In my experience, I have come to realize that it is better to wait a couple of months before paying a visit to a new restaurant, at least in Orlando. It gives them sufficient time to iron out the kinks, etc. to be successful in their endeavors. That being said, I couldn’t help but notice the sign for Istanbul being installed. Istanbul took the spot some of you might recall as Finesse (the last restaurant to occupy this space that closed their doors last spring). Curiosity got the better of me and I had to visit Istanbul to find more….
Background: The original owners of Bosphorous Turkish Restaurant in Winter Park sold it to Doved and Tammy Sexter and after a brief hiatus opened another Turkish restaurant called Efes on the waterfront of Sanford. To my understanding they shut their doors too, and now the family has opened Istanbul Turkish Cuisine in Lake Mary, literally my back yard and I couldn’t be happier! Don’t get me wrong, I adore Winter Park and find any excuse to stroll down Park Avenue. But having to stroll to Istanbul beats any other excuse, no?
Food: I am on a perpetual hunt for variety and new ventures. Eventually though, cravings for one dish in particular, takes me back to previously visited restaurants. For me, the dish that brought me be back to Bosphorous and Efes was the Cold Mixed Appetizer plate and their warm Lavas. After researching the internet I discovered that yes, indeed Istanbul serves the Mezze platter and Lavas. The mixed appetizer platter is a combination of Humus, Babaganush, Eggplant with sauce, Vegetable Spread, Haydari, Grape Leaves, and Whipped Caviar.
Each of these cold dips taste delicious on their own, the variety will please all palates at your table. Refreshing with the Yogurt and Cucumber dip, roasted eggplants, served 2 ways, creamy Hummus, and whipped caviar to name a few. I simply adore the warm bread with the sesame seeds sprinkled on top; it is a perfect complement to these refreshing and flavorful dips. With the exception of one (whipped caviar) the rest of the meze are vegetarian, so here’s a fabulous option for vegetarians that can be converted to a meal itself.
Moving on to our main course – Mixed Grill platter (assortment of chicken and lamb kebabs). The lamb sis kebab and chicken kofte kebab were my favorite. All of them were grilled to perfection, as per our request, medium. Our entrée came on top of a bed of basmati rice and hint of vermicelli generously doused in clarified butter, pickled red cabbage, and grilled vegetables. All of the sides were refreshing and balanced the generous helping of kebabs.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth however the Kunefe caught my eye since it had a savory cheese filling. Creamy and savory cheese baked in vermicelli topped with pistachios and light syrup, it was the ideal ending to a beautifully flavored meal.
Bottom Line: One can’t help but compare notes with Bosphorous or Efes. Make no mistake, the presentation might be different, but the taste more or less is identical. And personally to me, taste is the only criteria that will bring me back to revisit any restaurant. The location is favorable; the ambiance and service is work in progress (they have been open only a week or so). Bottom line, I am crossing my toes and fingers that Istanbul Turkish Cuisine is here to stay, Lake Mary is screaming for diversity and variety.