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by Liam Hetherington
Manchester, United Kingdom
November 22, 2009
From journal "...And The Imam Fainted!"
February 28, 2004
A welcoming host is usually there to greet you at the entrance, or in front of the restaurant during a slower moment. The glass counter on the main floor displays the range of desserts you can order later, and they all look scrumptious. A walk up the stairs to the rooftop is interesting. The floor above the entry level has tables with patrons who do not wish to dine on the roof. One more floor up takes you past a circle of Turkish men, all sitting inwardly and enjoying tea, smokes and conversation. This informal men's club included only local men, so no travelers and no women. One more floor up and you will now have an appetite to enjoy some great Turkish cuisine!
Before you get your entree, a pleasant waiter brings you a slab of fresh and hot bread to start things off. This stuff is great and one of the distinctive pleasures of most dine-out meals in Turkey. Tear off a tasty piece, crispy and topped with sesame seeds, and you will cringe at going back home to your loaf of white bread. The soups are popular on a fall evening tinted with a cool breeze.
The combination sampler plate is a great way to experience several taste sensations during one meal. The cooks pack bites of grilled meats (lamb, chicken, minced kofte) along with miniature pides (Turkish versions of pizza) with cheese and minced meat, tomato-tinged rice, plus colorful and fresh tomatoes and medium-hot peppers. Less adventurous palates may want to go with the chicken kebab, which is a slightly smaller plate than the combo but delicious nevertheless. Every bite tastes fresh and delicious, and the portions all seem just right. I say this because you will want to try one of the wonderful dessert items. Selections include rum baba, perhaps the best treat of them all, round honey-soaked dough balls that are not overwhelmingly sweet. The version of baklava served here is like round disks, not too flaky but still densely layered with delectable chopped pistachios, honey and phyllo. The "Turkish delight" is not quite the typical nut-filled gummy candy cubes, but is akin to eating a slab of crunchy chow mein noodles drenched with honey.
Cap off your dinner with a small glass of cay (pronounced "chai"), the Turkish word for tea. Exotic flavors include apple, orange and kiwi. My first sip of the kiwi brew, tinted the color of mouthwash, was rather bland. However, once I dropped a sugar cube into the glass, the strong fruity flavor was released and the cay became memorably delicious.
From journal Bill in Turkey - ISTANBUL