Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
I was recently invited for a dinner at Cafe Istanbul, a restaurant on Steinway in Astoria that serves Mediterranean, Egyptian and Turkish cuisine. Opened over two months ago, this place is the dream come true of Mumbai native, Sonny, who spent 18 months creating this place, making it comfortable and very open.
Cafe Istanbul is a hookah lounge, so if you like a hookah during or after your meal, or just with a bite, this might be your spot. As I do not smoke, I did not try it, but saw many people there, enjoying it. Well, they may even have enjoyed their hookah desserts, that have exotic flavors like mango, orange of pomegranate. I never thought flavored hookah even existed.
In term of beverages, know that this is a halal restaurant, so they do not serve any alcohol. However, they offer great tea made with mint leaves. There is Moroccan (made with green tea), Egyptian (made with black tea) and Turkish. You can really taste the difference between each of them, not only by the color, but also the taste that goes from lighter (Moroccan) to stronger (Turkish).
Foodwise, we were there for a treat, prepared by Chef Fathi who is from Egypt. We started off with some hummus and babaganouj that we ate with some pita. These were delicious: the babaganouj had a delicious smokey flavor and the hummus a texture that definitely showed it was homemade. I loved the nice drop of olive oil in the middle that I mixed with these spreads while dipping my piece of pita.
Then, we got the cigars, called sigora boregi. They were made of feta cheese, parsley, dill, herb wrapped up in homemade Turkish phyllo. Some were just filled with cheese, and others with lamb as I told Sonny that I love lamb. It was very good, served with a homemade tahini sauce. The shell was hot and crispy, not too thick, and the filling melted. However, I could not really taste the lamb, whose flavor was too subtle, overpowered by the cheese that was predominant.
Next were two salads: the Turkish shepherd salad, made with feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions topped with parsley. And the fattoush salad, made with mixed greens.
But then came an appetizer I was really looking forward to try: the lamb liver. Cooked in a pan with just some oil, it reminded me the way my mom use to cook liver. Simple, but tasty. If you like liver, this is a dish I recommend.
But the lamb extravaganza did not stop there! I also got the lamb chops that were superb: these six pieces were well cooked, medium, and had a nice char. It was served with a delicious basmati rice that was prepared with saffron. The rice was moist and there was no need for any sauce on it.
For Jodi, Sonny prepared a vegetarian dish that was grilled vegetables.
Last was dessert. We got to try their version of creme brûlée that was topped with berries:
As well as the almond pudding that had a slightly denser consistency of a panna cotta.
We had a great time at Cafe Istanbul: the food was good and there was a nice ambiance there. Even if you are not into hookah or even smoking, it is a good spot to have dinner and, if you are a bit put off by the smoke, you can go for an early dinner: it is worth it.
Enjoy (I did)!
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