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“The East Campus Köfte Man” July 11, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Quick Eats, Street Food, Turkish Cuisine.
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Street food in Ankara has this interesting tendency to be prepared in the back of modified vans. Earlier in the year I profiled two of these vehicular eateries that dish out some exceptional köfte. Little did I know, though, that another great option is located almost within eyeshot of my lojman window.

Just before the gate to the east campus of Bilkent University (my employer), Abi Esat parks his van and on most nights cooks up a variety of quick eats that are renown throughout Ankara. People drive from all over the city to sample his goods, and it is without a doubt worth the trip.

Like the other vehicles I wrote about, Esat’s köfte is particularly good. The seasoning and toppings strike a near-perfect mix that provoke groans of satisfaction after the first bite. Combined with the option for melted kaşar on top, it might be the best I’ve encountered.

However, Esat’s star attraction is his antrikot. Dervied from the French word entrecôte, meaning ‘between the ribs’, this premium cut of beef is an uncommon offering in the form of street food and makes for a highly delectable treat. Be sure to ask for it with cheese for some added flavor.

To reach Esat’s van, take Bilkent 1. Cad. to 9. Cad. and look to the right shortly before the campus entrance (Google Maps). He’s usually around most nights after 20:00 or 21:00 and stays open until late. Köfte is priced at 5TL ($3.20 at 1.55TL/$), while the antrikot is a bit more pricy at 10TL ($6.45). There is also self-service midye available for 0.50TL ($0.30) each.

Köz Köfte June 27, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine.
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Köfte, like döner, is another ubiquitous favorite of Turkish cuisine around the city, and also like döner, it comes in varying degrees of quality. In the early days of this blog, I wrote about Roka, a köfte joint in Bahçelievler that puts a twist on the norm with a large, table-top salad. Through an email from Başask, I learned that there are more places in Ankara that offer this option. She recommended Köz Köfte in Ulus for an even better version of the offerings at Roka. Yesterday, I finally got around to making to the trip across town and would agree with Başak: it’s definitely better.

The formula at Köz Köfte is familiar: a collection of greens and other veggies are spread over the table, doused with lemon juice and topped with roasted garlic and tomatoes. Köz Köfte, though, makes a nice addition with several pieces of çiğ köfte. While I will admit that this particular batch was very much on the average side, it was still a great complement to the lettuce and lemon.

You are given three options for your köfte: acılı (spicy), sade (plain) and kaşarlı (with cheese). Given my preference for spice, I went with the acılı. It was fresh and nicely prepared. In particular, I appreciated that it was not inundated with salt. The meal is finished with a serving of delicious helva, which compares favorably to that of Recep Usta and Çukurağa Sofrası.

The sentiment that I expressed back in September about Roka and last week about the döner at Süha’nın Yeri is also applicable with Köz Köfte: this is not a life-changing meal. The köfte is very tasty and I like the addition of the salad to the meal, but I still tend to find that the best köfte in Ankara comes from the mobile eateries that I wrote about in January.

Although novel compared to the norm, the salad-köfte model remains in need of innovation. It’s not enough to spread a bunch of greens on top of a table. Köz Köfte is on the right track with the çiğ köfte, but why not include some ezme and maybe hummus as well? Without a few additions, the salad will always feel somewhat underutilized.

Köz Köfte is on Kazım Karabekir Cad. (Google Maps). A portion of köfte with drink comes to around 14TL ($8.90 at 1.58TL/$).

A.O.Ç. Doğata Satış Mağazası June 8, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Quick Eats, Turkish Cuisine.
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As a self-proclaimed connoisseur of kokoreç, it’s a shame that it’s taken me so long to visit Atatürk Orman Çiftliği (A.O.Ç.). Countless Turks have sung its praises throughout my time in Ankara, but I kept putting it off since it isn’t as convenient as most downtown restaurants.

After eating at Profesör last week, I promised to make the trip to the A.O.Ç. in order to crown the city’s champion kokoreççi. Yesterday I was able to stop by with my friends on the way home from a wedding in Altınpark to sample the delectable offerings.

