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July 2017

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Istanbul (not Constantinople)

Sunday night B took me out for dinner at the new Turkish restaurant in Ithaca, Istanbul

It's a delightful little place. We got there early enough for it not to be crowded and the waitress was able to tell us a bit about the place. Many of the decoration are imported from Turkey, and they sell key chains with traditional Turkish decorations. There is a huge blue eye pattern on the wall over the door to the kitchen and the key chains are also decorated with the blue glass eye patterns. They are meant to ward off the "evil eye". My friend Marilyn brought me one about the size of my palm, from Greece.

I've never had Turkish food before but it was similar to other Middle Eastern and Indian food I have enjoyed.

We started with drinks. B had the Turkish tea, which was served in a small shot glass. It was very hot. B described it as strong but surprisingly not at all bitter. I had the Ayran, a tall glass of cold yogurt drink with salt and pepper. It was similar to a salt Lassi that you can get at Indian restaurants. I usually go for the mango lassi, but this was surprisingly light and refreshing, without being watery.

We went with the Karisik meze for our starter. Mezeler is Turkish for "small plates" or appetizers. The Karisik meze is a mixed appetizer platter, Since this was our first visit we wanted to sample as many things as we could.

It came with a plate of "Turkish Pita" which was a very tall airy bread with a very chewy texture. And a bowl of oil and olives to dip the bread in.

The second plate contained the cold sampler assortment. Some of the Mezeler contain meat but none of the samples on the mixed platter do. This good to know if you are a vegetarian.

Yaprak Sarma Turkish stuffed grape leaves. Served cold these were indistinguishable from Dolmades. But I like dolmades so that was fine with me. They were vegetarian.

Cacik: Homemade Turkish yogurt complimented with fresh parsley, cucumbers, and garlic. This is very much like Tzatziki, although a little bland for my taste.

Soslu patlican Chopped baby eggplant, baked and mixed with red pepper paste, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil. We thought this might be like a baba ganoush, but it was more like a cold and very oily ratatouille. I love cold ratatouille, so I enjoyed it.

Bulgur salad We thought it might be like tabouli but was more like couscous.

Peynir We got two slabs of Turkish Feta Cheese.

I ate my Yaprak Sarma and mixed Cacik, Soslu patlican, Bulgur salad, and Peynir together and ate it with my spoon. I wasn't sure what else to do with them. There wasn't enough bread to put them on. The Cacik was too bland to put on bread and I tend not to put bulgar on top of bread. It tasted good.

Ana Yemekler means main dishes.

B had the Vegie Kebab Special Turkish mixed vegetables (eggplant and zucchini) marinated and grilled served with Turkish pilaf, Mor Lahana Salatasi (red cabbage salad), and Havuc Salatasi (carrot salad with yogurt).

I had the Iskender Kebab Thin slices of lamb and beef served over Turkish flat-bread with Acili Ezme (Turkish spicy chopped salsa with fresh parsley and lemon) and Cacik (Turkish yogurt with fresh parsley, cucumbers, and garlic). This was a great pile of food. The flat-bread was cut into strips and layered as a base for the meat, with a pool of yogurt sauce on one side the fresh salsa on top of the meat and all topped with a single small roasted bell pepper. I'm not big on peppers but this was tasty. It was also full of liquid so be careful if you pick it up and bite it like I did. I had trouble figuring out how to eat this dish. I tried pulling out some flat-bread strips and using them to pick up the meat but that didn't work. I ended up just using my knife and fork. It was really good. I like lamb and I would happily eat this again.

What is Ishkender?
"Invented in Bursa, Turkey, Iskender is actually trademarked by the Iskender family, who has the exclusive rights to sell the meal in Turkey. But, there more Iskender copies in Istanbul than fake Iphones, so finding an imitation is no problem. The succulent meat sits on the fresh bread, the thick yogurt is there to cool your mouth, and the entire thing is topped with melted butter. Comfort food times four."


For desert B ordered the baklava and I ordered the tel kadayif which is the shredded wheat looking variety. Both were made with pistachios instead of walnuts. And they were pleasantly light, not soaking in sugar syrup. Very nice.

B and I intend to go back on Friday to try their lunch menu. For lunch they serve dürüm (rolls). Kabobs wrapped in flat-bread. We think that will be like Gyros.

I called my mother after we left to recommend she try this restaurant. I would love to take her here.

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