ANATOLIA (5112 Dundas West, at Kipling, 416-207-0596) Consider Turkish cuisine true crossroads cooking. Combining familiar elements from Greek, Persian and Arabic dishes, this friendly eatery in an Etobicoke strip mall offers classic stews and starters that are not only tasty but health-conscious, too. Complete meals for $30 per person, including all taxes, tip and a domestic beer. Open Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 am to 9 pm; Friday 11:30 am to 10 pm, Saturday noon to 11 pm and Sunday noon to 10 pm. Closed Monday. Access: short step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN
let's talk turkey. not the festive fowl but the land that gave us Alexander the Great, the ottoman and the fez.Deep in Etobicoke in a dreary strip mall, four-year-old Anatolia is one of Toronto's few Turkish eateries. Despite its reputation as one of the world's greatest cuisines -- along with French and Chinese, according to Turkish cookbook authors -- the food of the global crossroads is under-represented in our local multiculti mix.
But this old-school storefront space owned by chef Ayse Aydemir, complete with red-and-white checkerboard tablecloths and hanging plastic ivy, brings this true fusion food to town with finesse.
As soon as the Literary Device and I are ensconced near the front window (view: parking lot), a linen-lined basket of just-baked pide arrives at table. Dressed in fragrant olive oil, this pita cousin resembles nothing involving falafels. It's three times as thick, doughy, egg-washed and pocket-free.
While the table of business types over there nibbles sour Tursu pickles ($3.75) and charcoal-grilled de-skewered lamb kebabs ($12.95), the Device digs into tasty Beyti ($12.95), plump phyllo wraps of alternating ground beef and lamb zapped with paprika-like sumac. The wraps ring the oval plate containing both sweet carrot and red cabbage slaws, some ripped iceberg in lemony dried-mint vinaigrette and a dollop of pressed Haydari yogurt.
I don't do as well with Ali Nazik Kebabi ($12.95), thinly sliced and very cooked lamb over smoky eggplant purée that tastes more burnt than charred, topped with meek tomato sauce and a circle of embarrassingly pink tomatoes.
I sip a salty lassi-like yogurt Ayran, while LD tries to read my fortune in the grinds at the bottom of the demitasse of her dark, sugared Turkish coffee (both $2), sided with a square of confectioner's-dusted Lokum (Turkish Delight to the rest of us, and nothing at all like the wretched candy bar of the same name). But before we leave, we order up a mess o' mezes -- tapas-sized hors d'oeuvres -- to spirit downtown to the glamorous NOW Test Kitchen for further scrutiny.
Back at the flat, the Troubled Balkan has died and gone to heaven -- Zagreb, actually. Mouth in full watering mode, he almost weeps when he eyes the Turkish spread we lay out for him. Reminded of his war-torn homeland or just really hungry, he tucks into Meze Tabagi ($8.95), a starter sampler of dishes common to many Mediterranean menus: pine-nutty Yaprak Sarmasi grape leaf wraps (Turkish sushi?), garlicky hummus and delicious Domates Ezmesi -- diced tomato, bell pepper and Spanish onion dressed with olive oil, raw garlic and a squeeze of lemon.
Patlican Kizartmasi sees fried eggplant slices sauced with creamy yogurt and hot melted butter ($4.50), and Meyhane Pilavi ($3.95 small/$5.95 large) finds cracked bulgur tossed with butter-sautéed onion, tomato and nippy green chilies.
Troubled B (aka the Bottomless Pit) next polishes off Gozlemeler ($5.95), griddled flatbread crêpes stuffed with spinach and feta, after draining bowls of hearty red lentil (Mercimek Çorbasi, $3.50) and thin cream of tripe (Iskembe Çorbasi, $3.95) soup dunked with more fabulous pide. Both get garnished with crushed Turkish chili and minced garlic in vinegar. Queen West's old-school Prague Deli is still tops for tripe soup.
Neither har gow nor gnocchi but similar to Afghan mantu dumplings, Manti ($7.95) are loosely crammed packets of ground beef puddled with more delish buttery yogurt, then sprinkled with dried mint and a pinch of aromatic chili. Score a frozen kilo for 18 bucks.
A trek to the burbs won't be on the set list of anyone who gets light-headed at the mere thought of life beyond downtown. For the rest of us, affable Anatolia deserves an encore.