Bug was thoughtful and took me to Istanbul Grill on the last day of my 365 project, as it was with the sign outside of the restaurant that we embarked on this little-over-year long pictorial chronicle.
It was thundering and pouring out so we scurried through the door and handed the hostess the newspaper in its wet plastic sleeve that was left at the doorstep. At the bar were two patrons and one table with diners, more than I expected 30 minutes after opening on a stormy day. The restaurant was refreshingly cool, contrasting the steamy rain outside.
Ayran was on my mind, even though I made a glass two days ago. The salted yogurt drink has a dry and cleansing sensation on my palate, yet is thirst quenching. Aside from being a great drink, I desired it more to confirm whether I correctly remembered the flavor and texture from the last/first time I tried it 15 months earlier. Alas, ayran was unavailable.
Bug selected patlican dip ($5.95), better known as baba ganoush, to start our meal. Smoky from the mashed eggplants with a thick, garlicky blend of tahini and a bit of lemon, this appetizer is substantial as a meal with the soft and toasty warm pitas that arrive in abundance.
When we ate here the first time, which was the second day the restaurant opened, we were offered a second basket of pitas after we gobbled through our first basket, having ordered the mixed appetizer that comes with 7 items from their cold appetizer offerings. The basket was just as plentiful as pictured below. At the time, I felt embarrassed.
As is my tendency, I made a few substitutions to my order. These substitutions were listed on the menu, so I did not expect any issues. Substitutions are soup in place of fries for an additional $1.50, and rice in place of pita for an additional $1.00.
With a choice between chicken soup with mushrooms and red lentil, I selected red lentil. A large bowl arrived several minutes after the patlican dip. The soup had a thin yet full texture with a light flavor of mint in the paprika-seasoned spicy tomato soup. A thinner soup, even with blended lentils, this is a beautiful summer time soup that is dissimilar to thicker, sweet American tomato soup.
Several minutes later, our "sandwiches" arrived. Bug ordered a kofte sandwich ($8.95) with no substitutions, so he received a wonderful batch of batter dipped fries and a grilled pita to wrap his kofte, ground, seasoned, then grilled lamb, and salad. To Bug's disappointment, the platter came with (only) three pieces of kofte. He enjoyed the moist kofte separately, making a sandwich out of his and my salad and cacik, a thin yogurt sauce made with fresh dill and cucumbers similar to tzatziki.
I ordered the chicken adana sandwich ($8.95) and substituted the fries and pita with soup (above) and rice. The lightly seasoned rice was nearly perfectly done. I'm also a perfectionist when it comes to rice texture.
The chicken adana (ground, seasoned, then grilled chicken) was beautifully spiced with paprika, along with red peppers, onions, and garlic. I believe my order came with cacik, since we received two cups. It was fully utilized as a dip for the pita that came with our appetizer and fries I stole from Bug's platter.
We were sated, but Bug saw the kazandibi dancing seductively before my eyes. This semolina milk pudding dessert that apparently means "bottom of pot," a description of the scorched (caramelized) layer creating the uniqueness of the dessert, not scraps or undesirable elements. The slight bitterness with the lightly sweetened custard melds harmoniously with the dusting of cinnamon.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken adana with pilaf, kazandibi is always the highlight of my meal. Indian ras malai is my favorite dessert. Kazandibi is not far behind.
As far as what the next 365 days hold for me. Bug and I have tossed around of a few weekly project ideas, start date unknown. Since we have begun receiving our vegetables from Fresh Fork Market, at least over the summertime, a short-term project could center around our bag of goodies -- cooked with recipes or posed.
Another idea would be posting a salad/soup meal per week, which would also include chili, stew, and curries. I'm poor about precisely documenting made up or heavily altered printed recipes; although, the latter probably fairs a bit better. Recipes with an abundance of "a bit of this" and "to taste" is rather tedious to follow...
2505 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 298-4450