Bosphorous

108 S Park Ave. Winter Park, FL 32789 (407) 644-8609 bosphorousrestaurant.com

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Considering my wife is Turkish and I visit Turkey for a few weeks at least once a year, I would say I’m a pretty good judge of Turkish cuisine. Therefore, by the power vested in me, I pronounce Bosphorus to be the real McCoy. One bite and you feel like you’re sitting in Istanbul enjoying mezes (appetizers) and sipping raki (anise Turkish booze). Everything is as authentic as it gets and once upon a time it was pretty damn good too. But ever since they opened a second location in Dr. Phillips, the food at both has slid downhill. Particularly at the Dr. Phillips location. So if you if you’re going, head to Winter Park instead.

That said, there are still a few things that remain strong, like the lavas (a giant puffy bread) with cacik (yogurt mixed with garlic and herbs), the lahmacun (ground lamb flat bread: pictured), the babaganoush and humus. The rest is sadly a shell of its former self, from the oily mucver (zucchini pancakes) to the flavorless okra dish to the adana kebabs that are not very adana (spicy).

But at least the staff is still very friendly, so if you need additional guidance, feel free to let them show you around the menu. Also, two things; I recommend going with three or more people so you can try lots of different things and second, don’t go if you are in a rush. Turks like to take their time and so should you. Besides, it’s not good to eat too fast. And yes, I am your mother.

3 teeth

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Karakoy Lokantasi

Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa Mh., Kemankeş Cd No:37/A, İstanbul, Turkey • +90 212 292 4455 • karakoylokantasi.com
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Karakoy is the dark horse of Istanbul if you ask me, which suits it nicely since the direct translation of its name is “dark village.” Such an unlikely, industrial waterfront turned so hip it could easily give Brooklyn a run for its money, filled with one incredible restaurant after another, a stunning, refurbished Hamam turned spa, and unique boutiques speckled throughout.

Yet, amidst all of the funkier, cooler restaurants there lies a much lower key option, not trying too hard to live on the edge, delivering all your classic meze with excellent service and a simple, inviting, understated (comparatively) décor.

That said, the mezes themselves were a bit on the hit and miss side, not quite living up to the raves. My favorite being the smoked bonito fish with red onion (lakerda). Perhaps it’s the latent Jew in me, responding to the reminiscent flavors of sable and red onions atop a bagel and cream cheese… Cue Homer Simpson drooling noises.

After that, both the mustard pickled levrek (sea bass) and the grilled octopus proved to be a solid yum, while the yaprak sarma (stuffed grape leaves) and sigara boregi (phyllo dough stuffed with feta) proved to be nothing memorable.

The only flat out miss was the midye dolma (stuffed mussels), which is normally my favorite meze of all mezes. But I have to say these might’ve been the worst I’ve ever had. I mean they really shat the seabed on this one. So much so that they should foot the bill to fly in Sehmus, the Midye Whisperer of Bodrum, to teach them how it’s done.

But back on a positive note, the cacik (yogurt and herbs) was thick and creamy, just the way I like it. Granted I like the more soupy version well- okay, I like practically anything with yogurt, but this was definitely on the better end of the cacik spectrum. In fact the only other I can claim was as good was at Beyoglu in New York. Also, the fig dessert (pictured) with kaymak was pretty tasty as well.

So not exactly an out-of-the-way must. And I can’t say I’m even sure that it’s better than the scads of much cooler looking places all around it, but after a glass or two of Ala Yeni Raki who even cares?

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Lola

2000 4th Ave. Seattle, WA 98121(206) 441-1430 tomdouglas.com

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When you’re staying at a hotel and you ask the concierge for restaurant recommendations, it’s always a bad sign when they recommend the one located in the hotel, just off of the lobby. It’s like, “Suuuure, and I bet your mother thinks you’re quite the catch as well.”

Well damned be my pessimism, because Lola in the Andra hotel is actually rock solid. Now, I only had breakfast there, but that was easily enough to see that Lola has serious skillz. How serious? Let’s just say Dick Cheney is hilarious by comparison.

But as serious as it is, I was giddy as a schoolgirl with my order of Tom’s Favorite Breakfast (that Tom being Tom Douglas, a Seattle restaurant icon). It’s grilled octopus, sliced purple potatoes, tender greens, bacon and green garlic yogurt capped with a sunny side egg. It’s also fan-fricken-tastic. And sure, I was like you going in, “Octopus for breakfast?” So, I asked our server if it was worth the experimentation and she responded with an emphatic yes. And now I can see why. Live and learn people, octopus is the new breakfast of champions.

However, one trick pony Lola is not. Oh no, no, no. The omelette with morels, English peas and minty feta is also dope. Made doper still by thick, meaty slabs of bacon and squashed garlic fried potatoes.

Even the tea here is worth a shout out. No run-of-the-mill mint for these cats. They mix it with licorice and it was fantastic. Normally I’m more of a juice guy, but this was so good I downed the pot like it was the cup of life.

