Sunday, April 10, 2011

Istanbul Revisited

Our first visit to Istanbul Grill was the restaurant's second evening open. We had a fabulous time with great food and good service.

As a result of a combination of reasons like being creatures of habit, indecisive, and frugal, we ordered the same dish -- the Dinner for Two ($39):
:: small mixed appetizer (two people)
:: mixed grill kebab entrée
:: two desserts

I was curious about a drink listed as "Ayran" ($1.50) and inquired with our spritely server. She described it as a savory yogurt drink. I must have appeared hesitant, as she quickly asked whether I would like to try a sample.

A minute later, she returned with a tumbler of a viscous white liquid. Slightly thicker than milk and a sourness similar to plain yogurt, this would have made a mundane drink. However, once the drink was swallowed, the salty flavor came through along with a palate cleansing dryness. I shared a sip with Bug, who nodded with approval.

Our server returned for our verdict. Bug nursed the remainder in the tumbler, while I enjoyed my goblet of ayran throughout the meal.

A few minutes later, our appetizer arrived.

IstanbulGrill Appetizer2

This time around, the rice in the dolma, stuffed grape leaves, had a better consistency but wasn't as sweet so it didn't have as unusual a flavor.

What a difference 6 months makes. The garlicky soslu patlican dip, similar to baba gannoush with its chunks of eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers mixed with minced onions, garlic, and parsley, did not make me slink away. I enjoyed it immensely, but diverted my time towards devouring the other offerings that I picked at on our previous trip because of their inclusion of raw onions or profuse amounts of garlic (coming from a raw onion and garlic hater).

IstanbulGrill AppetizerPlate
My plate

Ezme salad and kisir were in my sights tonight. The salad, made with parsley, tomatoes, onions, peppers, walnuts, and lemon olive oil, was refreshing after months of winter food.

Kisir, a salad of parsley, bulghur wheat, scallions, red and green peppers, olive oil, and lemon is similar to tabbouleh; as such, it was another refreshing dish due to its piquancy and texture.

IstanbulGrill Entree
Mixed grill

Our entrée arrived before we could finish our appetizer, so we rearranged our small table to accommodate the large platter of chicken and lamb shish kebab, döner, and adana over pilaf. This worked out rather conveniently, since we were able to enjoy part of the appetizer, which consisted largely of vegetables, together with the grilled meats and rice scooped onto the pitas. I am sure I ate my allotment of pitas for the month!

While the flavor of the rice remained delicious, it was overcooked on this visit. As a fanatic of their adana, ground lamb and beef seasoned with herbs, spices, and vegetables, grilled on skewers, and the availability of the appetizers, the disappointment of the pilaf was a memory as I left most of it for Bug, who felt similarly.

Adana, being mostly meat, doesn't feel quite as heavy to me as chopped skewered whole meat. A skewer of adana with rice pilaf and a plate of salad with lemon olive oil dressing would be a meal that I would love to eat many times a week!

As with our previous trip, we packed up at least a third of the entrée to take home, and picked out our dessert -- kadayif and kazandibi.

IstanbulGrill Dessert
Sugar and spice

Kadyif, shredded wheat with pistachios and honey, was sweet compared with the less assertive kazandibi, a thick pudding dusted with cinnamon. Both desserts were delectable, but our dessert palates, at least of late, have been leaning towards less sweet.

Our server was wonderful, and the food was, for the most part, excellent. Yet again, a fantastic experience overall. Our next trip won't come too soon.

- Cassaendra

Istanbul Grill
2505 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113-4610
Tel: (216) 298-4450

2 deep thoughts:

Michael 13 April, 2011 01:49  

This sounds very similar to Persian food which I do like but is awfully expensive for the amount you get.

I like the idea of grilled meats and the appetizer plate looks wonderful. Its inspiring to see how people prepare the same ingredients, ie eggplant, around the world.

If we could only get you to love garlic and onions, you could be tasting Turkish food for hours afterwards!

Cassaendra 16 April, 2011 10:06  

Hiya Michael,

I love the area's food, and would like to try real Persian food one day. Lately, we have been making Middle Eastern food more often than American and Japanese food.

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