doesn’t serve stuff he or she can’t do well — or prefab food they’ve bought in from a vendor.
At Navid, patrons can choose adana kebab, grilled minced meat with spices; chicken shish kebab, meat and meatless versions of pide ( yeasted bread baked with toppings), lahmachun (Turkish pizza, essentially, and baked in a pizza oven), and koftke (meatballs). They’re served with grilled onions and peppers, yogurt sauce, lime and your choice of rice or naan.
Red lentil soup, a Turkish salad of tomatoes, olives, cucumber and parsley, and a pasta dish round out the menu.
For dessert, have a slice of baklava with a cup of strong Turkish coffee.
Nothing costs more than 10 bucks.
For lunch recently, Herald colleague Sara Bruestle and I sampled the adana kebab, the chicken shish kebab and a meat and egg pide.
I don’t recall eating Turkish cuisine before, but it was familiar to Sara.
“Turkish food reminds me of Persian food,” she said. “I have fond memories of having grilled kebabs with roasted vegetables (onion, bell pepper, tomato) and rice on the back deck at my aunt and uncle’s house in Issaquah. My uncle is from Iran.”
She noted that the chef was speaking Farsi (the Persian language) to his staff.
As for what the chef made:
My adana was nicely seasoned, moist but not greasy, and had an appropriately springy texture. The chicken breast in Sara’s shish kebab was moist yet cooked through, with a pleasing lemony flavor. She dipped slices of cucumber and tomato in the yogurt sauce for a satisfying side dish.
Sara looked covetously at the pile of grilled red peppers and onions that came with my adana. They were tasty but would have benefited greatly had they been cooked to order or at least not been placed on the plate directly from the fridge. The naan with my dish was fine; so was the knob of rice that accompanied Sara’s lunch.
I took the pide home to reheat in the oven for dinner. It’s a yeasted dough that’s baked with toppings, and finished a tahini sauce and sunny side-up fried egg. I think I tasted a note of sumac, a common Turkish spice.
Everything was flavorful, faintly exotic and — yes, I know it’s faint praise — did not make us long for Sbarro.
If you go
Find Navid Food at the Everett Mall Food Court, 1402 SE Everett Mall Way, Everett. Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Call 206-854-8136 or go to navidfood.wordpress.com for more information.