East meets West in the cuisine at Hollywood’s A La Turca, “the Turkish way” in French. The space has the burnished patina of an Istanbul meyhane (tavern) with racks of wine on the walls. Make a meal of meze or plunge into platters of kebabs with sides of pilaf and smoky pepper paste.
Originally from Istanbul, owner Ugur Unal landed in Pittsburgh, where he had a family friend. After a road trip to South Florida a decade ago, he relocated and opened A La Turca, focusing on the dishes from southeast Turkey heavy on lamb and yogurt, staples of the nomadic people from Central Asia who migrated west with their flocks in ancient times. Meze, from mazzeh, meaning “to taste,” came from Persia with Sultan Suleyman and his tasters, who took small bites before he ate.
Eggplant is served in many forms: shakshuka (roasted with peppers in tomato sauce), mashed with yogurt, or as karniyarik (“slashed belly”), a thick slab of fried eggplant stuffed with spiced ground beef.
Zucchini pancakes are served with garlic yogurt and ezme, a salsa of minced tomato, peppers and onion with pomegranate juice. Lamb chunks are marinated in olive oil, milk and onion and grilled for shish. Beyti is ground lamb wrapped in papery lavash bread drizzled in tomato sauce, yogurt, and melted butter.
Large pan-fried shrimp are blanketed under spicy tomato sauce and bubbling cheese, good paired with Cankaya, a light white wine from Ankara.
End with walnut baklava rolls with whipped cream and a tiny cup of sweet Turkish coffee.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.