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A La Turca Cafe & Grill


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Let me start by saying that I LOVE Middle Eastern (ME) food in general and Turkish food in particular, so I was very excited when I first stumbled accross the web page for a relatively new (open <1year) Turkish restaurant in the area. The paucity of good ME food in the Seattle area is perhaps my biggest source of culinary discontentment. We do such a good job covering most of the bases, but have this one gaping hole. Granted, there are some good places such as Ephesus, Mediterranean Kitchen, Karam's, Cafe Paloma & Bistro Antalya (RIP?), but even these places typically either offer only a limited menu or sell out to 'pan-Mediterranean-ism'. Further investigation revealed that said restaurant, A La Turca Cafe & Grill, was actually in Renton of all places, and not just in Renton, but SE Renton (read: might as well be Kent). But hey, their menu looked great and I'll try any Turkish place at least once.......

So Saturday night, my wife and set out for A La Turca with high hopes. Soon we discovered that not only is it in SE Renton, but its in a strip mall. Two strikes and I'm not even through the door yet. :smile:

When we enter, the hostess guesses, correctly, who we are. I'm impressed by this, since the restaurant in nearly full, but maybe we were the only 7:30 reservation. The space is decorated with kilim and Turkish copper-wear, but still looks like a restaurant in a strip mall somehow. The menu is a treat, full of Turkish specialties that I hadn't found outside of Turkey. We start with some meze (appetizers): humus, calamari and mucver (shredded zuchinni fritters). The humus was excellent, particularly if you like your humus to not be completely dominated by the garlic, this one allowed the flavors of the beans and tahini to come through nicely. The calamari itself was good, but the sauce, a garlic cream something or other, was truly exceptional. Isn't that what matters with calamari after all? The mucver nice and crisp on the outside, but a bit soggy in the middle. If you've had mucver at Bistro Antalya, A La Turca's is much thicker and softer. The biggest disappointment is that there are so many other meze that we couldn't try, at least on this visit.

I'm also thrilled that they have raki, a traditional Turkish drink similar to Sambuca or Pernod, that I became addicted to when I was in Turkey. For the truly adventurous, they also have Turkish wines on the menu.

For our entree, my wife and I shared the mixed grill which consisted of small portions of sis kebab, doner kebab, sis tavuk (chicken) and kofte (grilled ground lamb). The sis kebab was disapointing, but the other selections were all excellent. In fact, I thought the quality of the doner was very comparable to Bistro Antalya.

For dessert I chose baklava, always a dicey proposition for me since I'm usually disappointed. This rendition, for my taste at least, was near perfect; a fine balance of the sweetness from the honey and nuttiness from the walnuts. Definately the best I've had in a long time. Dessert was accompanied by the traditional demitasse of mud, uhhh, Turkish Coffee.

Overall I was very satisfied, especially given the reasonable prices and friendly service. If you enjoy Turkish food, I think A La Turca is definately worth a trip.

This could be a whole thread topic unto itself, but if anyone knows of ME places in the area that they think are good, I'd love to hear about them. I still hope that some day someone will open a high-end ME/Turkish restaurant in town.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Thanks for the review!

Places in strip malls can be deceivingly good sometimes....ie Tosoni's in Bellevue has delicious European gourmet dining, but you'd never know from the parking lot.

Have you eaten at Ephesus (in W. Seattle) lately, and if so, how was it? I had an enjoyable meal there maybe 3 years ago. A yummy garlicy tomato bruschetta, and kebob type dinner that was very tasty.

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BH....I've been to Ephesus a couple times in the last six months. I agree that the bruchetta is very nice, although not particularly Turkish perhaps...:hmmm: I like their humus for the same reason that I liked A La Turca's, you don't get beaten over the head with the garlic.

I find that their kebabs can be a little uneven, but generally good. I'm a big fan of their rice pilaf (don't want to know how much butter they use) and my sister claims to be addicted to the roasted eggplant...

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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And here I thought I was introducing something off the beaten path!...

I'm anxious to read your review mamster. One question, did you summon up the courage to try the Turkish wine?...

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Tighe, so glad you brought up this great place. I discovered it after it opened. A really nice family owns the place (the owner is a local software guru who was born and raised in Turkey).

