LTH Home

The best thin crust in Chicago is... Turkish? [pics]

The best thin crust in Chicago is... Turkish? [pics]
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • The best thin crust in Chicago is... Turkish? [pics]

    Post #1 - January 20th, 2005, 8:51 pm
    Post #1 - January 20th, 2005, 8:51 pm Post #1 - January 20th, 2005, 8:51 pm
    But before I attempt to substantiate that astounding claim:

    The Comforts of Other Peoples' Comfort Food

    There are some here who seek the hottest habanero, the stinkiest fish sauce, the most decadently carnivorous chunk of meat and fat. I enjoy all those things and yet I am just as happy with the simplicity of comfort food... other peoples' comfort food, that is, not chicken pot pie and mashed potatoes. Today I sing the praises of straightforward, unthreatening stick-to-your-ribs cuisines, which have just enough of the tang of the exotic to make them interesting yet fool your stomach into thinking they're nothing stranger than Thanksgiving dinner. Cuban, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Eastern European... and Turkish.

    Once, on another board, after I championed Turkish Cuisine in Andersonville, someone tried it and expressed disappointment in the blandness of the food. Not blandness, I replied-- simplicity. Turkish doesn't seem to heavy up on the spices, the garlic, the heat like some middle eastern cuisines-- it's about grilled meats and simple combinations like yogurt and lemon. Go into it expecting that and it's delicious-- comfortably delicious.

    Well, I still think that's basically true, in a gross oversimplification sort of way. But today, for whatever reason, Turkish Cuisine seemed to plow through the taste barrier and lift Turkish, uh, cuisine a little further, bolder, sharper. Some of it is due to the fact that they actually did dial up the heat, in a way that I haven't had it there before. But everything was really tiptop in whatever way it could be-- the grilled meat especially hot and juicy and delectable, the yogurt sauce with lemon in it as bright as a brand new penny, the bread rough and crusty enough for Poilane:

    Image

    Incidentally, they gave me a whole loaf of this flatbread at the end of the meal and it was much less well-done. I guess the way they reheat it for dining room customers is to first cook it to a perfectly acceptable light brown, then reheat it to the crispy dark brown which I found far preferable.

    I had the good fortune of having for my dining companions one of the most charming and ingratiating fellows I know-- one of those guys who has the magic ability to draw the female staff in a flock wherever he goes. With him working his charms and me following behind, doggedly asking LTH-style questions, it wasn't long before they were offering us, gratis, a dish which is not on the menu but which they often make for their Turkish customers:

    Image

    This is the Turkish borek, as distinct from the Albanian byrek, etc. A slightly rubbery phyllo-like dough, inside of which was ground beef, perhaps a bit of cabbage, some spice like clove or cinnamon-- surprisingly these were done no harm by a quick visit to the inside of a microwave, and proved addictive.

    Image

    Next a lentil soup, pleasingly more complex than expected, and decidedly spicier than expected.

    Image

    My less adventuresome companion, seeking something more familiar, zeroed in on the lahmacun because of the description: "Turkish style pizza." Having much enjoyed the version at Larsa's (lahma ajeen), I had no objection.

    The toppings, though reasonably tasty, were not as impressively flavorful as the spicy melange atop Larsi's lahma ajeen. But balance against that the fact that the crust was terrific, a thin, crispy, bubbly crust with beautiful burnt edges which puts most of the thin crust pizzas in town to shame:

    Image

    Turkish Cuisine was originally Turkish Cuisine and Bakery. (Actually, even before that it was Med.) In its early days trays of baklava and other Turkish delights lay out on the counter for takeout by the Turkish community. For whatever reason they seem to have cut down on the baking side, but between the crusty bread and this pizza crust, they clearly haven't lost their touch with the ovens (which remain visible, even after the construction of a wall to make the dining room more formal).

    At this point we didn't really need any more food, but I had already ordered an entree, the yogurtlu adana, kifta-like kebabs of beef and lamb seasoned with red bell pepper (and surely some chile pepper as well) served on bread cubes in a yogurt-lemon sauce. As I said, perfectly grilled meat with bright, spicy flavor, very satisfying.