Let me say this first: the place is absolutely phenomenal. It’s a mecca for kokoreç lovers. About half a dozen different shops are crowded together, preparing their fare and filling the air with the delicious smells of cooking intestine. The mood is set by street lights muted by thick clouds of smoke accompanied by the murmurs of the hungry crowds below. Undoubtedly, it’s not a destination for haute cuisine, but I can think of few better places to eat in Ankara.

A Turkish friend who attended the wedding with us directed me towards Doğata Satış Mağazası, declaring that it offered the best kokoreç of the lot. I can’t disagree; it was some truly amazing stuff. From my vantage point, the man preparing the kokoreç did everything correctly: he applied the right amount of spice and chopped the meat to achieve near perfect consistency. With each bite I could taste every flavor that makes kokoreç my favorite Turkish food. It’s certainly not an unreasonable claim to suggest that this is the best in this city.

The culinary awesomeness of Doğata Satış Mağazası is not only limited to kokoreç. The köfte is excellent and worth trying. The farm also makes its own superb ayran. The freshness and quality of the ingredients are apparent in everything they make.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the A.O.Ç’s dondurma is an attraction in and of itself. One of my friends went on record stating that it was the best soft-serve ice cream she had ever tried. I would concur.

Doğata Satış Mağazası and the other venders at the A.O.Ç. are located on Silhatar Cad. (Google Maps). A large loaf of kokoreç costs a very reasonable 8.50TL ($5.30 at 1.60TL/$).

P.S. I must apologize for the sub-par pictures in this post. I didn’t have my dSLR with me at the time and was forced to use a point-and-shoot camera, not an ideal tool for photography in low-light conditions.

“The Köfte Men” January 10, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Street Food, Turkish Cuisine.
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In my travels around the globe, street food is often the culinary highlight of any trip. Indeed, I’ve found “avoid walls” to be a particularly useful adage when deciding where to eat in a new city. In Ankara, this advice rings true late at night when dozens of venders set up shop and sell delicious midye dolma, pilav, kokoreç and köfte to the hungry masses.

Two of the my favorite after-dark places to eat are not street food per say, but are actually modified, somewhat-dilapidated vans. Don’t let their appearance fool you: you’ll be hard pressed to find better food at any hour of the day.

“The Köfte Men” is the label my friends and I affectionately apply to these vehicular eateries. One, run by a man named Ali, is located on Tunus Cad. by the Bilkent University bus stop (Google Maps). The other, run by Vahit, is just past the corner of Eskişehir Yolu and Bilkent Blv. near the new mosque (Google Maps). Both open at around 21:00 and close sometime around 2:00. I would rank their köfte among the best I’ve had in Turkey. Perfectly spiced and made to order, there are few greater joys to be found in the early hours of the morning.

Roka September 15, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Turkish Cuisine.
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Roka

A friend of mine describes Roka as the union of two unlikely individuals: One who wanted to eat with his hands and another who possessed a sizable surplus of fresh produce.  Regardless of its exact origins, it’s worth making the trip to Bahçelievler to try Roka’s unique and tasty combination of greens and meats.

Turkish restaurants are known for employing copious quantities of salt and other spices in their meat-laden entrées. While often delicious, the constant onslaught of flavored protein can become tiresome to the frequent diner.  Roka provides a much-needed alternative for those looking to add some zest and crunch to their otherwise traditional meat dishes.

Upon being seated in pint-sized stools at pint-sized tables, the waiters at Roka spread a salad consisting of an array of fresh greens directly onto the table top in front of you. The mixture of romaine and iceberg lettuce, parsley, mint, cilantro, watercress and green onions is then doused with freshly squeezed lemon juice and accompanied by a skewer of grilled tomatoes and several cloves of warm roasted garlic. While flavorful enough on its own, this salad makes for the perfect topping which you artfully apply by hand to the köfte or adana kebab served to you on warm bread.  The refreshing, crisp flavors of the salad nicely complement the robust spicing and texture of the meats. As an accompaniment, be sure to try the Çamlıca ayran; it’s one of the tastiest pre-packaged variations you can find.

While delicious and fun, Roka is not a life-changing meal. However, it does revitalize old Turkish favorites with a novel twist that is sure to please those looking for a change of pace in their Anakra dining options. And at about 12TL ($8 at 1.50TL/$), it’s inexpensive as well.

The restaurant is located on 22. Sk. off the lively Aşkabat Sk. (also known as 7th Street) (Google Maps).