|From Drop Box|
Café Mangal: A touch of Turkey in Wellesley
By Kaleel Sakakeeny
Without question, Istanbul is one of the world’s premiere destinations. Its world-class historic attractions, especially the Blue Mosque, the elegant Topkapi Palace and the famed Hagia Sophia, are a travelers holy grail.
But if you can’t get to Turkey this year, you can at least eat at the Café Mangal in Wellesley.
One of the most colorful eateries around, this combination Turkish café by day and restaurant by night radiates an upscale Turkish ambiance and décor that’s a powerful magnet in this mostly white, neat, affluent suburb.
The Mangal (brazier) sits among colorfully clothed tables with plenty of soft lighting.
Turkish artifacts and art transform a dining experience into a cultural journey, and the world music (Azerbaijan, Ceylon, Armenia, etc.) works a kind of magic on dinners.
Of course like any good middle eastern or Asia Minor restaurant the evening starts off with Meze, cold or hot appetizers to seduce the palate and prepare it for the rich Turkish- American meal to come.
I suggest the Yogurtlu Patlican, a small, seasoned dish of fried eggplant with green peppers, tomatoes, and garlic yogurt, or the Haydarit, a thick yogurt with garlic, chopped dill, and red pepper flakes.
This is a version of course of the standard Middle Eastern favorite of cool yogurt and chopped cucumbers with a dash of mint. Here, Café Mangal uses garlic and other seasonings rather generously to lift this appetizer out of the commonplace.
The young, attractive waitresses are all students, very international, and what they may lack in depth of experience, they more than make up for in courtesy, efficiency and genuine warmth.
They’ll bring a small dish of black and green olives (pitted) to the table and an assortment of fresh, warm breads. The Syrian bread (aka Pita bread) is especially useful as a utensil of sorts for the appetizers and to sop the savory juices of the food in general.
You could of course choose the Turkish Meze Combination platter, and try a range of the specialties.
Dinner for me is Chicken Breast Dardanelle, a breast of chicken baked in a casserole with artichokes, tomato, feta, olives, scallions, oregano and extra virgin olive oil.
While this dish can be a bit salty, it’s still one of my favorites. I love the tang and combination of flavors. But since it can also be a touch heavy, I suggest a salad to accompany.
Try the Arugula, Radicchio and Roasted Pear Salad or the Avocado, Hearts of Palm, and Grapefruit Salad. They make a pretty perfect combination with the chicken, hitting all the flavor high marks.
One of my dining companions, a lover of most things Turkish, ordered, the grilled Wild King Salmon, with just the right mix of black olives and wilted spinach, and a tomato-shallot wine sauce to keep the flavor of the fish intact…but take it to a level that salmon seldom sees.
I’m not a big meat eater, but sometimes I can’t resist urging friends to order the Australian Rack of Lamb with pomegranate, cumin, thyme, and medjool dates served with garlic-mashed potatoes.
I steal a bit or two (hypocrite that I am) and think I discovered of culinary heaven.
The balance of garlic and medjool dates is a terrific experience that I’m very partial to. I learned to appreciate the combination of the sweet taste of fruits with tart or savory in Morocco.
Be sure someone orders the Turkish Meat Kofte, grilled ground lamb and beef patties seasoned with Turkish spices and served with rice pilaf, vegetables, and a garlic and dill yogurt dip.
The restaurant’s huge success is due to the Ozargun family themselves.
Aisha and Omer and their talented sons, one of whom, Mehmet, is the chef, are committed to the best coffee beans, roasting processes, ingredients, preparation and produce.
And nothing escapes their eyes or attention.
A caring, warm and close family, they are exceptionally welcoming to every guest that comes through the door, even if it’s only to look at the décor and absorb the ambience… or order a coffee and one of the deserts.
Which brings me to the Turkish Rice Pudding, Homemade Walnut Baklava or Warm Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream.
The baklava with a cup of Turkish coffee? The rich, honey of the desert and the depth of the brew?
It doesn’t get much better.
Patrons appreciate Café Mangal’s careful blend of Turkish cuisine and ambience with the right amount of American sense and sensibility, allowing the Café to transcend the category of an “ethnic restaurant,” and become an international dining experience with unique Turkish flavors.
We think any place that quotes the revered Sufi poet, Rumi, “Let what you love be what you do” is on the right track.
555 Washington Street
Wellesley, MA 02482
Tel: (781) 235-5322