The Turkish restaurant has broadened its appeal with such dishes as grilled fish and beyti sarma.
As if the weekend weren't enough reward, Cafe Shish Kebab has sweetened the pot.
The Turkish restaurant on the Northwest Side has begun adding dishes presented on Friday and Saturday only, the exclamation point on the busy work week for a great many of us.
Ahmet Karaca recently purchased the restaurant from its founder and chef, Fatih Gunal, the current operator of Cafe Istanbul in Easton. Gunal's success led to the expansion of the store, which has warm wood paneling,
Turkish artwork and an open, spacious dining room with a small private dining area near the back. Despite the elegant backdrop, the restaurant is fairly casual, with lots of energy. The service is distinctly pleasurable: water
glasses are filled regularly, plates are delivered in a timely fashion and servers guide diners through the menu.
Karaca has maintained the high standard of the restaurant, in part, by hiring Ali Yerli, a chef who worked in the American Consulate in Istanbul for 23 years. (Karaca's brother, Can, who studied at the Paul Bocuse Institute in
France, also is in the kitchen.)
Yerli's braised lamb shank ($16.95) is impossibly tender and moist - a rib-sticking affair that's lightly sauced and has thin slices of eggplant lapped over the top. There are other assorted vegetables with the plate, served
The beyti sarma ($14.95) reminds us of the days when the Anatolia Cafe called the dish the special beyti kebab. No matter what the name, it's still a remarkable entree. The slender columns of ground lamb are laced with a
small dice of onion, garlic and peppers, wrapped in thin lavash and drizzled with yogurt and a zesty tomato sauce.
Two fish entrees said to be shipped in each Thursday from Turkey are in regular rotation on the weekend menu. Each is served with a small complimentary bowl of wonderful lentil soup, given a last-minute dash of chili
Both the Mediterranean striped bass (levrek, $21) and dorado (chupra, $21) are marinated in olive oil and lemon juice before being grilled. There are subtle differences between the fish, served whole, but we marveled in the
mild smoky flavor of the meat. Each is plated with colorful ornamentation: decoratively cut onion and lemon and a coil of lemon zest, a row of cucumber and tomato coins and a wonderful salad dressed in a simple but zippy
basil vinaigrette, tart with lemon. It's a generous serving, considering each meal is preceded by the irresistible house bread and its attendant saucer of olive oil containing chopped, sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary.
Still, it's always difficult to pass up one of the many chilled Turkish appetizers, such as ezme ($5.95), a complex tomato spread with chopped bell peppers, cucumbers and myriad spices or the haydari ($5.95), a yogurt dip
accented with dill.
The restaurant has obtained a license to sell wine and stocked the shelves with several Turkish labels. While it could stand to broaden the by-the-glass selection, the only two choices ($6.95 each) - Cankaya (white) and
Yakut (red) from Kavaklidere - are worth a try.
A different kind of delight emerged from a narrow hallway, dressed in flowing magenta chiffon and a gold-spangled tasseled uniform. Of course, we're referring to Yasmillah, the gyrating bellydancer whose mysterious moves
captivated the audience. Some diners were pulled from their seats to join the pulsating movement.
Ah, we thought, visions of loveliness, on the plate and beyond.