Last time I had a dinner date with Katia, we went to Africa. The time before that, it was Malaysia. And tonight we decided to pop a little further north to Turkey.
We met at Peri Ela, a skinny slice of a restaurant in the Upper East Side. As a vegetarian whose only knowledge of Turkish food involves an inexplicable hunk of grey meat spinning in the window of a greasy restaurant at 3am, I was interested to see my options.
In fact, I ate so much that I can barely walk. We started with a dish of smoked
aubergine eggplant, which we scooped up with slabs of bread, while I sipped prosecco and pomegranate cocktails (what a lush – it’s Wednesday!) The mushy, garlicky dip is the sort of food I’ll be thinking about for days (and probably be smelling on me for that long too).
For my entrée, I went for a tomato and okra stew, while Katia enjoyed swordfish skewers. While I can’t get enough of okra, the stew was a little like a can of Heinz tomato soup dumped on top. Hmm.
But this wasn’t going to put me off. When Katia gently refused dessert from the waitress, I hollered for a serving of baklava. Oh sweet, sticky, heart-attack inducing baklava. Such a tasty, deadly mix of pastry, nuts and oil. Delicious.
Of course the whole meal also came with lashings of gossip, and the atmosphere was perfect for it. At first I wondered if the crowd was a little old, but this place was cracking. While I might not have fallen in love with the stew, the other courses, cocktails, service and my hot date more than made up for it.
And I discovered that Turkish food is much, much more than a grey spinning hunk of meat.