Istanbul Cafe is a warm, comfortable spot that opened about a year ago in the old Le Biarritz space. In the afternoons, tables of men linger over glasses of sweet mint tea and a dessert or two. Although lamb and beef are cooked every which way here–in kabobs, as kofte, stuffed into manti dumplings–the substantial salads and boreks are a vegetarian’s feast. And the display case up front holds a dizzying array of Turkish sweets that appeal to anyone with a pulse.
The cold appetizer platter ($12.95) shown above offers, left to right, hummus, lebni, stuffed grape leaf, chopped tomato-red pepper salad, and smoked eggplant salad. Oil-cured olives perch on top of each portion, and grilled pita bread comes on the side. Each salad tastes fresh and vibrant, but the lebni, so rich you could stand a spoon up in it, and the tomato salad are uncommonly good. The stuffed grape leaf contains rice mixed with currants, onions, and raisins to savory-sweet effect.
There are 18 different homemade Middle Eastern desserts offered, ranging from three different kinds of baklava, to almond pudding, to semolina cake in syrup. The burma kadayif ($5.95), above, is made from shredded wheat, baked, soaked in honey, and sprinkled with pistachio. The bottom is sticky-sweet, the top crunchy, the whole thing completely delicious.
325 West 57th STreet
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