Turquaz Turkish Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Turquaz exterior

The first time I visited Turquaz, a Turkish restaurant on International Drive, it was a Friday night, somewhere around 8 o'clock, and the place was empty. It was open for business, but eerily quiet.

The second time I visited was at lunchtime, and the number of patrons had doubled: A single woman sat on the patio working on a laptop and smoking a hookah. I had the dining room all to myself for the duration of my meal.

Zeytin Turkish Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Zeytin sign

I love seeing culturally diverse restaurants pop up in varied areas of town. So I was pleased to see Zeytin Turkish Cuisine open on Edgewater Drive just east of Lake Fairview and within sight of the Orange County VFW.

Zeytin is a small buisiness in a free-standing building, the former site of Woody’s Italian American Grill and Woody’s Wings & Whatnot. Woody’s gone.

Zeytin has a menu that belies its size, with myriad hot and cold appetizers, assorted Turkish pides (flatbreads), kebabs and sautés. It looks like an ambitious set of offerings but most are variations on the same theme.

Turkish Bar & Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Turkish bar interior

There's a new Turkish bar and grill in town. It's called Turkish Bar & Grill. And what it lacks in name creativity, it makes up for in many other ways.

We were just here a few months ago, not at TB&G but in this same space. Then it was a place called Wassabi Asian Fusion. Based on my experience there, its closing wasn't a surprise.

The new tenants changed precious little about the interior. That's a picture of Turkish Bar & Grill at the top; I've included one of Wassabi at the bottom of this review. With the exception of daylight through the windows at Wassabi and some Turkish rugs thrown over the decidedly unattractive green beams it's pretty much the same. (I was even seated at the same table — you'd be surprised how often that happens.)

Turkish Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Turkish Kitchen saute

Updated to correct days of week that Turkish Kitchen is open. 

 

The little Turkish kitchen -- now known as Turkish Kitchen -- didn’t do itself any favors when it first opened just before the new year and did what many people saw as a questionable business decision. And that’s too bad because the food is about as good as any Turkish food you’ll find in Central Florida, which over the last few years has seen several good restaurants specializing in the cuisine open.

Notably among them is Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine, which has two popular locations, on Park Avenue in Winter Park and on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row in Orlando.

So when another Turkish restaurant opened on Semoran Boulevard, just north of Colonial Drive, with the name Bosphorous Turkish Kitchen it confused many. Bosphorous, of course, is the name of the strait that separates Europe from Asia, although the usual spelling is Bosphorus.

Why the owners of the new restaurant thought that they should, or could, name their restaurant so similarly to two others already in the area is something I can’t answer. And I hope that they haven’t created so much ill will that they will prevent people who love good Turkish food to give it a try.

Istanbul Turkish Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Istanbul interior

I headed up to Lake Mary to visit a familiar space, the one at 7025 County Road 46A that has been home to various restaurants in the center’s relatively short life. Most recently we were here for the fleeting Finesse.

Now it is Istanbul, another in the ever-growing line of Turkish restaurants that have opened in the area recently. Is Turkish the new Thai?

I visited just once, for a quick bite review, but I’m not chomping at the bit to go back. The surroundings are pleasant -- not much seems to have changed from the previous owners -- and while the staff didn’t go out of their way to make one feel welcome they did their jobs well enough.

But the food elicited merely a shrug -- neither poorly executed nor extraordinarily done. But when the price is taken into consideration, there isn’t much to recommend.

Cappadocia Turkish Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Cappadocia cabbageCappadocia's stuffed cabbage was a standout on the menu.There have been some changes, though not as many as one would have hoped for. After decades as Cafe Italiano, the restaurant space on Semoran Boulevard is now called Cappadocia, and its cuisine has switched focus to another Mediterranean country, to Turkey.

Cappadocia (kappa-DOH-key-ah) is a region in the central part of Turkey southeast of Ankara (and, to give it a current events slant, nearly due north of Cyprus). We’ve seen a few Turkish restaurants open in the area in the past several years, most notably Bosphorous, Anatolia (now also a Bosphorous), and Efes (a Sanford restaurant that was started by the first owners of Bosphorous but that did not last). And others, such as the very good Cedars and the recently reviewed Atlas House have Turkish characteristics on their menus. Cappadocia, however, is the first Turkish restaurant in this part of town, something that doesn’t seem unusual until you know that the Orlando Turkish Cultural Center is across the street.

Atlas House

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Atlas House eggplantEggplant roll appetizer is one of the standouts at Atlas House, an Uzbek restaurant in Orlando.I got only a brief look at the interior of Atlas House, a new restaurant on the lower end of International Drive. I was meeting someone for lunch, but when I entered the restaurant and found my friend already waiting I also found a family that included three unruly children running amok throughout the dining room. We wondered if perhaps they were related to the owners, given that the children were running behind counters and service stations without reprimand. In fact, there was no attempt to quiet the little dears at all, including allowing them to yell at each other from across the room. So we did not hesitate -- we got up and went outside to the unadorned and plain patio where there were several much quieter seats available.

