Ankara

Located at: 25 Milagiriya Avenue, Colombo 04, Sri Lanka

Visited on: 09 Sep, 2017

There are three distinct tastes etched in my memory (and taste buds) from our travels to Turkey a few years ago – Turkish delight (the real stuff), Turkish ice cream (again, the real stuff) and Turkish tea (black as ever, but somehow does not leave your buccal cavity feeling tarred). I say “the real stuff” because there are plenty of mass-produced, commercial versions – particularly of Turkish delight – available at your average supermarket. But “the real stuff” is divine, and I do have a soft spot for (cliché as it may seem) rose with pistachio delight. Turkish ice cream, as you would know if you’ve had the entertaining opportunity of trying, is something of its own. If served at a booth, the guy will unfailingly demonstrate some gravity-defying gimmicks before handing you your cone. This ‘cohesive’-ness and the amazing absence of the usual milky, tongue-coating after-taste that comes with an ordinary ice cream are apparently attributed to a flower root ingredient used when making this ice cream. Whatever it is, genius. Nevermind the tea, but the former two tastes are something that I do like to relive when the opportunity arises. So as soon as I heard that there was a Turkish restaurant in town, I knew we had to check it out.

We started off with some Hummus (LKR 595). It looked great. And tasted fairly good too – a little heavy on the chickpeas, for which reason I might prefer Arabian Knights’ version slightly more than this. But no complaints. The pita bread that came along was of two types. Personally, I like my bread thinner, although the one which was marginally browner and had a few sesame seeds on top did taste nice. The thing with thick bread (at least for people with small appetites like mine) is that you can’t have too much while you’re still at the appetizer level for risk of not having sufficient space for the mains. So I had to stop at a couple. Oddly, I somehow seem to have missed the Falafel, which the menu on their Facebook page shows. Either that, or it had been taken off, since what was online seemed to be an older version (with older prices). If so, they need to get it right back on the menu!

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Hummus –
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– with pita bread

The CEO’s note at the start of the menu invites patrons to indulge in their “bountiful vegetable meze…”. Now my idea of meze (or mezze), based on past experiences in places like Cyprus and Turkey itself, as well as other Arabic/Mediterranean restaurants, is a mini-buffet of a somewhat unending supply of little dishes that you nibble out of over a couple of hours. (Google tells me I’m on the right track.) Ankara’s menu, however, did not seem to have a “vegetable meze” that fitted this description. Which left me confused. If they were referring to their selection of appetizers, this wasn’t made clear. Plus their appetizers came in average-sized portions that could be shared – which, again, didn’t go with the concept of nibbling out of several small dishes. Some clarity on this would be useful.

The Turkish Yoghurt Drink (LKR 450) sounded authentic, so I decided to go with that and opted for sweet (but less sugar) rather than salty. It was quite like sweet lassi, and thankfully not too thick and heavy. We got a Chocolate Milkshake (LKR 450) as well, which came with a dollop of chocolate ice cream. Not sure if they’d mistakenly added sugar twice, but this turned out to be much sweeter than we anticipated – too sweet for our liking.

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Turkish Yoghurt Drink (L) and Chocolate Milkshake (R)

The first of the two mains we ordered was Turkish Lamb Pilau (LKR 995) which came with a side dish of vegetables in gravy. The taste of the herbs and other Mediterranean condiments in the gravy immediately brought back memories of a lunch we had while on a day tour in Istanbul. It was authentic, as far as I was concerned. The rice itself had a generous serving of lamb, and as much as I’m not a fan of the meat, the rice did taste good with a touch of the meat’s curry and more of the herbs Ankara claims to bring in directly from Turkey. I did also like that they had sprinkled a few pomegranate seeds on the dish – giving it a pop of colour as well as an interesting character.

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Turkish Lamb Pilau –
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– with a Mediterranean-style vegetable gravy

The second mains was a Char Grilled Prawn Kebab (LKR 1,650), which the menu said was served with rice and salad. I assumed this would be a cup-sized side dish of rice. And well, out came a portion of rice the same size as the Lamb Pilau that we ordered! The salad turned out to be something similar to taboulleh, which was fine. But that rice was way too much! The prawns (which were not spicy although described as such in the menu) came on two skewers – four a-piece. I’d much rather have had an extra prawn each on those skewers than that quantity of rice because, after all, I did order Prawn Kebab. I could have ordered something from the rice section if I wanted that sort of quantity. The rice tasted good, once again with a more subtle flavour of the region, but I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed at the portion sizes of the elements of the dish.

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Char Grilled Prawn Kebab –
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– with a massive portion of rice!

I mentioned at the inception that Turkish delight and Turkish ice cream are tastes to revel again every once in a way. Unfortunately, Ankara had neither. At least not for the moment. According to their Manager, their Turkish Chef had got his work visa only a few days prior to our visit, and was just beginning to work on the menu. Turkish delight, we were told, would soon be made locally by him with ingredients brought in from Turkey. As for ice cream, the “Ankara Special” with Ice Cream was supposed to have some Turkish ingredients, but it didn’t sound like what I was looking for, so I gave it a pass. Which means that’s something that can definitely be added on while they improvise their menu. And shawarma. Shawarma. Come on. Everybody loves a good shawarma! (Don’t we?)

One more thing. The CEO says in the introductory note, “At Ankara it is our policy not to serve beef, or pork, out of respect for the traditions of all communities within Sri Lankan society.” It’s great that the Management is trying to be sensitive towards everybody in their menu. But in being sensitive towards the non-beef eating and non-pork eating communities, perhaps the beef and/or pork eating communities are being deprived of something they could truly enjoy? In that case, what about the vegetarian/vegan community then? Are we being sensitive enough towards them? My personal opinion is that, unless the Management and/or kitchen staff have an issue of their own with it, there is no need to avoid certain dishes to suit the needs of those who wouldn’t pick it off the menu anyway. Have it on the menu, and non-eaters won’t have it. Don’t have it on the menu, and eaters can’t have it. Food for thought.

Yummy Rating: 3.5 / 5.0

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