The cool modern signage on the exterior is what drew my attention to this new Turkish café on Carling Avenue in the city’s west end. It stands out from the curly-cue fonts, fast-food outlets, and unappetizing döner cone images that dominate the strip-mall food joints surrounding the Coliseum Cineplex.
Inside Köfte, we were greeted with a warm smile and a simple menu of Turkish specialties, including the namesake köfte, as well as cooked spinach and yoghurt or grilled chicken; each of these can be combined with various salads and sides to create a meal. (According to the sign, doner will be added to the menu soon.) Apparently there are 291 different types of köfte in Turkey. Who knew? The name köfte refers generally to meatballs, but depending on the origin, the meat could be beef, chicken, lamb, goat, or even fish. Here, we are told, the köfte carries the characteristics of the Thracian region, which lies mostly in current-day Bulgaria. It’s a combination of minced lamb and veal that has been rolled into small tight cylinders and grilled until firm and bronzed.
On the day I visited, the woman at the counter appeared to be cooking and serving tables as well. The wait time was probably 10 minutes, but everything arrived fresh and hot. The silky smooth lentil soup was delicious with a squeeze of lemon. The bouncy almost spongy texture of the köfte took some getting used to, but the meat was juicy. The flavour was mild with a hint of lamb’s gaminess; it called out for a dab of the intense spicy paprika paste that was smeared on the plate. A tomato wedge and one long sweet green pepper, warm and blistered from the grill, as well as a crusty white bun rounded out the plate with my chosen starch: bulger pilaf, tinged with tomato for colour more than flavour. Its nubbly texture was a nice change from rice. The Coban (Shepherd’s) Salad was a simple combination of diced tomatoes, crunchy cucumber and thinly sliced white onion tossed with a light vinaigrette. All fine and filling.
I finished with a sweetened dark and frothy Turkish coffee and a slice of mosaic cake. I was unfamiliar with this decadent un-baked treat but quickly became a fan. It’s shaped like a small, dense flat puck, rolled in shredded coconut. The texture is a cross between a really dense chocolate brownie, raw cookie dough and fudge (it’s gooeyness offers a workout for the jaw). I’m not sure of the exact recipe, but there’s definitely butter, sugar, and cocoa in there and the dough is speckled with light-coloured bits of crumbled tea biscuits.
Cost: combo (one main, one side, one salad) $9.99
Köfte Turkish Eatery, 2916 Carling Ave., 613-695-1818, www.kofte.ca.