Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sampling a little Turkish delight in Cliffside Park

The gorgeous machine used to brew strong, copper-colored Turkish tea at Istanbul Borek & Kebab in Cliffside Park.


Before Turkish restaurants and pizzerias proliferated in Paterson's Middle Eastern bazaar and spread all over Bergen County, I enjoyed kebabs, refreshing salads and exotic dips closer to home at Kervan in Cliffside Park.

In February 2001, David Corcoran of The New York Times reported Kervan Kebab House had been in business for 16 years "in a big, bright storefront just off the main street of this vibrantly diverse town atop the Palisades two miles south of the George Washington Bridge."

See: Homage to Anatolia

Today, another Turkish restaurant, Istanbul Borek & Kebab, operates in that big, bright storefront, and I stopped in for lunch on Tuesday.

The space has been completely made over in dark wood, tile and stone, and the dining room and bakery cases are flooded with light from big, plate-glass windows overlooking a construction site across the street.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner

The menu is extensive and includes Lahmacun and Pideler, Turkey's spin on pizza, with toppings as diverse as ground lamb, mashed potatoes, pastrami and cheese.

The restaurant opens at 6 a.m., or 7 a.m. on Sundays, and serves a Turkish breakfast of cheese, olives, tomato, cucumber, boiled egg, bread, butter, jam, honey and heavy cream for $9.95.

A premium breakfast includes Turkish sausage and pastrami for $13.95.

Cookies, cakes and pastries fill cases along one wall of the restaurant.

Istanbul specializes in savory pastries filled with spinach or potato, above. Others are stuffed with cheese, ground meat or noodles and cheese.

Friend doesn't show

I had planned to meet a friend there and sample salads and appetizers, but he wasn't feeling well and canceled.

So, I ordered one of the restaurant's specialties, a half-portion of a savory pastry, Kol Boregi, filled with cheese and another half-portion filled with potato ($7.50 for both).

I also tried a bowl of delicious pureed red-lentil soup, Mercimek Corbasi, which was served with a lemon wedge ($4.95), and a large glass of strong, unsweetened Turkish tea ($2.50).

Adding sugar is recommended.

I squeezed the lemon wedge over the wonderful red-lentil soup. The restaurant's name is on bowls, plates, and salt and pepper shakers.

I couldn't resist a couple of bites of Turkish bread.

Baklava, a classic dessert. The best are made with pistachio nuts and honey.

The check comes in a book-like box.

The restaurant opened in June.

Casual service

Despite the oppressive heat and humidity on Tuesday, a couple of customers ate at outside tables. Inside, only a handful of tables were occupied.

But the three employees I saw tended to stay close to the register, and sometimes, it was hard to get their attention.

Istanbul Borek & Kebab, 360 Lawton Ave., Cliffside Park; 201-945-5055. Open 7 days for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Halal meat. BYO, street parking at meters.

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