Leave your preconceived notions of Turkish food (I mean generic Mediterranean dolmas or lamb kababs) behind when you walk into Istanbul’lu.
The small Teele Square eatery has become quite the neighborhood gem over the past year and boasts amazing brunch specialties that you won’t find anywhere else. Specifically, the laz pancakes and cilbir.
The pancakes reminded me of ‘pithe’, a homemade snack or dessert in Bengal, and is mostly fried dough, soft in the inside and crunchy on the outside. It is sprinkled with honey and feta and tastes divine – with a side of scrambled eggs.
As for the cilbir, yogurt and eggs may not sound like they mix, but they do, and beautifully. Prettily presented in a metal wok, the poached eggs hide in a mix of creamy yogurt and hot butter garlic oil. It also comes in a spinach and onions version. Both are oddly intriguing and satisfying.
Like all good ethnic food, these dishes come from a small Turkish village where owner Huseyin Akgun and his wife come from – the Black Sea town of Rize. They said they want to present customers a taste of their childhood … and it tastes sweet.
Akgun, an old face around the Boston restaurant scene (Istanbul Café, Anadolu, Rizelli Café), claims to have been the first to bring authentic homecooked Turkish food to Boston. He picked the Somerville neighborhood because of its eclectic crowd and interest in ethnic cuisine.
If you’re lucky enough to drop by and get a seat (they have only 10 tables), they will bring out some freshly made bread and a secret red pepper sauce dip that is seriously addictive. Luckily, they don’t mind refilling it several times.
Don’t forget to order some spicy tea, or if you can handle it, the potent Turkish coffee, both served in dainty glass cups. Lean back on the bright tapestry-lined walls and bouncy cushions and watch the Turkish history DVD that plays on a loop. Gimmicky? Sure, but it works.
237 Holland St., Somerville.
Hours: Tuesday 5–10 pm; Wednesday–Friday, 11 am–10 pm
Saturday, 10 am–10 pm; and Sunday, 10 am–9 pm
Closed on Mondays.