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Spice Curry House December 3, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Desserts, Foreign Cuisine.

For the curry-loving expat in Ankara, Spice is an indispensable resource. This Australian-Algerian-Turkish-run establishment offers excellent subcontinental cuisine to a dining scene sorely lacking in variety.

One should not go to Spice expecting a traditional Indian meal. As the diversity of the ownership would suggest, the cooks bring a number of distinct culinary influences to their food. And this is a very good thing. They manage to balance a healthy creative license with a strong appreciation for authenticity, delivering what I have found to be one of the most satisfying dining experiences in the city.

Vegetarians, often the victims of carnivorous onslaughts in Turkish restaurants, will be happy to know that Spice maintains meatless options for their respite. My partner and I were quite pleased with the mushroom curry, a rich blend with zucchini and paneer. The spicing stuck me as something decidedly different from what I have experienced in the US or UK, but it was an innovation that clearly reflected a sort of respectful irreverence for subcontinental style.

Spice also pleases those looking for the internationally beloved classics of Indian cooking. Chicken korma, lamb vindaloo and chicken tikka masala are all represented. I went with the korma and found it quite tasty, although the pieces of chicken were a bit too large for the amount curry sauce.

Possibly the highlight of the meal, though, was the dessert. The sticky toffee pudding is simply amazing. If you live in Ankara, you need to try it immediately. Enough said.

Spice Curry House is located on Çayhane Sk. in Gaziosmanpaşa (Google Maps). The pricing reflects its location in one of the wealthier neighborhoods of the city. Starters and desserts average about 8TL ($5.30 at 1.50TL/$), while meat and meatless entreés cost around 19TL and 12TL ($12.60 and $8), respectively.

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).