THE MENU at Bosphorus hits all the familiar Turkish bases — like these char-grilled lamb chops — and doesn’t disappoint.
I've given up trying every crème brûlée or fried calamari in the Boston metro area; that would be akin to taking on the labors of Hercules. But I am determined to review every Turkish restaurant big enough to serve dinner as soon as I possibly can. That's a labor of lust. Appetite and reader service combine to make Turkish restaurants imperative for this column, or, as I told my party on the drive over: "Turkish food never lets you down." Surely there will be a disappointment some night, or some young Turk will pioneer a fusion version of this ancient fusion cuisine that dilutes it past the point of recognition. But as long as there are lemons and garlic and lamb and rice and butter and pistachios in the world, I will be chasing down Turkish restaurants. My father, in the last days of his life, had a brief but important talk with me about Peking ravioli. My kids might as well brace themselves now for my final thoughts on donner kebab.
Bosphorus represents a kind of coming-out party for the Turkish restaurant scene. It has almost 100 seats, is decorated like a night club, and even has the all-important sports (basketball, hockey, English Premiere League soccer) on the TV sets over the long bar. The chefs are leading professionals back home, and the menu hits all the familiar bases and adds some provincial specialties, despite a name implying a strong connection to the country's largest city. The background music runs from folk and pop to classical pieces similar to what the Kronos Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma have been doing lately.
While they don't put out that wonderful fluffy flatbread, they do have a great spread of peppers and garlic for pedestrian pita. And it would be easy to fill up on just hot and cold appetizers. Among the former, a highlight are manti ($12) — handmade, tiny, and somewhat al dente dumplings for which "ravioli" is a miserable translation. Even better, I thought, was the stuffed pepper ($10), for the perfect undertone of hot pepper enhancing the beef-bulgur pilaf inside. Borek ($8) is likewise underdescribed as stuffed phyllo dough. Ours were fried triangles and spring rolls stuffed with cheese (or you could specify spinach or ground beef) and irresistible.
We skimmed the cold appetizers with a mezze plate for two ($15) including terrific haydari ($6/a la carte), an herbal yogurt cheese as addictive as liptaur; kisir ($7) a heavily minted answer to tabbouleh; whipped eggplant ($8) almost as good as my father's; cacik ($5), a looser yogurt-cucumber answer to tzatziki; spicy red lentil finger cakes; and an entirely competent fresh hummus ($7). Fasulye pilaki ($6), ordered separately, was a bowl of stewed white beans many people would take for an entire — and excellent — supper.