I don’t know why but whenever I consider places to dine on Park Avenue I usually begin my mental restaurant roll call at Lyman Avenue and head north from there. But of course that means I miss some others worth recommending that are on the lower end of the street, such as Cafe de France, which is one of the oldest restaurants on the avenue, Umi Japanese and Grato, a newcomer Italian.
Now add an even newercomer to the list, Lale a Mediterranean/Turkish restaurant that has moved into the compact space next to Umi (they’re so close to each other that it’s difficult to distinguish which sidewalk tables belong to which restaurant).
The space had previously been a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop. But now there is a cook station where the freezers used to be, only partially hidden behind glass partitions etched with tulips (lale, pronounced lah-leh, means tulip in Turkish) and compact tables covered in white cloths, even at lunchtime, occupy the front of the space.
The menu is extensive and features a number of Turkish favorites with most proteins leaning toward lamb, which is fine with me.
My lunch companion and I started with an appetizer of sigara boregi, phyllo dough “cigarettes” filled with firm feta cheese and deep fried to an ethereal crispiness.
But while those were airy the red lentil soup had good heft, both in its texture and its flavor.
For my entree, I ordered the sausage pide, the Turkish oval flatbread with crusty sides that folded up so it looked like a seafaring vessel. It had melted mozzarella and several bits of sujuk, a beef sausage. Ultimately there was much more bread than topping, but it was accompanied by a nice salad of mixed greens with shredded carrots.
My lunch guest out ordered me with the lamb saute, a traditional dish that featured bite sized pieces of lamb cooked with onions, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms and garlic in a sauce thickened with tomato paste and seasoned with cumin, black pepper and paprika. It was delicious all by itself and even better with the baldo rice dotted with bits of orzo.
Our server was patient when we wanted to visit before ordering and attentive when we were ready.
With Lale, Park Avenue now has two Turkish restaurants, including Bosphorous, and further diversifies the culinary scene of the street.
Lale is at 521 S. Park Ave., Winter Park (map). It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-333-0033.