Thursday, October 15, 2015

Turkey with a white table cloth

One of the things that bugged me while I lived in Berlin the first time was how Turkish food was rarely served anywhere except Imbisse (snack bars) or holes-in-the-wall (and in homes, of course), but rarely in sit-down establishments where you might go on a date or take your out-of-town parents. Most days, I'd rather eat Turkish food than German food, but I know this isn't how everyone feels. Older Germans I am acquainted with would never eat Turkish food unless there was no other choice and then they would probably grumble about garlic or spices or grease. It was also my impression that most Germans, though they were more than willing to eat Turkish food, found that it was acceptable for a quick meal or snack, particularly after a night on the town, but would never center an evening around a Turkish establishment.

So, it's a little strange that I went to a Turkish restaurant in the States right before moving back to Berlin, where entire neighborhoods seem to be powered by Turkish food, but .... what can I say... the alphabet made me do it. I will say that although Yayla Bistro was not bad, better Turkish food abounds in Berlin. Out of the four things we ordered, two were really good and two were OK. Our waiter recommended a glass of Turkish wine, which was really excellent - much better than I had expected. We also shared an appetizer of baby squid with honey vinegar. The squid was perfectly cooked and the honey vinegar added a really interesting component. Very few, if any, Turkish restaurants in Berlin serve such a dish. On the other hand, we also had a totally average spinach pie and really blah moussaka. Both seem to have been microwaved - the pastry in the spinach pie was really soggy and this totally ruined the dish. You could easily get microwaved food from a Turkish place here, but it would have cost a few Euros at most. What was notable about Yayla, was not how extremely friendly the owner and staff were (the owner was in front of the restaurant while we were looking for parking and went out of his way to tell us about free parking in the neighboring garage), rather the white table cloths, soft lighting, and older white clientele mixed with young white families. In my almost seven years in Berlin, the nicest Turkish place I ate was Hasir in Kreuzberg (I know the one is Mitte is a bit fancier) and it wasn't all that nice. I don't recall seeing any old white guys in loafers. While I was gone, there have been some developments in the Turkish food scene and I've read about the opening of two more traditional (real tables, waiters, etc.) Turkish restaurants: Defne and Osmans Toechter. The weather is basically unbearable and a jet-lagged toddler doesn't necessarily make for the best sidekick, but I think there may be room for a little optimism here. 

Yayla Bistro
2201 North Westmoreland Street, Arlington

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