Sako’s originated in Granada Hills and moved behind the Venetian Palace banquet hall in 2002. John and Ani Panosian have owned the restaurant for the past two years. The couple retained the name of the original owner, who still makes doner kebab using his recipes. John produces everything else. Ani and daughter Karen run the front of the house. Décor is minimal, limited to paintings of Turkey lining the dining room walls. Thankfully, the food is much more inspired.
Three dishes are available Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only: Chikofte (raw meat with bulgur and spices), Kabuga (lamb ribs) and Ciger (beef liver). While all three were tempting, we decided on the second option ($6). The chain of six ribs was luscious and pleasantly gamey, ringed with finely chopped oregano.
The Combination Plate ($16.50) allowed us to sample six different expertly grilled meats: beef kebab, chicken kebab, a single lamb chop, shaved doner kebab and the casing-free ground lamb kebab known as Kofte. Each meat was equally succulent, served with rice pilaf and grilled vegetables.
We felt compelled to order Sako’s Special (aka Iskender) ($14.50). Cuts of pita were piled with browned shavings of doner kebab and spicy tomato sauce, then surrounded by a sweetened moat of tangy yogurt. Sensational.
For dessert, Sako’s offers syrup soaked bread pudding and a hollowed-out quince, both topped with whipped cream. The lingering flavor of the grilled meat was so intoxicating that I didn’t want to sully its memory with a sweet dessert.