We chanced on Ephesus on a Monday in August 2005 when Regina and I found ourselves in Walnut Creek after a failed attempt at going out to tea in Clayton. We were hungry, the menu looked good, and the place had the kind of generic-stylish look that makes it a perfect lunch destination. In all, we had a nice lunch experience, though I wouldn't go out of my way (i.e. drive to Walnut Creek) to go back there again.
Ephesus calls itself a "kebab lounge" (whatever that may be) and proudly announces that it was voted Best of the East Bay in 2003 and 2004 by the East Bay Express for its kebabs. These, with a number of cold and hot "small dishes," constitute the entire menu. But you do get a wide variety of kebabs; from Kobe Beef and Filet Mignon to monkfish and tiger prawns to the more provincial chicken, lamb and kofte. Lunch kebab entrees include one skewer as well as rice pilaf and they're priced in the mid-teens. At dinner, they include two kebabs and they hover at around $20-27 - though expect to pay $40 for the kobe beef kebabs. Small dishes are mostly in the $7-9 range. When we visited, the lunch special included a small cold dish, a kebab and a drink for $15, so that's what I went for. Regina, on the other hand, decided on two small dishes: a chilled one and a hot one.
I started with the Circassian chicken described as "tender chicken breast in a walnut sauce with paprika and olive oil drizzle." In reality it turned out to be a coarse chicken mousse - it had the look and consistency of hummus and was so salty that I couldn't eat it. Take my advice and stay far, far away from this dish.
Regina started with the bulgur lettuce wraps, which consisted of a mixture of bulgur, Anaheim peppers and dill served with romaine leaves, and we both liked them. They were nicely spiced and quite refreshing, and I'd definitely order them again.
Regina was also pleased with her second dish of Zucchini cakes which she thought were quite tasty. My lamb kebab was also good; it had a few chewy parts but it was mostly tender and the marinate of Turkish spices complimented the taste of the lamb rather than overwhelming it. Still, it wasn't anything out of this world - and it's difficult to believe these would be the best kebabs in the Bay Area. The accompanying rice pilaf was very mildly spiced, but it helped fill me up.
We were the only people in the restaurant by then - it was a late lunch - and service was fine in the sense of refilling our drinks and pacing the dishes, but the waiter never asked how the meal was and if he noticed my almost untouched Circassian chicken he didn't say anything about it. He did offer to box it to take home, an offer I was quick to decline.
In all, I think Ephesus is a fine dining choice for Walnut Creek residents. It seemed expensive to me but maybe it's appropriate for the area. Still, it's not worth going out of your way to find it.
1321 Locust St.
Walnut Creek, CA