1850 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur. 404-320-0054, cafeistanbulatlanta.com.
There are many menu choices at Cafe Istanbul, but only one true path. Start with the chef’s special meze platter — an assortment of all the dips and spreads served with wonderful za’atar-flecked house-made flatbreads.
You can dip the bread into three kinds of eggplant — one Middle Eastern-style baba ghanouj, one traditional Turkish chargrilled eggplant salad chopped up with lemon, garlic and parsley, and one luscious heap of fried eggplant cubes in tomato sauce. There is also hummus, a spicy tomato-onion-walnut salad and a refreshing yogurt dip with dill and mint.
Then, move on to the mixed grill. The chunks of chicken, glossy and juicy, taste both as lean and as flavorful as protein simultaneously can be. The adana kabob of ground lamb tickles the tongue with red pepper and garlic, and the small pieces of whole lamb are the prizes on the plate.
The salad heaped on the side is as fresh and crunchy as the rice spread on the bottom of the plate is soft and absorbent. Added bonus: a chargrilled tomato and whole Anaheim pepper, soft and hot, ready to give your plate that perfect smoosh factor.
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