Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: Color Me Impressed with Cafe Orchid's Turkish Cuisine

Cafe Orchid
1746 W. Addison, Chicago

I know I've previously eaten Turkish food in Chicago at least a couple times over the years, but it's been long enough that I can't tell you where, when or what I ate.

Except hummus.

Yet I seem to recall having very much enjoyed my taste of Turkey.

So in addition to introducing me to some new cuisines, my Chicago Dining World Tour has proven valuable in prompting me to rediscover those that I just haven't had in a long while, for no good reason.

And while I've found some good places with the help of Yelp or by heeding personal recommendations, Cafe Orchid is one I noticed in transversing Addison on the way to the expressway.

It's located just west of Lincoln Avenue in a cute little self-contained building on the north side of the street.

Last Saturday I met my friend Bob there--even though we live just five minutes from each other--before we each carried on to different events in the city that evening.

We started with an appetizer of hummus, which somewhat surprisingly to me was not accompanied by pita bread but rather a raised & sliced bread. Both the bread and hummus were delicious.

In order to sample a more unique appetizer we also ordered a Feta Wrap, aka: Sigara Borek = Pan fried phyllo dough stuffed with creamy turkish feta cheese and parsley.

From that description, I don't know quite what I was expecting, but was a bit surprised when the dish arrived with what looked like elongated Thai spring rolls (the fried kind) or perhaps Mexican flautas.

All the more reason I'm having such fun with my multicultural gastro-ethnic expedition; it's interesting how foods from cultures quite distant and different can nonetheless seem rather similar.

The feta wraps were fantastic, though it helped to have the hummus to dip them in.

For a beverage, the waitress--having been told by Bob about my exploratory intent--suggested Ayran, which is a yogurt drink. Again, I had no true reason to expect different, but didn't expect what was basically a glass of liquified white yogurt, with no flavoring or sweetness. As is, it was much too sour for my tastes, but I added a packet of Equal and that helped.

For his entree, Bob order Iskender = choice of doner, beef, lamb, chicken, kofte, adana, lamb or beef; served over pan-fried bread with butter, yogurt & choice of tomato sauce or mild spicy butter sauce. 

I didn't ask him, but it looks like he got tomato sauce, though I'm unsure about the white sauce at top; I imagine it could be the butter sauce. And I know he got chicken; I'm allergic to poultry so didn't try any of his meal (although the cuisine of Turkey didn't bother me;-)

Other than seeming a bit perplexed upon encountering an extremely spicy vegetable called ezme, Bob was quite satisfied with his entree, declaring it, "Excellent; very, very tasty."

For my entree, I chose Sultan Delight (Hunkar Begendi) = char-grilled eggplant puree sauteed with mozzarella cheese & topped with lamb or chicken cubes cooked with onions, red and green bell peppers, olive oil & served with your choice of white rice or bulgur.

I obviously chose to get it with lamb, with a side of white rice (I was told bulgur is a type of wheat). Continuing a common theme for the evening, what arrived looked nothing like what I might have perceived.

In fact, it was one of the most unique-looking dishes I've ever had put in front of me.

I wouldn't call myself a major fan of eggplant, but was pleased to find the melted mozzarella embedded into the puree.

The lamb and peppers were rather tasty and altogether it made for a sufficient and interesting meal, if not what I might choose on future visits to Cafe Orchid or other Turkish eateries. (I would love to get to Istanbul one day.)

The white rice happened to be particularly good and quite savory. I enjoyed blending it in with the eggplant and lamb.

Bob was too stuffed to partake in dessert, but in the name of--ahem--research, I selected Revani = oven baked sponge cake made of semolina, eggs, flour, baking powder and sweetened with syrup and topped with nuts. 

I found it to be quite delicious. Despite conveying this to Bob, he continued to abstain, clearly showing more will power than me. 

When the bill came, we were a bit surprised at the tally (around $54 pre-tip), but with two appetizers, two entrees, beverages and a dessert, it's not like we were taken for a Turkish bath. (rimshot, please, and well-deserved insults from Statler & Waldorf).

And with a friendly waitress and pleasant decor accompanying rather unique, attractively presented and appetizing food, one--OK, that one would be me--could certainly say that Cafe Orchid proved to be a real purple pleaser.

(Just because Bob's the one in an improv troupe doesn't mean I can't have everyone lavender heads off every now and then. OK, I'm done now. Sorry for being such a young, err, old turk.)

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