Located in the predominately Korean stretch of El Camino Real in Santa Clara is Five Star Falafel and Kebab, whose name, which seems to emphasize falafels more than kebabs, might be a little misleading. While this is a casual deli/cafe that sells some Middle Eastern foods, its specialty is Turkish food. Where Five Star Falafel shines is with its kebabs, shawarma wraps, Mediterranean salads and lentil soup.

For starters, I would recommend the Turkish coffee ($1.50), which is a smooth dark tea. When you purchase a cup, the owner directs you to a metal urn with the tea in concentrate form. Underneath it is a hot-water dispenser. You can make the tea as strong or as weak as you like. I mixed mine one-third tea and two-thirds hot water at the owner’s suggestion, which made for an easy, but still flavorful tea. The appetizer list features mostly Middle Eastern foods, though there are a few surprises, like the ezme ($3.99), which is a spicy Turkish side dish consisting of mashed tomatoes, walnuts and spices. The appetizer combo plate ($8.99) features a little bit of each appetizer item, including the ezme.

Lentil soup is a standard dish found all over Turkey, although prepared a little differently in each region. Five Star Falafel’s soup, which is $3.50, is the owners’ own homemade version. The blend of lentils and potatoes, as well as the very subtle spicing, creates a tasty, hearty and satisfying dish.

There are several meats (and nonmeat options) to choose from for the large wraps, including, of course, lamb, beef and chicken shawarma, which are all delicious and available for $6.99. The same meats are offered as platters, but there are some less-common Turkish options on the platter menu as well, like the Adana kebab (spicy minced lamb) for $9.95 and the Iskender (thin sliced lamb/beef basted with tomatoes) and beyti (skewer-grilled ground lamb and beef) kebabs, both for $11.99.

Any time I am at a Mediterranean restaurant, there is no doubt I’m having some baklava. Apparently, the owner told me, both Turkey and Greece claim ownership to its creation. Instead of honey, Five Star Falafel’s baklava is made with a liquidy, homemade syrup. This results in sweeter flavors. An order comes with two and is $2.50. The highlight of my meal was the kunefe, which tasted kind of like a sweet grilled-cheese sandwich. For $3.99, it is made from a unique Turkish cheese they call “sweet cheese” that is used almost exclusively for kunefe.  The cheese is encased in shredded filo dough, cooked for 10 minutes and served hot with the same sweet syrup as the baklava.

Five Star Falafel and Kebabs
3099 El Camino Real, Santa Clara; 408.241.1900