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Masala Cafe October 26, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Foreign Cuisine.

Masala Cafe-6I love Turkish food. Really, I do. But I will admit that that lack of restaurant diversity in Ankara has been one of the most challenging aspects of my adjustment to life in Turkey. For perspective, consider Brunswick, Maine, the town where I attended college in America. Despite having a population of only 20,000, the dining scene was impressive, with dozens of options ranging from Thai to Mexican to Japanese to German. Ankara, a city of 4 million people, pales in comparison.

Although the selection is limited, Ankara does possess a few offerings of great foreign food. One of the best is the Masala Cafe, a Pakistani restaurant on Paris Cad. in Çankaya (Google Maps).

Curry is one of my favorite foods, and Masala delivers precisely in this regard. Nine options, such as madrasi, jalfarezi and korma, keep me coming back on a far too regular basis. In my experience, the karahi gosht and aloo palak are particularly noteworthy. Each curry is accompanied by basmati rice and a serving of impeccably seasoned vegetables. There is also a side of salad, which strikes me as a non-Pakistani modification intended to please Turkish patrons.

Prior to receiving your entrée, the table is served chana chat, a delectable mix of chick peas, chopped onions, potatoes, tomatoes, fresh herbs and masala chat. I also recommend ordering the vegetable samosa over the other starters. For drinks, the methi lassi is quite good, a sweet contrast to the salty ayran. But avoid the roh afzah; it has a flavor that could be described as bad fruit punch.

The prices at Masala Cafe are quite reasonable for the quality of the food and size of the portions. Appetizers costs around 4TL each ($2.70 at 1.47TL/$) and curries are priced between 10 and 12.50TL ($6.80 to $8.50).

Göksu October 26, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine.
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Göksu receives much praise from locals and guide books alike.  The venerable Lonely Planet writes:

Fine dining with uniformed staff and a terrace discreetly shielded from the street by glass and vines. It’s popular with besuited blokes guzzling mezes and rakı (aniseed-flavoured grape brandy).

Goksu-6With great reviews abound, I sat down at Göksu this past week expecting a memorable meal.  Surprisingly, I left very disappointed.

Göksu’s menu is huge; it offers an overwhelming number of options, spanning all aspects of Turkish cuisine.  In my experience this tends to produce mediocrity: it’s difficult to be good at anything if one tries to do everything.  Apprehensively, my partner and I ordered the çoban salatası and the humus.  Both were average.  For our entrées, we chose the patlıcan souğme kebab and the bostan kebab.  The former consists of grilled lamb in a eggplant pureé.  It was tasty, but not remarkable.  The later choice, however, was quite terrible.  Something of a lamb and eggplant casserole, the seasoning was lackluster and the overall flavoring was oddly sweet in off-putting manner.  Finally, we tried the helva for dessert.  It was decent, but far from noteworthy.  In this account the prevailing theme of my dinner at Göksu is obvious: it’s good, but not great.

I don’t consider my experience at Göksu to be an authoritative account of its potential; I haphazardly sampled only a few of the many options on the menu.  In light of my very mediocre dinner, I consulted a more seasoned veteran of the Ankara dining scene to find out where I went wrong with my selections.  He made a few suggestions for a future visit.  My friend recommended the kaygana, which is an omelet with anchovies, as well as the kuymak, which is a combination of fondue and polenta.  Watch this space for an update.

Göksu has two locations in Ankara: I tried the one on Bayındır Sk. in Kızılay (Google Maps), but there is another branch on Nenehatun Cad. in Gaziosmanpaşa.  The prices are average: mezes and salads cost around 7TL ($4.75 at 1.47TL/$) and entrées range between 12 and 23TL ($8.15 to $15.50).   Alcohol is served, and rakı is certainly recommended with any meal.

Çadır Kebap October 22, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine.
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Çadır KebapAs I mentioned in a previous post, Turkish restaurants tend to heavily feature meat in their entrées.  This is because, I’ve been told, the average Turk does not consume much meat at home due to the high cost in this country as well as certain aspects of traditional cooking.  Thus a dinner outside of the house is something of a special occasion, and restaurants cater to the moment with very meat-centric options.

While there are countless places to eat adana kebap, tavuk şiş and et döner in Ankara, I have found most to be quite average in their preparation of the meat.  Çadır Kebap is a good alternative to these mediocre offerings.  Located on Eskişehir Yolu (Google Maps), the meat dishes at Çadır are very well prepared and complemented by a great selection of salads.  I sampled a variety of them at dinner the other night with a group of friends and found the tablacı salata to be the most flavorful.  For entrées, the kuzu şiş, beyti and acılı adana were noteworthy.  There are good meze options, such as patlıcan ezme and humus, to consider as well.  And for those with a sweet tooth, the künefe and sütlaç are not the best I’ve had, but both are above average.

Çadır Kebap is not an inexpensive establishment, but its prices are fairly reasonable.  Salads, appetizers and desserts average about 6TL each ($4 at 1.47TL/$), while main courses are priced between 12 and 15TL ($8-10).  Alcohol is also served.

Çino Kokoreç October 13, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Quick Eats, Turkish Cuisine.

Cino  011

Ulus is one area of Ankara that is not often frequented by the city’s expat community.  Many Turks go to great lengths to dissuade foreigners from visiting this older, poorer and more conservative neighborhood.  Some have gone as far as to suggest that one risks physical harm if he dares to walk these streets.  In my experience, these fears are entirely exaggerated.  I have encountered some of the most cordial and welcoming people in the city during my trips to Ulus.

This year I have been making a habit of doing my produce shopping at the Ulus Hali (Google Maps), a large wholesale market on Alsancak Sk.  The fruits and vegetables are half the price and twice the quality of what I get in Bilkent.  The men who work the various stands are also very friendly and appreciate the novelty of a yabancı (foreigner) in a distinctly local place.  Through their recommendations, I discovered Çino Kokoreç.  Adjacent to the market’s entrance, it’s a popular place to enjoy the deliciousness of lamb intestine.  A yarım portion (one half) will cost you 4.50TL ($3 at 1.46TL/$).