'Order lots and share': Turquaz Alaturka serves up Turkish delights
'You'll get more than a full belly of delicious food'
When I walked into Turquaz Alaturka, I was hit by a heady wave of roasted meat and spices. The scent of garlic, parsley, paprika and black pepper was prominent but there was also something else. I knew it, but I couldn't put my finger on it.
"Lemon," my dining companion offered as I sniffed the air.
Ah yes, lemon. It made the air fresh; almost alive with energy. But that's what lemon does to food — it brightens ingredients by heightening the flavour.
Lemon can take a dish from so-so to spectacular with just one squeeze of a wedge. You'll find it used a lot in Mediterranean cooking.
Turquaz Alaturka is owned by the same people who own Turquaz Kebab House on 137th Avenue.
The commonality is obvious: both offer Turkish food that is ordered at the counter and delivered to your table. Other than that, the two restaurants are very different.
Where the kebab house is large and overflowing with families and a noise level that makes you wince, Turquaz Alaturka is a fraction of the size and offers an almost zen-like environment, relatively speaking.
Turquaz Alaturka employs only a few staff and offers foods that are (mostly) prepared during the morning and held in heating pans during the day, as opposed to the plethora of kebabs, wraps, flatbreads and shawarma offered and cooked to order by the bigger sister down the road.
On any given day at the 127th Street restaurant, you'll find soup, stewed chickpeas, white beans with beef, and larger dishes of braised lamb, stewed beef, roasted chicken legs, sea bream and a minced beef dish called saj kavurma.
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Depending on the day of the week, two feature dishes are added: stuffed eggplant, a beef and potato dish called tas kebabi, stuffed whole chicken, roasted lamb, roasted chicken, meat patties called kafta and chicken schnitzel.
"Something for the kids," says the server.
This irks me somewhat. It also irks me to see French fries — also, for the kids but also for the adults who expect them because the Kebab House has served them for 10 years.
Braised shanks, perfect pita
I'd rather people venture to restaurants such as these with the mindset, "We'll have what you're having," and not "I'd like fries with that," because missing out on sides like fluffy long-grain rice pilaf with brown buttered orzo would be a shame.
It would also be a shame to miss out on the lemony, fresh and lively tomato, cucumber and red onion salad, or the soft, thick pita that comes with every meal.
That pita is perfect for soaking up the peppery tomato sauce that pools beneath two meaty lamb shanks the size of turkey drumsticks.
The shanks are braised for hours until the meat is tender and falls from the bone with ease.
The single portion of saj kavurma is large enough for two people to share, making me wonder just how many can feast on the larger two-person size.
The saj is the round pan in which the minced beef (kavurma) is presented.
All the flavours I smelled walking through those doors are present here: paprika, tomato, onion, black pepper and a red pepper — either sumac or Aleppo pepper, I'm not sure — but the need to find out gives me an excuse to go back.
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The surprise dish is the ezogelin soup made of bulgur, red lentils, onions, red pepper paste, paprika, mint and lemon. It was named after a young woman in southeastern Turkey named Ezo who, in the early 1900s, concocted the recipe to win over her future mother-in-law, who doubted she was good enough for her son.
It worked. The couple married and raised nine children in a love-filled marriage.
Full heart, fully belly
If you go to Turquaz Alaturka, you'll get more than a full belly of delicious food.
Ask questions, be curious and you will leave with a head full of knowledge and a full heart, too.
The people here are gracious and want you to enjoy their food.
My advice is to order lots and share. Definitely have that soup and make sure to squeeze some lemon into it.
If you're going to skip any dish, let it be the schnitzel.
For menu and hours of operation, find them on Facebook. Turquaz Alaturka is located at 14016 127th St.