Turkish delights fill the menu at Lokum in Miami Beach

Photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald
Photos by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald

Taste layers of history in the Turkish dishes served at Lokum, named for the powdered sugar-dusted confection better known as Turkish delight, subtly scented with rosewater or lemon. 

Open since September, the space near the intersection of Alton and Lincoln roads in Miami Beach has a small open kitchen where spits rotate with beef and lamb for doner kebabs, served with pita for soaking up the tomato sauce that smothers the carved meat. In Turkish cuisine one can discern a melting pot of ancient Far Eastern, Central Asian, Persian, European, Mediterranean (especially Greek) and Middle Eastern influences from manti (dumplings) to falafel and baklava.

Owner Basri Erdogan is based in Istanbul — the only city in the world spanning two continents — and visits his restaurant every few months. Business partner John Can (pictured) manages and helps cook. 

Can’s father is from Uzbekistan, and his mother is Turkish and taught him how to cook. He grew up in Istanbul and came to New York 40 years ago to attend Newton University in upstate New York, then became a jewelry manufacturer, leaving the cold for Miami three years ago. Chef Alattin Kaya was previously at Mandolin Aegean Bistro in Miami’s Design District and had his own restaurant in Istanbul for 10 years.

Two or more diners can share the meze sampler with hummus; baba ghanoush; tzataki; and bulgur salad with finely chopped walnuts and scallions in tomato sauce with pomegranate juice and olive oil, all served with pita triangles. 

Or start with sucuk (grilled slices of spicy beef sausage), good with the Istanbul salad with romaine, dried cranberries, green apple slices, walnuts and gorgonzola crumbles tossed in honey-lime Dijon dressing; artichoke hearts cooked in lemon and olive oil with fresh dill; or deep-fried but greaseless boregi (cigar rolls stuffed with a mixture of feta and parsley) wrapped in paper-thin phyllo made in-house. 

Pachanga boregi are baked phyllo pastries filled with feta, mozzarella, pastrami and peppers. Karniyarik (pictured), meaning “slit stomach,” are baby eggplant cut lengthwise into slices and fried then topped with chopped beef and tomato sauce plated with a smear of beet purée and homemade yogurt.

Entrees include grilled kofta (lamb and beef meatballs) with rice; whole grilled Mediterranean sea bass with potatoes; and hunkar begendi, bringing roasted eggplant in butter sauce topped with mozzarella and cubes of beef with tomato and peppers. 

It is a must to end with chewy-soft Turkish delight with a thick Turkish coffee or apple tea at this sweet spot.

Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.