January 2009 Issue
January Featured Restaurant
On a cold, snowy night, Anatolia Café radiates a warm glow on busy Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, a street known for its eclectic dining options — Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Italian and burger-and-beer joints line both sides of the quarter-mile strip.
But it is Turkish food that beckons my husband and me on this frosty evening. Through the expanse of picture windows we see a cozy fireplace, walls painted deep coral and saffron and decorated with colorful rugs, and a bustling scene of white-shirt-and-black-slacks-clad wait staff dashing between two large dining rooms and a spacious bar. They carry plates of impeccably seasoned and grilled meats, tangy cold and warm appetizers and hearty soups.
Now this is comfort food.
Consulting the wine and beer list, we decide to make this an all-Turkish meal: I choose a light, red Yakut wine, while my husband selects an Efes Pilsner to accompany our main courses. We order a piquant appetizer: ezme salad, a spreadable mixture of minced tomatoes, walnuts, onions, parsley, garlic and spices with a lemon and olive oil dressing, served with soft, thick pita bread. With a larger group, we’d order the combination appetizer plate, which includes small samplings of seven dishes, including a smoky eggplant dip, stuffed grape leaves and kysyr, a cracked wheat salad with red and green peppers, parsley and onions.
Our dinners arrive, and my husband pronounces his baby lamb chops the best he’s ever eaten —perfectly seasoned, tender and grilled to perfection. My chicken Adana is tender and juicy: the meat has been chopped, flavored with red bell peppers and lightly seasoned with paprika, then skewered and grilled. On previous visits we’ve enjoyed the chicken and lamb sautés; both dishes combine cubed meat with onions, green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and garlic, cooked in butter. For hearty appetites, the mixed grill includes lamb Adana, shish kebab, chicken kebab and doner — a thinly sliced, gyro-like combination of lamb and beef. All entrees are served with rice and a green bean and carrot medley.
Anatolia offers traditional Turkish coffee, a strong brew that must be sipped slowly, but I prefer the light, refreshing taste of apple tea. Our waiter brings an alluring dessert tray, and for a fitting finale to our meal, we choose comforting, vanilla-laced rice pudding and smooth eggless custard, flavored with cinnamon and vanilla.
Thus warmed and fortified, we head out in the cold night, dreaming of Anatolia’s spacious, flower-filled patio, where we’ll dine again in spring.