Restaurant >Turkish delight
When it comes to affordable steakhouses in the city – Longhorn, Ponderosa, Sizzler, Logan’s, etc. – there’s no shortage from which to choose. So when the gay-friendly Friends Restaurant closed and was replaced by a chophouse of the cheap kind, it hardly made an impression in the ViMi. The fact that the owners, a delightful Turkish couple, chose the laconic appellation of “Steak & Salad” for their eatery probably didn’t help to attract diners. But then, 10 months into serving a steady diet of no-nonsense meals, they introduced dishes from their native land and the excitement has been building ever since.
Opening the menu reveals a standard selection of sandwiches, salads, pizza and steaks, with “Turkish kitchen” selections appearing on the back page. With so many options on the chop block, I felt obliged to sample a small 6-ounce ribeye ($10.99), a USDA Select cut. While the grade was a notch below Prime and Choice, it was much better, and more tender, than I thought it would be. The baked potato was fine, and for $1 extra I gravitated toward the back of the menu and opted to upgrade my salad to a bowl of çoban salatasi (regularly $2.99), a tangy side akin to tabbouleh, but with less parsley and more cucumber.
Clearly, we had our sights set on that back page from the moment we walked in. After a few bites of the steak, we packed it in a to-go box and reveled in the dish we were really looking forward to devouring – the Turkish mixed grill ($22.99). The platter featured a strip of spicy ground adana kebab, four bulbous rounds of ground köfte kebab and two skewers each of beef (shish) and chicken kebabs. The meats were served over pita bread, soaking up the juices, and a mound of bulghur pilaf, cooked in a beef base with tomatoes, peppers and onions. All the meats were outstanding, particularly the moist and superbly tender chicken cubes. The adana and köfte kebabs both had lamb-beef mixtures, but the former packed a peppery punch while the latter comprised a mix of eggs, bread crumbs, onion and garlic. Again, both were thoroughly gratifying, and if you’re thinking that the beef skewers were the weakest of the lot, you’d be dead wrong. In fact, it was hard to pick a favorite as all were tender, flavorful and expertly grilled. We chose a side of eggplant salad to enjoy with the platter – think babaghanoush jacked with a bulb of garlic and served with grilled slices of bread. One notable omission – the döner kebab (aka gyros) – will be on the menu in about a month’s time. They’re just awaiting delivery of the vertical spit.
As a prelude to the platter, the borek ($2.99) – feta and parsley stuffed in a light, flaky pastry – is one I’d certainly order again. Grape leaves ($2.99) were spot-on stuffing-wise, but the leafy skin seemed thicker than average. Chocolate cake ($3.99) and cheesecake ($3.99) seemed to have come from Sam’s Club, but the baklava ($2.99) is flown in from Turkey, and while it may not be as divine as Anatolia’s, it’s certainly worth saving room for, along with a demitasse of Turkish coffee ($2.25).
If it weren’t for the brisk lunchtime delivery business (their burgers, pizza and sandwiches are most popular), Steak & Salad would go all Turkey. Sure, there will be those who’ll continue to opt for the traditional, but the real story here is on the back page.