Finally, it has arrived: a restaurant serving Turkish food in a 1909 house made almost entirely of wood, that also sells Oriental rugs and doubles as a hookah bar. Flying Carpet Cafe is a one-of-a-kind gem, offering relief in a world where every new restaurant opening seems to be another branch of Fuzzy's.
No surprise, it is located in the cool, eclectic West Magnolia Avenue neighborhood, home to such distinctive, independently owned spots as Spiral Diner and Avoca Coffee. But even there, it stands out. You get a sense of its uniqueness as soon as you walk through the door and enter a front room where beautiful Oriental rugs are stacked in piles around the perimeter.
Everything is wood: broad panels lining the floor, the walls, the ceiling, like some Middle Eastern version of a lodge.
The next room is the dining room, the tables and chairs surrounded by more wood plus carpets hanging on the walls like tapestries. The atmosphere is unusual, yet warm and cozy, with attentive service that puts you at ease. Flying Carpet serves no alcohol and welcomes BYOB, for a mildly steep fee of $5 per person.
The restaurant bills itself as a Turkish cafe, but that undersells it, in scope and in menu. It does feature a few Middle Eastern dishes, but there are just as many that are not.
Regardless of cuisine, everything was terrific, with a home-cooked vibe that gave it a personal touch.
We began with salads, two that were particularly upscale: one with arugula and cubes of beet, the other an innovative combination of mixed greens, fresh melon and feta cheese. The contrast between the sweet melon chunks and the tart feta was fresh and novel. The greens were supplied by Dallas produce purveyor Tom Spicer.
Tabbouleh ($8) was an especially minty version with loads of cracked wheat, diced cucumber and a slightly lower proportion of parsley. Entrees such as roast chicken with okra were simple and few but well prepared.
Flatiron steak with roasted fennel ($22) could have been on nearly any menu, though maybe not as nicely executed as this. The meat was served in slices, cut on the diagonal, so that you could see the deep red center contrasting with the darkened edges. It came with a roasted vegetable medley that included onions, mushrooms and thick slices of fresh fennel, roasted until still firm but just starting to turn soft.
Stuffed eggplant ($16) was generously portioned but a bit one-dimensional. The stuffing was a thick stew of tomato and diced onion that overwhelmed the roasted eggplant, turning it into a flat vessel instead of a source of tangible texture.
Sisters Devon and Callie Doyle are running Flying Carpet. Callie, who worked in the kitchen at Bolsa, oversees the savory while Devin prepares the sweets. From the ever-reliable baklava to an addictively thick rice pudding flavored with rose water called muhallebi ($7), this is one area of the menu that's ultra-Turkish.