    Image

    My charming companion was very happy with his meal too:

    Image

    Turkish Cuisine
    5605 N. Clark
    (773) 878-8930
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #2 - January 20th, 2005, 9:03 pm
    Post #2 - January 20th, 2005, 9:03 pm Post #2 - January 20th, 2005, 9:03 pm
    Went back to look for my original ancient post on Turkish Cuisine to repost but decided it wasn't all that interesting (apart from reminding me that I'd liked the imam biyaldi-- and I don't even like eggplant!) However, this post by Zim actually is worth going back and rereading. (Its link to my post is broken, alas.)
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #3 - January 20th, 2005, 10:19 pm
    Post #3 - January 20th, 2005, 10:19 pm Post #3 - January 20th, 2005, 10:19 pm
    Sure does look good.
  • Post #4 - January 20th, 2005, 10:25 pm
    Post #4 - January 20th, 2005, 10:25 pm Post #4 - January 20th, 2005, 10:25 pm
    Mike G wrote:My less adventuresome companion, seeking something more familiar, zeroed in on the lahmacun because of the description: "Turkish style pizza." Having much enjoyed the version at Larsa's (lahma ajeen), I had no objection.

    Mike,

    Looks delicious, it's been a while since I've been to Turkish Cuisine, seems a return visit is in order.

    Turquoise's lahmacun is quite good as well.
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #5 - January 20th, 2005, 11:16 pm
    Post #5 - January 20th, 2005, 11:16 pm Post #5 - January 20th, 2005, 11:16 pm
    The tablecloth at Turkish Cuisine is very eye catching, too.
  • Post #6 - January 21st, 2005, 11:31 am
    Post #6 - January 21st, 2005, 11:31 am Post #6 - January 21st, 2005, 11:31 am
    Any chance it's BYOB? Or is that too good to be true?
    Did you know there is an LTHforum Flickr group? I just found it...
  • Post #7 - January 21st, 2005, 11:43 am
    Post #7 - January 21st, 2005, 11:43 am Post #7 - January 21st, 2005, 11:43 am
    ChgoMike wrote:Any chance it's BYOB? Or is that too good to be true?


    Yes, Turkish Cuisine is BYOB. And a belly dancer, IIRC, Saturdays around 9.
  • Post #8 - January 21st, 2005, 1:00 pm
    Post #8 - January 21st, 2005, 1:00 pm Post #8 - January 21st, 2005, 1:00 pm
    Mike G wrote:But before I attempt to substantiate that astounding claim:
    Not blandness, I replied-- simplicity. Turkish doesn't seem to heavy up on the spices, the garlic, the heat like some middle eastern cuisines-- it's about grilled meats and simple combinations like yogurt and lemon. Go into it expecting that and it's delicious-- comfortably delicious.


    This is completely true of all the Turkish restaurants I've experienced in Chicago ... and across the U.S. for that matter, including Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, etcetera. I don't know where the major centers of Turkish emigration are in the U.S. - though I suspect Los Angeles is one of them - and, unfortunately, I've never been to Turkey, but, based on my reading and cookbook based explorations, I think we're missing a great deal. Whereas someone mentioned in a post about Katsu that we don't get Japanese "home cooking" in the U.S. I think we only get Turkish home cooking. I'm thinking specifically about Claudia Roden's discussion of the Ottoman Empire in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. She mentions the incredible prestige accorded to chefs during the Ottoman times, the formation of guilds and specialized producers (all the way down to the lowly pancake maker), and the centralization of training in the Bolu region (about midway between Istanbul and Ankara, a touch north of a line between the two). Many of these professional chefs were in service to the military officers. I just read online* that, strangely, military offices that had nothing to do with cooking were given kitchen oriented names - e.g. commanders were called "soupmen," etc. - and turning over the pilaf cauldron with a sign of impending insurrection. Anyway, wia empire, Turkish cuisine was dispersed to North Africa, Southern Russia, the Balkans, etc. Roden even seems to hint that the Turkish restaurant trade stems from this time. There does seem to be a disproportionate number of Turkish restaurants around, given the population. And, if you count the homogeneous "Middle Eastern" restaurants operated by Turkish people, it's probably greater. Elsewhere I've seen discussions of regional cuisines, such as that of Gaziantep in Southeastern Turkey, which, due to proximity, shares a great deal with Syrian cuisine and is therefore much spicier. And, of course, Turkish Cypriot cuisine shares a great deal with Greek, though those are probably fighting words. Ayla Algar's Classical Turkish Cooking has some elaborate recipes, but that's not the emphasis. After all, how marketable is "The New Book of Incredibly Elaborate Turkish Food that You've Never Eaten Before and Will Never Spend the Required Hours to Make?"