So after such glowing praise, why not 5 knives you ask? Well, after I go back for lunch or dinner, check this review again and we’ll see…

UPDATE: So, after going back for lunch, once again Lola served up an impressive performance with their delicious sockeye kebabs, served with a yogurt, dill cacik-like sauce, a fresh Greek salad and warm, fluffy pita. It was truly awesome. So now why not five knives? Well, I went back again for breakfast and this time I tried the eggs benny and I have to say it was a miss. Sure, the eggs were poached to perfection. And the ham they use is wonderful. But the fresh baked muffin from Dahlia across the street was chewy and hard to cut through. So much so that it brought the whole dish down with it. Not to mention the knife count.

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Periyali

35 W 20th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 463-7890periyali.com

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Having just been to Greece last summer I was entering with a healthy dose of “food tude.” Hey, I kinda like that. Ferocious Foodie TM!

And while décor and service failed to impress, the food rose above expectation. Not that the menu is anything inventive. Truth be told it’s all of the usual suspects from octopus to mousaka and souvlaki to baklava.

Our meal started off with an amuse bouche of sorts, a Greek bruschetta is about the only way I can describe it. Crostini topped with feta tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion. I’m not exactly sure why they offer it though. It’s not inventive, nor amazing. And if it’s simply to give you a little taste of something before your meal arrives, it would seem that the olives and bread would handily suffice. Instead, it only serves as a failed attempt to reach for a class of dining they simply aren’t.

After that we split a Greek salad that passed as ruffage and an octopus, which did everything it was supposed to, clean and simple and perfectly tender, yet somehow it just didn’t reach tentacle supremacy.

Oddly enough though, the whole branzino, while not too unlike the octopus, with its classic Mediterranean prep, proved to be spectacular! So flavorful and buttery. I haven’t loved a fish this much since Dory in Finding Nemo and I’ve had more than my fair share of whole fish, being that it’s practically the official meal of Turkey and I fancy myself to be an honorary Turk by association.

Bringing up the rear was the walnut cake and ice cream, which nosed out the baklava as our choice for dessert. In hindsight, I think I’d go baklava next time, because the walnut cake was a bit of a let down after experiencing the one at Gato. This one was a little on the dry side and desperately needed the ice cream to give it the moisture it was lacking.

On the boozy end of things, there are several tasty, affordable wine options and some on the pricier side well. We went with the Burnello, more on the pricier end, and it was excellent. Additionally, they complemented our dessert course with a complimentary dessert wine, which I also enjoyed.

All in all, I liked Periyali, but not enough to rush back. There are droves of better Mediterranean restaurants in the city and two right in the Flatiron alone, Almayass and Ilili, granted both of those are more middle eastern then Mediterranean, but the lines are so blurred between the two that it’s hard to tell where the tzatziki ends and the cacik begins.

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Pasha

70 W 71st St. New York, NY 10023 (212) 579-8751 •  pashanewyork.com
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 I’ve been going to Pasha for years and the reason is quite simple, it’s the best Turkish in the city. Well, other than Beyoglu and Pera. But they each do different things well, so it’s kind of a draw.

Among Pasha’s bailiwicks are the octopus, so consistently tender and awesome it just barely missed my Ultimate Octopus list. Solid mezes ranging from baba ganoush to sigara boregi (feta pastry) to yaprak sarma (stuffed grape leaves). And of course entrees ranging from whole fish to kebabs and all of it is done as authentic as anything you might find in Istanbul.

Decor is touch on the expected side, painted Turkish Flag Red. But they somehow manage to charm it up with its different rooms and quaint vibe. As a result it feels nothing like its decor twin in Kips Bay, Turkish Kitchen (also red, but more expansive and less intimate).

And service as a rule among most Turkish haunts is always very friendly and accommodating. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a bad waiter at Pasha or any other Turkish restaurant in the city and I’ve eaten at close to a dozen. And I’m not just saying that because my Turkish wife is reading over my shoulder as I type this.

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Beyoglu

1431 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10028 • (212) 650-0850
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This and Pasha are my two favorite Turkish restaurants in the city. Although as I write this, I’m thinking Beyoglu might have the edge. First, the decor is fun and lively and the service is friendly- which is par for the course at pretty much every Turkish restaurant in the city. And then the bread and cacik comes (cacik is the Turkish version of the yogurt/garlic/herb concoction you find in Greek and Indian cuisine as well)… But their cacik is out of this world. Fresh, homemade yogurt so thick and creamy it’s like eating it right out of the cow. That, coupled with their warm, fresh baked Ramadan-style bread, and you’ll be in heaven before the food even arrives.

As for the mezzes (appetizers) they are all excellent. The spinach pie, the octopus- even the entrees were both solid. The only things I wish they had are mucver, lahmacun and midye dolma. But it’s been a while since I’ve been there, so maybe they’ve added them. Guess I’ll have to go back and see.

4 teeth