Rendezvous of Turkish Flavors
New England is home to one of the most vibrant cities in USA and our saga has taken due course to the one and only Boston, Massachusetts. It is home to the most diverse millennials and that coaxed me to spend most of my time here in Cambridge nearby at the Harvard Square.
The diverse cultures bring in multi-cuisines and I was spoilt with choices, yet again. However, this one restaurant has got a fair bit of attention among all the students living here and I decided to give it a try.
"What do you want me to divulge?"
The name of the restaurant or the cuisine it offers. Ah, don't worry.
Going by the popular opinion (**cheeky**), I have chose to disclose the name of the restaurant.
It is Sofra Bakery & Cafe. Started around 10 years ago, this restaurant is quite popular among the locals for its traditional classics. Considering my visit on a weekday, the place was quite decently packed.
We had our table outside with a view of the main street brimming with greenery.
After building up quite an appetite, I could not stay aloof from the food anymore. Went inside and checked their offerings neatly listed out on a board.
The food was listed under various categories and I got you all covered by making sure I get a thing or two outta each of them.
The first one was real quick for you to pick up while you ordered.
It's the Mezze Platter with crick-cracks. No decoration needed. Period.
The bright colors are a treat to watch and it definitely looks appetizing to my palate. The first one of the lot I tasted was Moroccan Carrot Salad. Simply put, it's wonderful. A touch of rose harissa along with lemon and vinegar adds the perfect tanginess to this salad. That's not all. It packs a unique flavor of nuttiness and spices, thanks to the inclusion of hazelnuts, coconut, cumin and coriander.
The second one to be sampled was the Hot Pepper Labne. The spiciest one so far but doesn't burn your tongue due to proportionate use of the Hungarian hot wax peppers and labne. The yogurt mellowed the spice and provided a kick to this savory delish. Also, to enhance the flavors, we have lemon, olive oil and mint oil as a garnish. And, Oh ya, it's gluten free guys! Hmph!
The third one was Beet Tzatziki. My favorite. Nothing glossy. Just beets, labne, dill, lemon and a pinch of salt. It's not overtly sweet but quite refreshing. A must include on the platter.
Then came Orzo Salad. It is a type of pasta in the shape of rice. Lot of ingredients it came paired with. Dried cherries, carrots and the flavor leaves - parsley, mint and dill along with lemon and Shabazi Spice (a combination of chilies, cilantro and garlic) make this dish one-of-a-kind, keeping you guessing the many flavors it came with, which chimed perfectly well.
Finally, Baba Ghanoush. Never can a platter be completed without this dish taking the honors. Perfectly cooked eggplants blended in a rich sauce of pureed tomatoes, onions, pepper paste, cumin and the important addition of pomegranate molasses make this dish worthwhile but is easily subdued by the other salads.
Phew, lots of flavors. Well, I just got called for the rest of my order. Out came the dishes and the first one which caught my eye was...
Lamb Shawarma. As 'da Vinci once stated, "Simplicity is the key to sophistication". This dish sets an exemplary standard to the quote. A roll with finely sliced lamb and pickled cabbage served with tahini yogurt is all you get.
How on earth could these three ingredients provide the answers for my bewilderment?
Never mind. I was busy munching down and admiring at the same time. The lamb is so juicy and fresh that you could taste the myriad flavors it generates. The pickled cabbage is refreshing and provides the spice needed for the meat. Pairing it with the yogurt just sets the level high. Trust me, guys! This is no exaggeration.
The next one, although tough to move on, was...
Tahini Hummus. A no-brainer at a Middle-Eastern restaurant. This one was prepared differently altogether. It's a tahini hummus, however it came blended with asparagus, eggs and pine nuts, served with a pita. Topped with chili flakes, this dish doesn't tingle your taste buds but the crunch of the pine nuts and the texture of the egg white with the hummus is worth giving it a chance.
It's Lamb Moussaka. I already fell in love with the lamb earlier and I might as well try one of their best sellers. Topped with a layer of Parmesan and Romano cheese and a dash of pepper with butter, of course. But the flavors are beneath the layer. It's minced lamb with a perfectly cooked tomato and eggplant paste. The blend of the melting cheese along with the curried meat is by far my favorite.
Sorry, I can't help changing my favorites. They are all so good!!!!!
Worth every penny. In no time was it completed, and up came the next one.
It's Spinach Falafel. Yet an another vivid presentation of a dish quite alluring to the appetite. The ingredients are spread out in all its glory as you could see the falafel laid over a spread of beet tzatziki (spoken earlier) and topped with tahini yogurt with arugula and pickles on the side.
The falafel being the rightful protagonist here, was marinated well with garlic, spinach and lemon and fried diligently providing the crunch. Paired with the beet tzatziki and the other ingredients, it provided quite a flavor burst. Still, it isn't for people who expect a bit spicy. You can customize it with hot pepper labne instead of the tzatziki but that's just IMO.
The final order waiting to be devoured was...
Lamb Lahmajun. A lot is happening at the first glance of this radiant dish. It comes with a whole wheat pita in which the lamb marinated with herbs, lemon and olive oil is stuffed. Garnished with tomatoes, radish and peppers completes this tantalizing dish.
Lifted the pie, and took a bite right into the crisp crust. Lamb has treated me well throughout today's meal and is again no exception. The vegetables were pickled and added the ultimate zest to the dish. A refreshing and light dish even with the red meat in consideration.
All I could say is Türk yemeklerini seviyorum!
Oops, I did forget to tell the cuisine. No wonder it's Turkish. I loved it. Have a good day, guys!
Sofra Bakery & Cafe
1 Belmont St Cambridge, MA 02138
Value For Money: 7.5/10