I've never eaten in a Turkish restaurant before, but my first experience at Efes Turkish Restaurant was very positive and I think I'd like to go back for more! I am a big fan of downtown Sanford which maintains a small community feeling with it's quaint shops and restaurants on First Street nearby. I was excited when I heard that a new restaurant was opening in the place formerly occupied by Limoncello's. So, on a recent Sunday afternoon, my friend Tommy and I decided to try it out. It was a good choice.
The interior decor is very nice, but it was a beautiful afternoon and we chose to sit outside on the patio. It's a screened in patio and overlooks Lake Monroe. On personality and view, this place scores and A+.
We were promptly greeted upon arrival and seated and within a minute our watier arrived with water, produced menus, and asked if we'd been there before or were familiar. We were not and he was quite helpful in helping us decide on what we wanted to try.
He suggested we start out with the bread, called Lavash. I imagine our eyes popped out of our heads when it arrived, it was a large loaf, round and about 10 or so inches in diameter. We were told it was perfectly fine to eat with our fingers and so we did...upon breaking it open we found it was mostly air. But, it was delicious and needed no butter or anything else to go with it. The slight sprinkling of sesame seeds on top were all it needed to give it a great flavor. And it was fun to eat, too.
I will preface the rest of this with this disclaimer: I've never had Turkish food before and am thus no expert. I cannot tell if the things we ate were authentically cooked and flavored or not. But I can tell you if it was prepared well and tasty. So, read on!
We started with some appetizers. The first was Soslu Patlican. This was beautifully presented and, fortunately for the two of us, served in two small bowls. It was eggplant roasted in a tomato sauce. It was garnished with a few slices of cucumber and fresh tomato, and topped with an olive. The taste was delicious, a bit tangy, yet without any one overpowering taste. A bit of goodness in each bite. I definitely liked this, and so did Tommy.
Next up was a second appetizer, Sigara Boregi. Note that in the picture, half of the serving is missing--it looked so good we dug in before I could snap a picture! Basically this is a cigar shaped pastry--phyllo dough is rolled around a feta cheese filling and it's then deep fried. It was served on a mix of greens and tomatoes. The texture was delicate, the taste cheesy and creamy. As a bonus, the greens were tasty as well and I ate every one of them. Yumm.
Now it was on to our main dishes. Tommy ordered the Chicken Adana. This a mixture of ground chicken that is shaped into a long and rectangular rectangle, usually on a skewer it appears, and then grilled. No skewer was evident, but this was a highly tasty dish with nice flavorings and spices. Tommy is not an overly adventurous eater, but he really liked it. I tasted some and it was indeed very good. It was served on top of some very flavorful rice--we both commented how the rice was far from ordinary. Both of our dishes were garnished with a grilled jalapeno. I enquired about this and our waiter told us that in Turkey they use a slightly different though similar pepper. That is not available here, so they use a jalapeno.
I ordered the Lamb Kofte. It was absolutely delicious. Flattened meatballs of lamb, bread crumbs, onions, and other spices had been grilled to perfection. The patties were still juicy and flavorful. Tommy did not like the thought of eating lamb, but after tasting some of mine, his opinion is forever changed. Yes, they were that good. My lamb patties were served on a bed of the same delicious rice. Accompanying both our meals were some interesting sides. The first was a carrot julienne salad. It was very simple and boasted a nice carrot flavor. There was a tiny bit of seasoning in it, but I could not tell you what. The cold crispiness was a nice contrast to the meat and rice of our dishes. The second was a red cabbage slaw--sliced red cabbage was somewhat pickled my a vinegar flavored brine. It was very good. There was also a tiny bit of a red onion relish, again somewhat pickled. Again very good. Last but not least was a grilled tomato--it added nice contrast on the plate and also tasted good.
We were not able to finish our meals so our waiter gladly packed them up to-go. But then once we had our check, he asked if we'd ever tried Turkish coffee. We had not so he offered us some one the house. We gladly accepted. Then he said that it would be great with some rice pudding and he'd bring some of that too for us to share, again on the house! Well, how could we say no--and we did not. In due time it arrived. The Turkish coffee was good, it seemed rather strong and was served in what amounted to a shot glass. The rice pudding was excellent, it had been baked, then cooled, and was garnished with some ground pistachios. Again, it was very good. It was not overly sweet, but the sweetness and creaminess was well balanced with the Turkish coffee. What a nice way to finish a meal.
We were impressed by the food and service at Efes Turkish Restaurant. According to a story in the Sanford Herald recently, the owners used to own another successful Turkish restaurant in Orlando. Well, they've done a good job here. I sure hope they continue to do well. I'd surely eat here again. Our total bill including tax (but not our generous tip) was just over $48 and included the two appetizers, bread, and the two entrees. I thought I got my money's worth and brought home a decent sized doggie bag to enjoy another day. Well done!