CAPPADOCIA TURKISH CUISINE
565 N. Semoran Blvd. | 407-985-2668 | cappadociaturkishcuisine.com | $$
Look out, Orlando, here come the Turks! Ottoman cuisine is flourishing in our city like never before, so if you haven’t had a chance to dine at Bosphorous, Anatolia (now Bosphorous No. 2), Efes (since closed), Attila’s (formerly Steak & Salad), Chi (part Chinese, part Turkish) or Nar (near UCF), you may want to give the city’s latest Turkish restaurant a go. Cappadocia, so named for the historic region in central Turkey, is the latest such joint to open and just so happens to be situated across the street from the Orlando Turkish Cultural Center. No surprise, then, that it was Turkic languages reverberating off the restaurant’s whitewashed walls – not Semoran-ese – which gave rise to our already buoyant anticipation. While the slight language barrier between us and our kindly server lent to the air of authenticity, it also resulted in our ready acquiescence to his suggestions. “Absolutely, we’ll try your lavash bread ($2.50),” came one deferential response. “Kibbeh ($8.95)? Sure, why not!” came another.
Now, we can’t endorse the former over the airy unleavened bread served at Bosphorous (and certainly not over the bread served at the former Anatolia – it came with an olive plate) – it wasn’t quite as doughy, but the fact that it wasn’t as substantial allowed us to enjoy the kibbeh even more. Yes, the cracked-wheat orbs required a minimum of three bites before we hit the center filling of pine nuts and ground lamb, but it was well worth the effort. The garlicky essence of the accompanying red dipping paste still seems to be lingering in my mouth today, but I appreciated its bold zest.
While the subtly sweet flavor of the grape leaves ($7.25) spurred a quizzical reaction, the “cigarette borek” ($6.99), cylindrical pan-fried phyllo scrolls with feta, were a hard habit to break. It took a while to peruse the lengthy list of main dishes, but it appeared we were ruminating on ruminants because both our mains of choice featured lamb as a primary ingredient. The first, an okra sauté ($13.99), had bite-sized morsels of lamb in a light tomato sauce with baby okra, carrots and potatoes, served with a plate of rice. “Mediterranean comfort food” is how my dining partner described it. The mixed grill ($21.99) catered to kebabophiles: Four renditions of lamb – spicy ground adana, char-grilled shish, sliced gyro and baby chops – offered an even greater source of comfort.
If you don’t like lamb, there are plenty of options with beef, chicken or salmon to consider. Our faves were the moist and pliant adana, as well as the tender cubes of shish. The chop was a smidge dry, as was the gyro, and didn’t exactly burst with flavor.
“I highly recommend the kunefe ($6.99),” was our server’s declaration on meal’s end, and our conformist dispositions played right into his recommendation. The dessert’s noodle-like phyllo pastry crested a layer of Turkish sweet cheese, with the whole sugary concoction drizzled in syrup. We loved it, but couldn’t finish it, given we had downed four honey-soaked squares of baklava ($4.99) just moments before. We discussed our meal over a glass of Turkish tea ($1.25) and a demitasse of Turkish coffee ($2.25), witnessed a gregarious trio of Turks enjoying theirs, and chatted with the owner, who seemed genuinely concerned about the caliber of the dishes we sampled. Cappadocia may not serve the most accomplished Mediterranean cuisine in the city, but it certainly didn’t preclude us from seeing the restaurant for what it was: a true Turkish delight.