This is the latest installment in our look at international food in the Metroplex, Around the World in 80 Meals.
The first time I had the Turkish bread called pide (pee-day), I was nowhere near Turkey.
I was in Sydney, Australia, of all places, and it seemed to be quite commonly used for all sorts of sandwiches, not just those with a Middle Eastern accent. More flavorful than pita and as crunchy yet soft as focaccia, pide became my new favorite bread.
So imagine my disappointment upon discovering that Istanbul Grill, which bills itself as "the only Turkish restaurant in the Fort Worth-Arlington area," doesn't serve pide but instead goes with plain pita. Thankfully, that proved to be the only major letdown with the menu.
And, as it turns out, one of the appetizers almost made up for it. The fried zucchini (called mucver here) -- pan-fried zucchini pancakes, cut in snackable triangles and served with a garlic yogurt sauce ($6) -- might just make you want to pack up and move to Turkey or, failing that, find a recipe. You just want to snack on them like potato chips.
For the entrees, the chicken adana ($10.95), chopped chicken with bell peppers and paprika, proved to be hearty and satisfying, but not nearly as memorable as the hunkar begendi ($12.50), pureed eggplant and baked lamb cooked in a rich tomato sauce.
Don't forget to leave room for dessert, especially the kazandibi ($4), a caramelized milk pudding that has echoes of flan but, at least as served here, packs more of a sweet punch. Both the kazandibi and the baklava ($4), the traditional Mediterranean dessert of phyllo dough, walnuts and honey, are nicely set off with chunks of pineapple and cantaloupe. The blend of the fruity sweet with the sugar might seem like overkill, but they worked well together.
Of course, if, like me, you're still craving pide, you must head to Dallas, where Pera Turkish Kitchen recently opened its doors on Preston Road. It's run by members of the same family who operate Istanbul Grill.
Pide is served as bread with a feta-dill spread, and is used as the base for what's essentially a Turkish pizza, an excellent spinach-mushroom pide ($10.95). It's possible to fill up only on pide dishes, so be careful.
Before the pide pizza though, we tried the appetizer called ezme ($5.50), a salad with a blend of vegetables, pepper paste, pomegranate, olive oil and molasses. It had a tangy kick but not much taste. Pera also serves zucchini pancakes ($5.95), though theirs are not quite as memorable as those at Istanbul Grill.
The entrees were more successful. A good option, if you want a broad taste of Turkey, is the mixed grill platter ($19.95) with chicken shish kebab, beef shish kebab and lamb chop. The meats were all tender and well-seasoned.
The adana ($12.95) with lamb here worked better than its chicken counterpart at Istanbul Grill, probably because lamb has a more distinctive taste than chicken.
The kazandibi ($5), served with whipped cream and a mint leaf, once again worked as just the right way to end the meal.
It was also a reminder that, while North Texas may not have a wealth of Turkish restaurants, what's here certainly hits the spot. More pide, please!