Wed, 29 Nov 2000

Sweet reminiscing of Turkish cuisine at Anatolia

JAKARTA (JP): Having spent sometime in Turkey previously, it was resolved that it was high time to remind Epicurus' taste buds of the culinary delights which that beautiful and timeless land has to offer.

The choice came down to the Anatolia restaurant, which is tucked away rather inconspicuously at Jl. Kemang Raya No. 110 in the heart of Jakarta's expat country -- sufficiently far removed from the nightclubs and more raucous establishments found close to the junction of Jl. Kemang Raya and Jl. Bangka Raya -- and which advertises itself as a place where authentic Turkish cuisine is to be had.

Upon entering the Anatolia, Epicurus and companion found it to be small and cozy, and clearly restricted in the number of diners it could accommodate (Epicurus estimated that 30 patrons at a time would be pushing it), thus creating an intimate and homely atmosphere that Epicurus found quite refreshing after having visited so many barn-like restaurants throughout Jakarta's fair city.

Epicurus and companion were shown to their table for two by an efficient and helpful waitress who spoke excellent English and who proved to be a mine of information about Turkish cuisine in general and the dishes served by the Anatolia in particular.

Epicurus was, however, not entirely happy with the restaurant's seating arrangements. The tables for two were ranged along one wall (six in a row) with the seat on the wall-side being a long and low sofa, so low in fact that Epicurus' partner's head barely reached above the surface of the table. As a result, seats had to be swapped so that Epicurus was forced to sit with back to the wall.

Epicurus and partner were also somewhat disappointed when, upon requesting a wine and drinks' list, they were told that, rather inexplicably, the restaurant did not have one. Instead, Epicurus was informed that all the restaurant had to offer in the way of wine was the house plonk (coming in a choice of a Fortant de France 1999 cabernet sauvignon or 1999 sauvignon blanco, both of which were priced at Rp 190,000).

These were, however, minor hiccups and were soon forgotten, by Epicurus at any rate, when the food appeared. For the soup course, Epicurus had selected the creamed green pea soup at Rp 13,500 while Epicurus' partner had opted for the lentil soup at Rp 14,500.

Epicurus was more than satisfied with the creamed green pea soup which turned out to be well-spiced with black pepper, but Epicurus' companion pronounced the lentil soup to be rather bland.

As an appetizer, Epicurus was unable to resist the Hummus with olive oil (Rp 17,000) - a dish of chickpeas blended with tahini (a smooth paste of sesame seeds), lemon, garlic and extra olive oil dressing, which was served with fresh, homemade pita bread from the wood oven. The serving was large and Epicurus' stomach quickly began to fill, probably due to the fact that Epicurus was powerless to stop consuming large bite after large bite of the deliciously hot pita bread.

Meanwhile, Epicurus' partner had opted for the Chicken Sambousa which was priced at Rp 16,000 and consisted of minced chicken together with various herbs and vegetables stuffed in filo pastry and deep fried. Once again, Epicurus' partner pronounced the Chicken Sambousa to be insipid. However, upon trying a morsel, Epicurus was unable to agree. Perhaps Epicurus' partner was not inclined towards Turkish cuisine or simply lacked an appetite that evening.

And so, on to the entrees and the highlight of the evening for Epicurus, the Shawarma Iskandar (Rp 50,500), a doner kebab of sliced mutton, layers of pita bread with tomato and butter sauces, and served with rice and an exceptionally large helping of sour cream. Epicurus was in cloud nine and has been drooling ever since in remembrance of this delicious repast.

Even Epicurus' partner, who up to now had little good to say about the dishes being proffered, was more than enchanted by the Chicken Shish Kebab (Rp 48,000). This was a dish of marinated and skewered chicken cooked over a charcoal grill and served with rice and the ubiquitous, but delicious, pita bread. It was declared to be "yummy" and, upon sampling, Epicurus could only agree.

Epicurus and companion were, unfortunately, unable to consume any more food after finishing their entrees and, following some excellent Turkish coffee, they took their leave. The entire bill, without wine, came to Rp 267,399, not an exorbitant amount given the quality of the food and the dining experience. Those with small appetites would, perhaps, be advised to skip the appetizers and move directly on to the entrees, as Turkish food can be quite heavy and filling. And it may also be advisable to make a reservation as, judging by Epicurus' experience, this restaurant deservedly enjoys a high level of popularity. All in all, the Anatolia is a restaurant that comes well recommended!

-- Epicurus