On a recent voyage to Little Pepper to indulge a second time in some of the best Szechuan food ever to grace this continent, I met Imperial Stout, a fellow food-adventure seeker and a friend of Dan Dan Noodle. As we sat digging in to our dumplings, Imperial Stout told us of another restaurant we had to try. It served the best Turkish food in the five boroughs, he said, and a group would need to be assembled to properly sample its wealth of offerings. A few weeks later, Imperial Stout set to work assembling that group, sending us a link to the mouthwatering menu of Taci’s Beyti, located in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Dan Dan’s roommate, Steve Vanilla, and Imperial Stout were with Dan Dan in his car when Empanada Boy and I piled in. He followed Imperial Stout’s driving directions as Imperial Stout treated all of us to pre-dinner samples of nutmeg and mole-flavored salami that he had brought back from Armandino Batali’s Salumi on a recent trip to Seattle. When we pulled up and walked into the restaurant, we saw a long, thin, cafeteria-type space, too-brightly-lit with fluorescent lights. Mirrors covered the upper two-thirds of one wall and terrible dance music played loudly through speakers in the ceiling. Waiters dressed in black and white moved in and out of the kitchen in the back. Many of the tables around us were filled with people eating and talking. This was clearly the place to be for fine Turkish cuisine.
Imperial Stout took charge of the ordering with a little input from the rest of us and then revealed the beers from his collection that he had brought to share with us, including Pliny the Elder, an American double from California’s Russian River Brewing; a vintage bottle of The Abyss, an imperial stout by the Oregon brewery Deschutes; and for dessert, a bottle of Cherry Adam of the Wood by Portland’s own Hair of the Dog. (First salami, then fine beer—this is a good friend to have!) Soon the food began to arrive. The first dish was eggplant with spicy tomato sauce: cubes of eggplant sautéed with tomatoes, garlic and peppers to create a sweet-savory spread to top the thick Turkish bread delivered in baskets to our table. Next came the salad, a platter of brightly dressed tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives and green peppers topped with a mountain of fresh-grated feta and intermingled with tasty morsels of air-dried pastrami, seasoned with cumin, garlic and paprika. Cubes of calves liver were delicious in their crispy pan-fried shells. A squirt of lemon juice and a salad of seasoned onions kept their richness in check.
Then the server brought us the baked items we had ordered. The first, lahmacun, was thin circles of doughy bread topped with ground lamb, tomatoes, parsley and onions, seasoned with cumin, garlic and pepper. It tasted like a Middle Eastern pizza. We also sampled beyaz peynirli pide, a flaky pastry stuffed with that same fresh feta, an egg-milk custard, parsley and dill. The salty edge of the feta and the brightness of the herbs cut through the decadent pastry and custard to some degree, but this was not a dish to be taken lightly.
Just as I was started to get the first sensation of fullness, the meats arrived at the table. We ordered the Betyi kebab—savory skewer-grilled lamb, served in a slightly spicy sauce of tomatoes, garlic, green peppers. This was delicious, but the meat was almost too shrouded in sauce for my taste. I preferred the Iskender kebab (see second photo above)—thin shavings of gyro kebab (made of different meats ground together and reassembled) came topped with a lighter tomato sauce on top of a bed of yogurt-soaked pita. This meat was perfectly spiced and the thin slices meant we could keep adding more to our plates. The dish was like a fresher, more complex, disassembled gyro sandwich served on a platter. And what, I ask, could be wrong with that?
We were all quite full at this point, but we couldn’t leave without eating dessert. Imperial Stout had preordered kunefe, a unique pie of sorts, made with finely shredded dough baked until crispy and filled with stretchy and sweet kunefe cheese. It was soaked in a not-too-sweet honey syrup and topped with crunchy pistachios. It was a fantastic way to end a great meal. I only wish I had more space in my stomach to fill with it.
1955 Coney Island Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11223