Bosphorous Orlando

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bosphorous lavasAs you may know, Bosphorous has taken over the restaurant formerly known as Anatolia on Restaurant Row. Anatolia was the very nice part Turkish/part Lebanese restaurant that opened a few years ago in the Marketplace on Dr. Phillips. I visited a couple of times and liked it a lot.

Now with Bosphorous moving in, the restaurant is all Turkish all the time. Most won’t notice a change in the menu; indeed the differences are subtle. You also won’t notice a change in quality. I’ve been a fan of the original Bosphorous on Park Avenue since it opened in 2005 and brought its exotic tastes to Winter Park, and they seem to have brought the same dedication to excellence to Restaurant Row.

Special SJO Dining Deal: Dinner for Two, including bottle of wine, at Bosphorous for $65. Click for details.

Efes Turkish Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Efes Turkish Cuisine certainly has an ideal location. Situated on the the shore of Lake Monroe it commands a beautiful view of the water. That is, if you can see through the
sultans_delight
Sultan's Delight from Efes Turkish Cuisine in Sanford.

mosquitos that attach themselves in swarms to the screening on the patio. A much bigger problem at sunset than during the day, I imagine, but an unappetizing one nevertheless. I would choose to eat inside, in the cool of the air-conditioned atmosphere, far enough away from the bugginess, if I were to return, but based on my meal there recently I don’t see much point. Nothing that I tasted was unacceptable, but neither was anything particularly wonderful; most of it had an unfortunate blandness, not the sort of thing you would expect from Turkish cuisine.

Steak & Salad

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Steak and Salad is the Least of What Is Offered Here

steak_and_salad_estThe sign out front couldn’t be less enticing, a plainly unadorned marquee with the words Steak & Salad in red lettering on a white background. In the restaurant’s defense, that is the name of the restaurant, though that alone is worth a lesson in the pros and cons of good marketing.

I had passed the small building in the 1300 block of Mills Avenue for months and couldn’t think of a good reason to stop. Then one day a blackboard had been placed outside that read, “Now serving Turkish food.” Now there was a reason to stop. Now I have even better reasons to go back.

The way I heard the story, the owners opened the restaurant, which was the former Friends cafe, with a menu that featured the eponymous food items, your basic salads and basic cuts of (decidedly inexpensive) meats. Then a server pointed out to the owners that they were of Turkish descent, and perhaps they might try serving some of their traditional homeland foods.

So a separate menu was added with such things as kebabs and kofte and bulgur pilav and red lentil soup.

That soup, also indicated on the menu with its Turkish names, mercimek corbasi, was a little bowl of spicy liquid heat, with the lentils more pureed than in pebble form.

adana_kebab
Adana Kebab
For my entree I had the adana kebab, which the menu calls a spicy meatloaf. That’s pretty much the perfect description. The ground meat concoction was freckled with bits of red pepper, which added tastes of fire. But just in case that wasn’t enough spice, a whole grilled jalapeno was included. The meat and pepper were atop a flat pita, which also had slices of tomatoes and raw onions. You could either eat with a knife and fork or fold it all up into a wrap. At first I wanted to add a little tzatziki or other sauce, but once I started eating it I realized none was needed. A generous serving of bulgur pilav was included.

I also had the kofte, which are sort of like meatballs, and the shish kebab, which ahd sirloin steak tips and mushrooms. (I could leave without having some sort of steak.)

Dinners also include a choice from an array of side dishes, which are identified as salads. The shepherd salad was a mixture of large chunks of chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and green peppers in a vinaigrette, a light and fresh-tasting salad. Eggplant and spinach salads were more like dips, along the lines of babaganouj or hummus. And they, too, were delicious.
shepherd_salad
Shepherd salad


The restaurant is small, fewer than 40 seats by my count, but it’s tidy and has the look of having been recently painted. Tabletops are a sort of greenish marble design, although no actual stone is present. A small bar has seating for three or four people at large wicker stools.

steak_and_salad_int
The dining room at Steak & Salad is tidy, tiny and comfortable.

Oh, about the bar. The menu lists a number of cocktails, but be warned -- these are not made with actual liquor. They are fashioned out of wine-based liquids meant for restaurants with licenses restricting them to beer and wine. To me, this is sort of like offering chopped steak fashioned out of tofu.

If, like me, you’ve passed Steak & Salad and dismissed it as unworthy of your time, I hope you’ll stop in. The folks are friendly, the setting is comfortable, and the food -- at least the Mediterranean fare -- is quite good.

Steak & Salad is at 1326 N. Mills Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-898-0999. The Web site is steakandsaladorlando.com.

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