Saturday, December 6, 2008

Restaurant review: Konak

Konak is a Turkish place a few blocks away that I've been walking past for months now and I decided tonight to finally give it a try. I'll caveat what follows thusly; I'm not a professional eater and perhaps lack a sophisticated palette. I have been known to microwave steaks and hamburgers and some may conclude that alone disqualifies me from being able to register an opinion on the culinary talents of others.

The venue is great. The decor is appropriately ethnic without being gaudy and it seems in that respect to be a great date place. There is a bar out front with a good milling around area and seems like it would be an ideal happy hour spot because the groups couldn't get too big. There was a guitarist there who also sang what I am guessing were old standards in Turkish but between every traditional song, he would play a bar or two from something contemporary--something like Never Never Land from Metallica. I thought--wait a minute, he's playing Metalica, then he would segue into another foreign language ballad before I could get out my lighter or push the table back to headbang.

But back to the food. The popularity of chains like Lebanese Taverna and other offerings from the middle, near, and far east is in their offering of dishes that are the most western which turns out to be rice/lamb/beef/chicken and rice or rice/lamb/beef/chicken and pita bread of some sort. For folks who want to show off, they can always order falafel, babaganush, or humus, but you really can't go wrong with a meat/starch combo from any menu from any corner of the world. Konak was no exception in their offering of the classic combos but they also offered traditional fare, some of which came "highly recommended" on the menu. I should have asked why it was highly recommended but I'll know better next time. So I ordered per the menu on their website:

Iskender Kebob (Highly Recommended)
Thinly sliced-lightly buttered pide bread topped with Famous Turkish Gyro (Doner Kebob), served with tomato sauce and homemade plain yogurt on the side in a special dish

When it arrived in what was indeed a special and splendid silver dish, I had my choice of additional butter and/or tomato sauce to pour on top. I told them I had never had the dish before and requested their recommendation and got melted butter poured on top of what ended up being a lukewarm chipped beef open faced sandwich with a large side helping of yogurt. There was a charred green chili and half a tomato on the plate as well. The chili tasted like burnt paper and the tomato with the tomato sauce was a bit too much. I ate quickly because arriving lukewarm, it was in my best interest to consume it quickly. I was also starving. The staff was so nice I didn't have to heart to tell them that I couldn't believe I had left my house on a snowy night to eat that crap when soup out of a can would have tasted better and I wouldn't still be burping butter laced tomatoes. I sought a redeeming note for the evening in ordering baklava and found it too, to be disappointing. It was soggy and tasted vaguely of dishwater--perhaps that was rose water gone too long but the point is that it was not good. I should have just claimed that I was full but I actually felt a pressure to finish my food, like I was dining at their house or something. Perhaps it was just the awkward courtesy of an American eating what was described to me as a traditional Turkish dish and finding it lackluster, not wanting to diss something that came so highly recommended they dare to print it on their menu. Perhaps it is Turkish humor to steer Westerners to their grossest dishes just to see them squirm when they ask how everything is. I for one will not be rushing back there but when I do, I'm sticking to the meat and bread basics.

The food is heavy in my belly and I must sleep now.

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