Last Saturday Irm and I, accompanied by our friend Poshak, dined at the Istanbul restaurant, a place recommended to us by our neighbors. We arrived at the restaurant around 2:45PM, and had no problem finding a table.
Since I was born and raised in a culture that is influenced by Middle Eastern cuisines, there are a few dishes I normally test to determine their Middle Eastern authenticity. The dishes are: Falafel, Kibbe, salads. I also test the authenticity of the spices used for meats. Most Middle Eastern restaurants that we have visited in the past have yet to pass this test (with the exception of one), and we were hoping for a positive outcome.
For our appetizers we ordered 4 dishes: falafel, kibbe, Lahmajoun, and mixed salads. The mixed salads contained 5 items: hummus, lebni, ezme, eggplant sauce, and babagannus. The appetizers were supplemented with a homemade Turkish bread, and a bowl of delicious olive oil.
The falafel was superb! I have eaten a lot of different falafel dishes in dozens of places, but only a few places managed to impressed me the way this place did. For the most part, business owners either buy falafel that is frozen, or lack the basic knowledge of preparing this simple, but yet, delicious dish. The chef at the Istanbul restaurant did a great job creating the perfect mix of ingredients, resulting in a very tasty dish.
Growing up in the Middle East, I have tasted some great Kibbes, and thus my standards are quite high. I’m thrilled to report that the kibbe at the Istanbul restaurant was the best kibbe I have tasted in a very long time. It was made with real bulgur, had the right filling and the prefect texture. If you have never tried this type of dish before, the Istanbul restaurant is a good place to start.
The Lahmajoun is a popular Middle Eastern dish and, just like the Italian pizza, can be found in every corner in those countries. As far as the Lahmajoun served on our table it was satisfying.
Finally, I want to talk about the bread. If I were asked to describe it in one word, I say delicious! It was truly an authentic homemade Turkish bread (sorry, no picture). We enjoyed it very much.
We ordered three entrés: the Istanbul combination, Adana kebab, and the veci guvec (see pictures below).
All three dishes were absolutely delicious! I especially ordered the Istanbul combination because I wanted to sample the variety of meats they had to offer. I must warn you though, it is a big dish that you probably won’t be able to finish by yourself (I didn’t, and that tells you something). The veci guvec (all vegetarian) dish that our friend ordered was very tasty too. In fact, Irm tasted it and liked it so much that she said she would order it on our next visit.
Needless to say, all meats passed the authenticity test I mentioned earlier. They were all perfectly seasoned and grilled to perfection.
There is something to be said about a restaurant that bakes its own desserts. The Istanbul restaurant offers a vast variety of them, but we only had ‘room’ for two: the baklawa with walnuts, and the Kunufe. No matter what you do, you MUST order the kunafe. It was absolutely delicious.
Unlike other Baklawas I have had in the past, I liked the fact that I could actually taste the big chunks of walnuts.The Baklawa with walnuts was good, but offered no match to the delicious Kunufe.
As for their Turkish coffee, Irm felt that it left a lot to be desired. Irm, who has tasted the best of the Turkish coffees, thought it lacked some quality. She felt that this is one thing the restaurant needs to pay more attention to, given that it is a Turkish restaurant.
Overall, the Istanbul restaurant scored high on my list of places to eat. It offers plenty of authentic Turkish dishes, and leaves a taste for more. I give it a 4 stars rating.