You did a great job of describing the dinner menu, but I'd also love to point everyone's attention to the breakfasts at A Lu Turca! They have a great selection. The two big jars on the railing by the kitchen are full of homemade turkish style preserves. They are not to be missed! This is a must eat in Renton (along with the Melrose Grill, Zen Sushi, Jubilante, Cedar River Smokehouse, Armondo's, Gene's Ristorante, etc..... helloooo, I am your official South King County delegate, aren't I?)

Oh, another Middle Eastern place to try in Renton is Omar Al Khyam, 354 Sunset Blvd N., Renton. 425-271-8300. The food is more Lebanese and is really quite good. The atmo is, well, a little crusty, but the service is always wonderful and the place is typically pretty crowded. I really like a fried cauliflower dish called zahra (or something similar). It's served with a sauce that tastes of tahini. It might even be as good as Jim Dixon's cauliflower :)

A palate, like a mind, works better with exposure and education and is a product of its environment.

-- Frank Bruni

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Sounds great! I will have to make a special trip down there, since I hardly ever get south of I-90 (sorry Girl Chow! :raz: ).

How do the prices compare with Bistro Antayla? I absoutely love Donner Kebabs after I ate them daily when I was in Frankfurt long ago.

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Definately pricier than Bistro Antalya, but also more of real dining experience. Still very reasonable give the type and quality of food that is offered I think...

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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I did try the Turkish wine. The label is Kavaklidere, I think; I had the red (they make more than one red, but A La Turca only serves one).

It was much better than I expected. I figured it was going to be one of those situations where I had to grin and bear something outrageously bad, but if someone handed you a glass of this at a party, you wouldn't think twice. There was nothing distinguished about it, though.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I had some pretty good local wine when I was in Turkey, but it was a different producer (Villa Doluca) than what A La Turca carries. My wife tried one of the whites, which wasn't too exciting. The other big difference being that it is dirt cheap in Turkey and I think the bottles at A La Turca were running ~$32. I understand why, but it doesn't make them very competitive. I noticed they also had Turkish beer: Efes Pilsner, which I'm sure tastes better sitting in Istanbul than it does here....

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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mamster....Good review of A La Turca in the times today. I thought your comments about the quote on the front of the menu were funny. It does raise expectations to perhaps too high of a level for what the place actually delivers. You're right about portion sizes being kind of wacky too.

I have to say that the idea of Turkish food being one of world's great cuisines makes a lot more sense when eating in Turkey. I had what was definately one of the 5 best meals of my life at the Ciragan Palace Hotel in Istanbul overlooking the Bosphorus. It was epic. Also, the consistent quality of food there across price levels rivals any country I've been to.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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Also, the consistent quality of food there across price levels rivals any country I've been to.

This is a key observation--there aren't a whole lot of places in the world like that.

Did you eat simits in Turkey, the sesame bread things? I used to get them all the time from a bagel shop in Portland, and I've never seen them anywhere else, but World Food Turkey says they're all over Turkey.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Did you eat simits in Turkey, the sesame bread things?

Yes, its pretty ubiquitous. There were a couple surprising and disapointing food things in Turkey: a serious lack of good pida and good humus. For example, I'd say the humus at A La Turca was much better than anything I had over there. On the other hand, the Turks are magicians with eggplant and the babganouj is just over the top! Maybe my favorite meze I had was thinly sliced eggplant fried with feta on top....

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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  • 3 months later...

I went to A La Turca for dinner last Friday and discovered a menu item that I think is quite noteworthy, both for sheer tastiness and uniqueness. The dish, called 'Manti', consisted of lamb dumplings in three sauces that were 'layered' over them: mint yogurt sauce, a light tomato sauce and a butter sauce with toasted chili powder. Obviously everything gets combined as you eat it, but the presentation is quite striking. The combination of flavors is unique (very non-Western it seems to me at least) and perhaps not to everyone's liking, but I thought it was fantastic. The dish was made by the fact that the dumplings were more meat than dough. Apparently this dish is only offered on Friday and Saturday nights, along with the belly dancing :biggrin: (not that I was watching since my eyes were firmly affixed on my lovely wife)....

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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