Truth be told, I have never been particularly excited by Middle Eastern cuisine, but Sweet Polly has never led us astray. Her buds of taste are highly evolved, so if she says it's good, then we must go. Besides, this is a SOG City dining venue and we live in SOG City. It is our duty to support local businesses.
So, yesterday evening the Belle of Ballast Point and I fired up Rosie the family camel and made our way to the Khan. We arrived a little after five, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Alex greeted us at the door and guided us to a booth. She then presented us with water and menus, and since we were newbies she offered suggestions for adult beverages, appetizers and entrees.
There was but one Turkish wine available that evening, the Turkish Yakut. This wine is a blend of Öküzgözü, and Boğazkere. The Oküzgözü grape is a native Turkish red grape prolific around the mountainous Elazig region in eastern Turkey. This was a very drinkable everyday table wine: medium bodied, with light tannins...and, reasonably priced at $27.
The Yakut paired very nicely with both our appetizers and entrees. Gengiz also features a few tantalizing Turkish beers that I look forward to trying on a subsequent visit.
Alex suggested that since we appeared to be unfamiliar with Turkish foods that we start with the Mixed Hot Appetizer platter. This was a mix of zucchini pancake, falafel, rolled cheese pies, humus, and fried calamari.
This was a grand introduction to savory Turkish delights with a basket of accompanying pita triangles. The calamari was the most tender and flavorful incarnation of this ubiquitous staple of Tampa cuisine that I can remember.
My bride and I could probably have stopped eating with this platter. There was a lot of delicious food, but before we could take a deep breath, there was Alex with even more food. Our entrees had arrived!
The Belle chose the Iskender with melt in the mouth, shaved lamb served over sauteed pita bread, fresh tomato sauce, and a side of homemade yogurt. To kick up the heat factor a tad or two, a couple jalapeño peppers were provided. This was a huge plate of superb Turkish vittles that required a take-home box.
One of my favorite recipes at home is a braised lamb shank dish that I prepare with those shanks from Publix, where shopping is an adventure. When I saw the Baby Lamb Shank with eggplant on the menu, my slobber glands sprang to life and I knew I had to have a shank.
When Alex presented that dish, my eyes got almost as big as that lamb shank. "Baby" lamb shank you say? That shank was huge. If that was a baby, then the ones from Publix come from some sort of pygmy species found only on the island nation of Lilliput.
The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender with creamy eggplant slices gently blanketing the lamb. As a side, both my bride and I enjoyed that perfectly prepared rice Bulgar.
|Rosie, Incirlik dreamin'|
Our total for the wine and all of that delightful food came to a pleasing $80.09. We added a deserved 20% for our charming server Alex.
Middle Eastern cuisine is still not one of my all-time favorites, but Sweet Polly was right, "Dayum, Turkish food...where have you been all my life?"
The Oracle does not trade glowing reviews in exchange for free food. If something sucks, we feel free to say so. We review anonymously and pay listed price for all that we consume. We also believe in rewarding the under paid, under appreciated food service workers with gratuities commensurate with provided service.