    In short, the way the diversity "middle eastern" food is subsumed under an umbrella term is one of my pet peeves. Of course, that's not to say that's what was going on in this thread. It's more that I'm pining for a place where I can try some of the elaborate pilav, pastas (pretty under represented at Turkish restaurants), stuffed vegetables, savory pies, zeytinyagli (amusingly, a separate category given to vegetables cooked in olive oil), etc.


    *http://www.turkishpeople.com/food/articles/ministry/index.html

    Mike G wrote:This is the Turkish borek, as distinct from the Albanian byrek, etc. A slightly rubbery phyllo-like dough, inside of which was ground beef, perhaps a bit of cabbage, some spice like clove or cinnamon-- surprisingly these were done no harm by a quick visit to the inside of a microwave, and proved addictive.
    [url]

    I've made a number of these types of savory pies and though I think they're fine reheated, they are different. You can tell by the image that the browned top that was crisp is now a little puckered and soft. They are time consuming and time sensitive to make. Once you start with the philo, you have to move quickly. It would be difficult to make them to order with a small kitchen staff. When I do make them I make a large batch and freeze many. When reheated in the microwave they get that slightly flabby exterior you see in the picture. Still tasty, nonetheless.

    rien[/url]
  • Post #9 - January 21st, 2005, 1:34 pm
    Post #9 - January 21st, 2005, 1:34 pm Post #9 - January 21st, 2005, 1:34 pm
    "In short, the way the diversity "middle eastern" food is subsumed under an umbrella term is one of my pet peeves."

    Well, thank the British for that term, which really describes the Levant and Egypt. (Though, isn't Levant easier to say, anyway?)

    At any rate, I'm sure that the Turks, Armenians, Persians, Assyrians, Moroccans (not even near the Middle East but often subsumed by the term) would agree.

    On the other hand, I think that "Middle Eastern" is also a rough shorthand for "Arab" when it comes to food. But there are lots of racial, class, colonial and other undertones to that word. And "Middle Eastern" restaurant owners hoping to attract a broad clientele here would be nuts to use that term. Yet, few could argue about the pervasive influence of Arab culture over the Islamic world (especially the western part). There really is a remarkable culinary consistency/monotony in a large part of the "Middle East"; your basic pita, hummos, baba ganoush staples, no?

    Turkish, of course, is a different kettle of fish. Here you have really an ethnically diverse but geographically distinct country that stretches from the Mediterranean and Balkans to the Caucasus. It only flirts with the "Middle East" along a part of one border. It is not ethnically, culturally, or linguistically Arab.
  • Post #10 - January 21st, 2005, 1:53 pm
    Post #10 - January 21st, 2005, 1:53 pm Post #10 - January 21st, 2005, 1:53 pm
    Rien, I think you're right that Turks have operated a lot of those sort of pan-Middle Eastern restaurants (such as Cousins) where a number of things associated vaguely with the middle east were combined into an inoffensive, gringo-friendly and mostly mediocre cuisine (such as Cousins') which I suspect bears little resemblance to any actual food served in Turkey (or anywhere else in the region). Beginning with the opening of A la Turka about a decade back, and some others including Cafe Demir (Demir was A la Turka's original chef) and Turkish Cuisine, there's seems to have been a bit of a move back toward somewhat more authentic cuisine, as well as some groceries serving a Turkish community (there's one on Devon which I think Zim has also written about), though as you point out that food may be authentic only to one form of Turkish cuisine.

    Anyway, the point of all that is that I asked Turkish Cuisine's owner a bit about more authentic and off-menu items and he said they make a number of off-menu things for large parties of Turks and would be happy to do so for us, too. That immediately suggested that I should plan an event there; I can't do it for a week or two but keep the idea in mind, folks, and if rien or anyone else who knows more than I do about Turkish food wants to help with the menu planning, feel free to volunteer.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #11 - January 21st, 2005, 2:09 pm
    Post #11 - January 21st, 2005, 2:09 pm Post #11 - January 21st, 2005, 2:09 pm
    Oh, and to JeffB's point, where the Turks culturally would undoubtedly consider themselves highly distinct from the middle east (not that, say, any other middle easterners especially consider themselves part of ONE culture, especially those who aren't Arabs), I think it makes sense in a certain shorthand way when talking about cuisine, and especially in talking about restaurants, because there are certain classically "middle eastern" things that you find consistently across these restaurants-- Turkish Cuisine offers baba ghanoush, hummus, falafel, kebobs, etc., and there are shakers of sumac on the table, mint in the cacic (tzatziki), and so on.

