First Look: Cafe Orchid and Nazarlik

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Two new Turkish restaurants opened recently and I've sampled each in the last few days. Cafe Orchid, at 1746 W. Addison, is in the space formerly occupied by another Turkish restaurant, Demir Paradise Garden. Owned by a family hailing from Ankara, it has a large dinner menu filled out with familiar items: lentil soup, hot and cold mezzes, kebab, shish, doner, veggie plates, quite a few seafood items (calamari, mussels, trout, swordfish), and pastries.  I'm looking forward to trying the manti, ravioli stuffed with ground lamb, the typically luxurious iskender, fried bread and doner meat smothered in yogurt, butter, and tomato sauce, and balik sarma, sardine filets wrapped in grape leaves, marinated, then grilled.

Yesterday, ordering from the more limited lunch menu, I had cold roasted baby eggplant (imam bayildi) stuffed with garlic, pine nuts, onions, parsley, tomato sauce, and a fat juicy adana kebab, spicy minced lamb bedded on fluffy pilaf with a long, charred green chili and an ultrafresh green salad sprinkled with sumac. For dessert two brownie bites and a fluted glass of Turkish tea came gratis.

Nazarlik, at 1650 W. Belmont, is run by the superfriendly Aksoy family from Gaziantep (or Antep) in southeastern Anatolia, and a number of dishes in the tiny storefront space reflect the region. It's a smaller selection, but I daresay I find it a mite more interesting. So far they've gotten some attention for the dangerously scarfable lahmacun--thin, wide disks of freshly rolled dough slathered with minced meat and vegetables and fired in the giant oven behind the counter. I also had a fat cheese and fresh spinach pie (gozleme), and a spicy, tender lamb kebab over chunky roasted baba ganoush smothered with yogurt (ali nazik).

But the real surprise on the menu at Nazarlik is cig kofte, raw minced beef and spices kneaded with bulgur, sometimes for hours, then shaped into meatballs and eaten with fresh lettuce. Many recipes call for mutton but at Nazarlik they're using beef, and couscous instead of bulgur.  It's so labor intensive that the Aksoys need a day's notice to make it on weekdays, and two hours notice on weekends.

I'll be plunging deeper into the menus at both places in the coming weeks.

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