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Kıtır April 21, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Quick Eats, Turkish Cuisine.
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3 comments

When I think about the foods I’ll miss most when I leave Turkey, kokoreç and midye rank at the top of the list. Far too often foreigners and Turks alike foolishly balk at eating these delectable dishes, fretting over their purported uncleanliness or mildly suspect preparation. So what, I say, if kokoreç is spiced lamb guts or if midye absorbs heavy metals from seawater? They’re both delicious and simply must not be missed during any trip to this country.

There is no shortage of places in Ankara to consume kokoreç and midye. I previously wrote about Şampiyon Kokoreç on this blog. But if you’re looking for something better than what is prevalent on the streets of Kızılay, I’d check out Kıtır.

With an atmosphere somewhere between a saloon and roadside diner, Kıtır departs from the Ankara norm of tiled floors, florescent lighting and Atatürk pictures. The worn-in wooden tables and blaring 80s hair metal give off a decidedly cool vibe, a feeling too often absent in this city’s restaurants. I immediately felt like Kıtır was the type of place where I’d like to spend an evening casually eating and drinking with friends.

The food at Kıtır is served cafeteria style; you order from a window by the door and give a colored token indicating your selection to the men behind the counter. Draft beer and other drinks are served at the end of the line.

Kıtır’s kokoreç struck me as having a better balance of spices than most other offerings I’ve encountered in Ankara. It also had the correct consistency: chopped finely enough to prevent the meat from being too chewy while still allowing the unique flavor to come through. A final dab of the bread in the grease on the grill didn’t hurt either.

Midye dolma lovers can get their fix at Kıtır, but definitely try the fried version as well. Served crisp and hot from the frier, these midye tava are accompanied by a tasty tartar-like sauce, something that brought me back to my summers spent on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Finally, if you find yourself craving Turkish baked potato, Kıtır makes a very respectable kumpir.

Kıtır has two locations in Ankara, one on Park Cad. in Çayyolu and the other at the end of Tunalı Hilmi Cad. in Kavaklıdere (Google Maps). My dining experience is based on the latter location.

Prices at Kıtır are a bit higher than other places offering similar fare. A portion of kokoreç is priced at 10TL ($6.75 at 1.49TL/$), while one of midye tava comes in at 8TL ($5.40). Kumpir averages around 7TL ($4.70) depending on your toppings.

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Guangzhou Wuyang April 13, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Foreign Cuisine.
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4 comments

Chinese food has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The mere use of the label is almost always hopelessly vague in practice. Within China itself every region possesses distinct culinary traditions, ranging from Cantonese in the south to Szechuan in the west to Shandong in the east. Outside the country each immigrant population incorporates varying levels of authenticity in its cooking combined with an equally variable amount of adaptation to local taste. Thus depending on where you live and travel, you’ll develop a personal understanding for what you call “Chinese food”.

In Ankara the options for Chinese, like most foreign cuisine, are quite limited. One such option is Guangzhou Wuyang in Kavaklıdere (Google Maps). Two weeks ago I sampled its cooking and found the experience to be very satisfying. Was it the best Chinese food I’ve ever had? No. But did I leave feeling happy? You bet.

Guangzhou Wuyang takes some liberties with its menu, going beyond typical Chinese food to offer both Japanese and Korean as well. This multiethnic approach is similar to Sushi Co. and Quick China, the other popular Asian restaurants in Ankara. But on the whole Guangzhou Wuyang still strikes me as being far more authentic; its competitors feel more at home in a shopping mall than anywhere in China. Further adding to its authenticity, Guangzhou Wuyang was full of Asians during my dinner. This is always a positive sign when rating Chinese food in a foreign city.

If you dine with a friend, I’d recommend the “Menu for Two”. You’ll be able to taste the full range of the menu in a cost-effective manner. It includes soup, kim chi, egg rolls, sweet-and-sour chicken, beef and broccoli, fried rice and dessert.  At 35TL ($23 at 1.49TL/$) per person, it’s pricey by Ankara standards, but a good value for the amount of food you get. And for those desiring a beer with their dinner, alcohol is served.

Meşhur Adıyaman Çiğ Köftecisi April 2, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Quick Eats, Turkish Cuisine.
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7 comments

Çiğ köfte, like iskender, is another staple of Turkish cuisine that can be rather underwhelming when poorly prepared. Shortly after arriving in this country, I had several mediocre experiences that left me wondering why çiğ köfte was so popular. It wasn’t until I found Meşhur Adıyaman Çiğ Köftecisi that I grew to appreciate the flavors of this tasty dish.

Meşhur Adıyaman is a chain restaurant with branches all over Turkey and a few abroad. In Ankara alone, there are twenty-five shops. I first discovered Meşhur Adıyaman in Kavaklıdere, the more posh section of the city that suffers from a serious dearth of good, cheap food. When I’m forced to spend an evening in the overpriced bars around Tunalı Hilmi, I get some solace from knowing that delicious and inexpensive çiğ köfte is waiting before I go home.

Meşhur Adıyaman sets itself apart by preparing its dürüm with a combination of pomegranate and spicy sauces, nicely complementing the strong flavors of the çiğ köfte. The man at this location also spreads the “meat” in such way that it is thin enough to avoid overpowering the other ingredients while still giving a distinct taste to each bite. Finally, the lavaş at Meşhur Adıyaman is also thinner than most other places, allowing the çiğ köfte to be the focus of the dürüm, not the bread.

The Kavaklıdere branch of Meşhur Adıyaman is located on Bestekar Sk. under the Corvus Bar (Google Maps). A dürüm costs 3TL ($2 at 1.52TL/$), while half and full portions are priced at 5TL ($3.30) and 10TL ($6.60), respectively.

P.S. If you look at the exterior picture of this Meşhur Adıyaman branch, “etsiz” is visible at the bottom. This seems to suggest that this particular çiğ köfte is made without meat, which strikes me as odd given the name of the dish. I’d appreciate it if someone with greater expertise could fill me in with the truth of the matter. UPDATE: See the comment section for the answer.

UPDATE: I’ve found out that this particular branch is now closed, which is tragic because İbrahim, the man who ran it, truly was an usta. The other Meşhur Adıyaman’s around the city are good, but not  as good as this one.