A bowl of marinated black olives and a basket of pita bread.
At Alaturco Mediterranean Grill, your adventure in Turkish cuisine begins before you open a menu.
While I speared olives and tucked them into pieces of bread, Hubby admired the surroundings.
“It’s really beautifully decorated,” he said.
Stunning color photos of Turkey, an ancient land at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, hang on bright tangerine-colored walls. There are interesting accents, like jade and ivy plants and Turkish teapots. Tables are topped with tapestry-like runners, and twinkle lights frame the big windows that look out onto Route 50.
When I told Hubby that we were going to a restaurant next door to Dunkin Donuts, he wasn’t expecting such a chic place.
Zucchini pancakes and falafel? Hummus and tabouli?
There are hot and cold appetizers, which can be ordered separately or in a trio for $9.95.
When Adriana set the “cold medley” before us, the rectangular white plate was so attractive that we just stared for a few moments.
Three fat artichoke hearts, sprinkled with fresh dill, were tucked between stuffed grape leaves and a generous mound of baba ghanoush.
I adore baba ghanoush, but this version — chunky, lemony and so refreshing — was the best ever.
Alaturco Mediterranean Grill
Alaturco Mediterranean Grill
WHERE: 2007 Doubleday Ave., Ballston Spa, 490-2338, www.alaturcogrill.com, Facebook
WHEN: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
HOW MUCH: $52.92 without tip
MORE INFO: Visa, MasterCard and Discovery accepted. Beer and wine available, lunch specials, takeout, delivery and catering. Parking lot. Not wheelchair accessible.
On the entrees, we needed help, and Adriana, our kind server, answered all our menu questions.
The dinner menu is divided into four parts: kebabs and grilled meats; Turkish specialties, three kinds of fish and “sautes” of vegetables, meat or seafood.
Hubby picked lamb chops ($18.95) from the grill menu, and I went for hunkar begendi ($15.95), a Turkish dish.
As with the appetizer plate, the presentation was impressive.
On Hubby’s plate, four succulent chops, their ends wrapped in foil, stood like soldiers in a field of reddish bulgur and white rice next to a large serving of lively salad.
“Very thinly sliced and very tender” was how he described the chops, as he dipped the meat and greens into a cup of tazaiti.
My dish was a lamb stew ladled over a ragout of colorful vegetables and a creamy white pillow of roasted and pureed eggplant.
Hunkar begendi, which means Sultan’s Delight, is their “popular” dish, Adriana told me, and the eggplant is mixed with kashar, a cow’s milk cheese.
The eggplant was slightly sweet, a nice counterpoint to the small, tender chunks of lamb cooked with garlic and onions. With mushrooms, tomato, zucchini, peppers and cauliflower, it was comfort food on a cold winter night.
We were curious about the six desserts ($3.95 each), which, with the exception of baklava, had unfamiliar names.
Adriana told us about kunefe, a warm, cheese-filled phyllo pastry, but we chose kazandibi, a sweet custard-like treat.
Kazandibi is made by carmelizing sugar and cinnamon in a pan and covering it with custard. The dessert is then inverted when served.
We shared a four-inch square of this cool, dense confection, which was big enough for even three to share.
“It would be great with a Turkish coffee,” Hubby said.
As tempting as it was, we decided against Turkish coffee or tea because of the late hour.
“It’s not that dangerous,” Adriana said with a smile.
As we departed, we were plotting our next visit.
“I'm going to have the grilled octopus or the stuffed cabbage,” I said.
“Let’s come here for lunch,” said Hubby. “I’ve got to have a Turkish coffee.”
Altaturco opened in August and is owned and managed by Saba Kum, the daughter of Turkish parents who grew up in Germany.
Rauf Ziya is the chef, and he has 30 years experience in the kitchen, in Brooklyn, California, Florida and New Jersey.