Not to be missed by carnivores is the iskender kebab ($19), sliced rotisserie lamb and beef served over bread cubes that absorbed a complex tomato sauce, a topping of yogurt, with sautéed carrots and green beans, a grilled hot pepper, and a side of good French fries. The chefs somehow get the meat out in little square slices, but it is the sauce that pulls out deep flavor. That's also the case for the "baked striped bass" ($22), in which rolled fish fillets, shrimp, and potatoes are presented as similar-looking shapes in an egg-lemon sauce of exquisite smoothness and tart bite. The white fish looks and tastes more like Chilean sea bass (which this column seldom reviews, until the fishery is better regulated) than the farmed striped bass available in winter, or, indeed, the wild striped bass of summer. It would be better if Chilean sea bass didn't taste so good. An expensive but sustainable substitute would be Alaskan black cod.
Char-grilled lamb chops ($22) are four baby chops, with a pilaf of medium-grain Turkish rice and the same beans and carrots. The only mild disappointment was a vegetable guvec ($18) and that only because the rice and vegetables (snap peas, potato, eggplant, carrots, peppers), were cooked and served separately, while I think of guvec (or djuvec in the Balkans) as a slow-cooked casserole with blended flavors. That's how we reheated the leftovers the next day, and they were better.
Bosphorus has a wine list and imported beers, including a decent Turkish pilsner. A dozen Turkish wines, all from the excellent and large firm of Kavaklidere, are not listed with vintage years, but who carries around a Turkish vintage card? At the recommendation of our Hungarian server, we ordered the "Selection" red ($11/glass; $44/bottle) which turned out to be the 2007, a brilliantly clear, light-colored blend of Öküzgözü and Bogazkere grapes with the fruit and structure of a light young Burgundy. Turkish coffee ($2.50) is the classic double-thimble with enough grounds to tell fortunes.
With a bit of strong coffee, Turkish desserts run to super-sweet. Baklava ($7) is here made with shredded pistachios. Skerepare ($7) are three semolina-almond cookies with the taste and texture of straight marzipan. My favorite, kunefe ($9), is a hot baked pot of fried cheese and dough in syrup. If reading about those makes your teeth hurt, sutlac ($7) is a milder rice pudding baked without custard, and asure, "a/k/a Noah's Dessert," ($8) is a big bowl of mixed grains, a few beans, dried fruits and nut, that is oddly reminiscent of the sweetened beans in light-syrup dessert drinks in Chinatown. It's certainly a conversation-piece pudding.
Service on a slow weeknight was excellent. The room has a variety of seating, in a very red-carmine-orange color scheme, with lamps like giant hats. You can tell that it is professionally designed by the lack of tourist art and the weird bathrooms, which feature a sink that looks like a flat surface with no drain. It works. The booths have a wooden shelf along the wall. This is a good place to park coats and doggie bags now, and will provide extra seating when the crowds find their way to Bosphorus.
Robert Nadeau can be reached at email@example.com.