Last week I went out with my coworkers for lunch. I don’t often write on this blog about my job, but here’s some context: I’m a copy editor for a pretty big consumer magazine. There are three of us on the copy desk, and we read every article at several stages in the production process, looking for things like typos, grammar fixes, and style blunders. Anyway, it was senior copy editor LD’s birthday on Wednesday, so copy chief AD suggested we go out to celebrate. LD decided on ABA Turkish Restaurant, which featured a reasonably priced ($16) lunch special (an appetizer and entree, followed by coffee or tea).
The weather, stuck in a cold spell, made the day feel dreary; a light drizzle pattered down as we walked to ABA. Once inside, I appreciated the restaurant’s snug warmth: dim lighting easy on the eyes, a collection of polished wooden tables provided by a Turkish decorating company. Our friendly server gave us just the right amount of time to look over the menu; service in general seemed efficient without feeling rushed. In the end, all three of us settled on variations of the lunch special.
Clockwise from top left: lentil soup, yogurt soup, eggplant salad
AD ordered the lentil soup, which managed to achieve a bold, hearty flavor without being too spicy. The pureed lentils had a nice, thick texture, but I would have preferred the inclusion of whole lentils to lend a little variety to each bite. AD described it as “a fulfilling comfort food on this cold rainy day.”
On the other hand, LD’s soup of the day seemed made for a spring afternoon. She decided to order it after we spent some time puzzling over what “yogurt soup” could possibly mean. I kept imaging something thin, watery, and super tangy; in my mind, it didn’t sound too appealing. Surprisingly, it was actually really delicious—refreshing and light, so creamy and luscious—and I almost wished I had ordered it as well.
I decided on the eggplant salad for my appetizer, though it was not at all like I’d imagined. To me, “eggplant salad” conjures up a vision of chopped grilled eggplant, with some tomatoes, onions, and olives sprinkled throughout. Well, there was one olive, but no tomatoes or onions. Instead, roasted eggplant had been mashed with garlic and red pepper to create a chunky dip (somewhat similar to baba ghanoush). It wasn’t what I expected but once I tasted it, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop eating it, especially smeared atop the crusty bread (one of several types) served to our table.
From left: shaved lamb and beef, Turkish meatballs, grilled chicken kebab
The protein options for the second course (including shaved lamb and beef, grilled chicken, Turkish meatballs, lamb kebab, and falafel, among others) all came with the same sides: rice, red cabbage, and a small salad. The rice had a pleasant toasty depth to it, and the red cabbage gave a burst of brightness to the dish. Though the salad was relatively uninspiring (really just iceberg lettuce and grated carrots), I liked that it was at least a healthy addition to the plate.
AD ordered the thin-sliced lamb and beef gyro meat, subtly spiced and cooked on a rotating spit. The generous portion and traditional flavor left AD feeling satisfied. LD chose the Turkish meatballs, which consisted of char-grilled ground lamb and beef, seasoned with Turkish spices. Even though she didn’t want to eat too much in advance of her birthday dinner, LD couldn’t help but finish all the meat on her plate. I went with a simple order of grilled chicken cubes that ended up having a complex spice profile and were incredibly succulent—and I couldn’t get enough of the crispy char on the outsides. They tasted even better when dunked into my leftover eggplant dip!
COFFEE & TEA
From left: American coffee, Turkish tea
AD, LD, and I got a laugh out of the fact that final “course” of the lunch menu consisted of coffee, tea, and…that’s it. No dessert accompanied the beverages unless, I suppose, you ordered it separately and paid extra. I felt that something should have been offered, even if just a bite-size pastry or a piece of baklava (which, according to the restaurant’s website, is imported directly from Turkey) for the table to split. We also found it amusing that although ABA offered Turkish tea (a specific kind of black tea), the lunch special’s coffee option was “American coffee” (i.e., your average weak and watery cup of joe). As for the Turkish tea, AD commented that it was good but strong. I didn’t try it, but one Turkish reviewer on Yelp lauded its authenticity: it had the “right color, right smell, and right taste.”
By no means am I an expert on Turkish culture or cuisine, but everything from the decor to the food at ABA felt real. Even better, it didn’t limit itself to only a few menu items; options ranged from pan-fried calf liver or beef dumplings to grilled meats or a vegetable casserole. Although I thought the third course should have included dessert, I found the appetier and entree portions to be just enough for a midday meal: I left feeling full, but not so stuffed that I wanted to go home and take a nap instead of returning to work.