Turkish cuisine is relatively difficult to find in the Boston area, but if you look hard enough, you can find some good dining spots that specialize in this type of cuisine. A few that come to mind include Sultan's Kitchen in the Financial District of Boston, Saray near BU and Allston area, Family Restaurant in Brookline Village, and Cafe Mangal in Wellesley. And while this last dining spot sometimes strays beyond Turkish cuisine into a variety of Mediterranean dishes, it is mainly a Turkish restaurant, and an outstanding one at that.
Unlike the other restaurants listed above, Cafe Mangal is upscale and elegant, though this side of the restaurant mainly comes out in the evening, when it transforms from a casual breakfast and lunch spot into almost a fine dining place at dinnertime. But no matter what time of day diners go, they are treated to a beautifully decorated place, with a exotic carpets placed over a hardwood floor, attractive lamps and framed (and lighted) paintings on the walls, a high, vaguely industrial ceiling with exposed pipes, and comfortably padded chairs and tables with white tablecloths. Soft music plays in the background of the long, narrow dining room, adding to the classy feel of the restaurant.
Breakfast at Cafe Mangal is fairly limited, with the highlight being the Turkish breakfast plate, which includes kaser and feta cheese, pepperoni, a hard-boiled egg, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. The lunch menu is much more extensive--and is popular with local workers--with a number of soups, salads, and sandwiches offered, including lentil soup, a pear and goat cheese salad, and a yengen sandwich (beef pepperoni, kaser cheese, and tomatoes).
The menu completely changes at dinnertime, with appetizers such as a fabulous pastirma with halloumi cheese (air-dried strips of cured beef wrapped around chewy, slightly squeaky cheese), soups that change daily (and are always freshly made), and interesting salads such as one with avocado, hearts of palm, and grapefruit. Meze plates and platters are offered, with braised artichokes and fried eggplant being two of several offerings. And for entrees, diners have a lot to choose from, including the chicken topik, which is a little like chicken pot pie (but with lots of cheese and bechamel sauce on top) and is stuffed with tasty shredded chicken. A grape leaf platter is another option, with their version of this dish being quite good, as the grape leaves are warm, fresh, and tender, and include beef inside them. Some of the main courses can get a bit expensive, but are probably worth the extra money, as dishes such as the orange glazed garlic shrimp and thin beef tenderloin strips with herbs, spices, and vegetables are probably the types of dishes you will find in other Turkish restaurants around Boston. Desserts are all homemade and include a moist, hearty baklava that comes with walnuts.
We believe that Cafe Mangal is in the upper echelons of "hidden" ethnic restaurants around Boston, along with places such as the Jasmine Bistro in Brighton and Cafe Polonia in South Boston. Indeed, Cafe Mangal is in with some pretty heady company, and for good reason; it is a fantastic restaurant that deserves much more press than it currently gets. (Ed. note: Cafe Mangal is BYO, so keep this in mind if you would like to have some beer or wine with your meal.)
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