Every now and then I have a Monday off from work, and I do my best to fill those Mondays with lunch dates to new-to-me restaurants. Well thanks to Kathy and the deck of dining cards she received for Christmas, on one fine Monday afternoon I found myself at Istanbu’lu in Somerville.
I have driven by Istanbu’lu many times on my way to McKinnon’s Meat Market, and I have always mentally marked it as some place I would like to try. I am a sucker for Turkish food after all! But the location is not fabulous. It is on the way to or from places, but it is never next to where you are going. However, I am here to tell you, you MUST make this a destination. The flavors that I tasted during this meal had me kicking myself that I hadn’t gone there sooner.
Shortly after sitting, the waitress (who was fantastic, patient, and able to answer all of our questions), brought over a basket of the softest, warmest bread I have had in a while. And the red pepper dip alongside of it….well I instantly knew I would be out-eating myself at this meal!
We decided to order a few of the “tapas” to split to get a good taste of a few different items. We started off with the Mercimek Kofte which is “steamed red lentil mixed with tomatoes, pepper sauce, parsley and scallion. Topped with yogurt.” Holy heck my taste buds exploded. It was reminiscent of the metch I love so much, only better. We ate this super slowly as to make sure we had enough to make it the last bite of our meal. It is absolutely memorable.
Next up was a Patlican Salad (top) which is “roasted eggplant mixed with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, roasted red pepper and parsley.” Now, I feel bad for this dish because it came after the Mercimek Kofte, and I am not a huge eggplant or tahini fan. But you know what, it was delicious! Some how the mix of flavors won me over and I continued in my taste bud bliss! Next at bat was the borek sampler (bottom). Now, I am biased to boreks because my aunt makes the most unbelievable ones you will ever taste. So, to me, these were just okay. And with the amazing flavor of the other dishes, I wouldn’t waste my calories on them the next time I am here.
We had to end the meal with a turkish coffee. If you have never had turkish coffee, it is an experience that grows on you. There are literally still grinds in the coffee and it is very strong. But once you get your taste for it, it is a decadent experience. Try it a few times before you decide whether you like it or not. That is my tip for the day.
So, friends, Istanbu’lu was a hit! I will definitely be back, probably with my mostly vegetarian sister, who I think will melt over this place. The service and food are undeniably high quality, and deserve your attention on that stray little corner in Somerville.