Cafe Istanbul3983 Worth Ave., Easton Town Center
614-473-9144
www.CafeIstanbul.com

The atmosphere:
You won't believe the splendor that's hidden behind the unassuming strip-mall-style facade. The Turkish spot boasts soaring ceilings, arched architecture, striking chandeliers and pretty stained-glass accents. It's absolutely gorgeous, and a perfect retreat from the hubbub outside.

The food:
The names might be slightly different, but Cafe Istanbul specializes in the kind of Mediterranean cuisine you know and love (think lots of fresh vegetables and herbs, plenty of lamb and eggplant, and everything drizzled in olive oil).

This place offers a fantastic Appetizer Sampler featuring a helping of nearly every choice from the starters menu. It comes in small and large sizes, and the large is ample enough to serve as an entire meal for two (or even three) diners.

With some soft flatbread for dipping, you get a smorgasbord of eight dips, salads and other treats. Highlights include creamy hummus, stuffed grape leaves, a smoky eggplant puree called Patlican Salatasi, a pinto-bean-green-pepper-and-potato mix known as Pilaki, and Haydari, a thickened yogurt dip with fresh dill, mint and garlic. Yum!


Or you could go for a small-sized sampler and try one of the entrees. The Shish Kebab is a solid choice, with cubes of chargrilled lamb marinated in a flavorful-and pleasingly spicy--sauce. It's not served on a skewer, but instead with some sauted seasonal vegetables on a pile of tasty rice pilaf.



The shish kebab includes cubes of chargrilled lamb.