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LeMan Kültür January 5, 2010

Posted by Steven Bartus in Foreign Cuisine, Turkish Cuisine.
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Named after the satirical Turkish comic book series, LeMan Kültür provides some much-needed novelty to the Ankara dining scene. This popular eatery bustles with city’s student crowd and offers a pleasing fusion of Turkish and international cuisine. Amidst the artistic décor and pulsating music, it’s a fun place to share a meal with friends before heading out for a night of revelry in the clubs and bars around Sakarya Cad.

The food at LeMan is good, but by no means life changing. It could be described as something comparable to the American “casual” dining franchises (T.G.I. Friday’s, Applebee’s, Chili’s, etc.). LeMan’s menu is large and diverse, with options ranging from pesto tortellini to Chinese egg rolls to chicken fajitas. They provide welcome alternatives to the staples of Turkish dining that pervade most Kızılay restaurants. LeMan also puts a twist on some of these favorites, a good example of which is the köfteli sandviç. Topped with an excellent eggplant-garlic-cheese sauce, this sandwich has been something of an addiction for me and many of my friends over the past year. It revitalizes the ubiquitous köfte meatballs found all over the city with a dynamic flavor that manages to satisfy both your taste and your appetite. And at 8.50TL ($5.80 at 1.47TL/$), the price cannot be beat.

LeMan Kültür is located on Konur Sk., off Meşrutiyet Cad., in Kızılay (Google Maps). There appears to be another branch in Bahçeli (Google Maps), but I can’t comment on its similarity or quality. Prices at LeMan are reasonable and range between 6TL and 14TL ($4.00 and $9.50). A good variety of alcohol is also served. For those who are tired of Efes Pilsen (i.e. every non-Turk in Turkey), there is Tuborg on tap.

Mezzaluna December 26, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Foreign Cuisine.
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Living abroad can be at its most challenging during the holiday season. In addition to the separation from friends and family, the absence of certain culinary comforts often makes the distance from home seem all the farther. Twenty-five percent of me is Italian, and as such my Christmas meals have always been laden with the fare of the old country. Although there isn’t a true replacement in Ankara, I found Mezzaluna to be an acceptable alternative for grandma’s cooking this year.

Originating in New York City, Mezzaluna came to Turkey in 1995 and currently operates eleven branches across the country. The menu and quality are very similar to that of Paper Moon, the other upmarket Italian chain in Turkey. While I would say that Mezzaluna isn’t quite as good, I prefer it because of the (slightly) lower prices and they don’t gouge you for water.

The pizza is the star attraction at Mezzaluna. Sizable and tasty, they feature unique Italian ingredients that are a delight to the pork lover living in a Muslim country. The eponymously named Mezzaluna (topped with prosciutto, mushrooms, eggplant, mozzarella and tomato sauce) as well as the Rossa (sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, black olives, capers, mozzarella and tomato sauce) are sure to please. The pasta dishes are also quite good, but I find the portions to be a bit too small for my appetite.

Mezzaluna has two locations in Ankara, one in Bilkent and another in Kavaklıdere (Google Maps). Entreés are priced between 20TL and 30TL ($13.20 and $19.80 at 1.51TL/$). Alcohol is served.

Paper Moon November 13, 2009

Posted by Steven Bartus in Foreign Cuisine.
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CC PhotoAlthough Ankara lacks the cosmopolitan spender of other European capitals, the city is not devoid of fine dining. Paper Moon, with branches in Milan, New York, Moscow and Istanbul, is a decidedly upscale establishment worthy of acclaim. Offering Italian cuisine at its very best, this restaurant is sure to please those diners looking for authentic flavors, impeccable service and charming ambiance.

Paper Moon’s menu features typical Italian fare: pasta, pizza, meat and fish. It’s difficult to make a bad selection, but the pizza is renown. I sampled the valtellina, which is topped with bresaola, arugola and thinly sliced parmesan cheese. For pasta dishes, my partner was quite pleased with the penne gamberi e zucchine (shrimp and zucchini in a pink sauce).

Some words of warning: Beverages are egregiously overpriced. In my experience, up-market Turkish restaurants are notorious for an excessive markup on alcohol, and Paper Moon adheres to this trend with no shame. For example, a $200 bottle of Dom Pérignon goes for a cool 1700TL ($1150 at 1.48TL/$). Even by the standards of haute couture, a 575% premium is a bit vulgar. And sticking to water will not protect you from price gouging. The imported Italian stuff they pour will set you back 12TL ($8) a bottle, and the waiters will assume you want refills. At the end of the night, the 24TL water tab soured the taste of what was generally a very delicious meal.

Paper Moon is located on Tarhan Cad. in the posh Kavakıdere section of Ankara (Google Maps). Entreés range between 20 and 50TL ($13 to $33).

(Creative Commons photo from Flickr by Murat_S)