    For more, see A.J.P. Taylor's The Struggle For Mastery In Europe 1848-1919, page xxi, fn. 1.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
    New episode: Soil, Corn, Cows and Cheese
    Watch the Reader's James Beard Award-winning Key Ingredient here.
  • Post #12 - January 25th, 2005, 2:35 pm
    Post #12 - January 25th, 2005, 2:35 pm Post #12 - January 25th, 2005, 2:35 pm
    OK, if we're going to talk about Turkish pizza (lahmacun) and doner-kebab, here comes my question:

    Which place in Chicago serves these dishes as we would expect to find them in Berlin, the expat capital of Turkish food?

    I've got homesick Berlinophiles craving lahmacun and doner-kebab and SOMEONE in Chicago has to do it Berlin-style.
  • Post #13 - January 25th, 2005, 3:29 pm
    Post #13 - January 25th, 2005, 3:29 pm Post #13 - January 25th, 2005, 3:29 pm
    Sounds like a perfect opportunity to force your Berliner friends to down a half doze lahmacun and pronounce their verdict on which reigns supreme, no?

    rien
  • Post #14 - January 25th, 2005, 4:56 pm
    Post #14 - January 25th, 2005, 4:56 pm Post #14 - January 25th, 2005, 4:56 pm
    Sounds like a perfect opportunity to force your Berliner friends to down a half doze lahmacun and pronounce their verdict on which reigns supreme, no?


    EBD:

    Det stimmt. Un' dann werdn se wohl dastehn wie von'nen Donnerkebap jetroffn.

    A
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #15 - January 25th, 2005, 11:32 pm
    Post #15 - January 25th, 2005, 11:32 pm Post #15 - January 25th, 2005, 11:32 pm
    Antonius:

    I'm not the Berlinophile in question... in fact, I only speak about 150 words of German, the most useful of which is probably "Imbissstand." My experience of lahmacun and donerkebab comes, actually, from New York. The Berlinophile is my roommate, actually :) but the both of us thoroughly love Turkish food.
  • Post #16 - June 14th, 2006, 1:23 pm
    Post #16 - June 14th, 2006, 1:23 pm Post #16 - June 14th, 2006, 1:23 pm
    My husband and I get carry-out from Turkish Cuisine a couple of times per month. It's always hot and delicious and they give us an entire loaf of their wonderful bread everytime we order--sometimes two loaves. We always order the turkish pizza with a couple of entrees. Every entree we've tried has been excellent and their dill rice is perfectly seasoned. If you eat there, on Saturday nights it turns into dance party with a belly dancer and live music.
  • Post #17 - June 14th, 2006, 2:03 pm
    Post #17 - June 14th, 2006, 2:03 pm Post #17 - June 14th, 2006, 2:03 pm
    rien wrote:In short, the way the diversity "middle eastern" food is subsumed under an umbrella term is one of my pet peeves.


    I dunno. I use Middle Eastern, but personally I think of it the same way I think of Mediterranean. I don't mind the usage of the term, it's just with the understanding that it encompasses a number of distinct cuisines. Though I understand that not all diners see it this way... of course, not all diners have any idea what they're eating, no matter what kind of food you're talking about.

    I should also clarify that I don't know boo about Turkish, so I for all I know, Turkish is as "Middle Eastern" as Japanese is "Mediterranean".
    Dominic Armato
    Dining Critic
    The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com
  • Post #18 - June 14th, 2006, 2:48 pm
    Post #18 - June 14th, 2006, 2:48 pm Post #18 - June 14th, 2006, 2:48 pm
    Turkish Cuisine is a favorite of mine as well. I think they're always pretty friendly and generous to anyone who takes the least bit of interest.

    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=10434#10434

Contact

About

Team

Advertize

Close

Chat

Articles

Guide

Events

more