Ottoman Empire Strikes Back!

Worth the trip: Sultan’s Mediterranean Cuisine (yup, in West Chester)

By Paula Johnson

When I got home from a late weekend lunch at Sultan’s Mediterranean Cuisine near Liberty Town Center in West Chester I immediately dug out my photo album with pictures of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, home of Turkish sultans for more than 400 years. The food I tasted that day brought me back to the food I ate in the Grand Bazaar. I could almost see the rug vendors and smell the apple tea served in all the shops. PIP (Palate In Progress) and I joined friends who eat at Sultan’s often, and wanted to see what I thought. What I thought was how pleased I was to discover I don’t have to travel across the ocean for some amazing Turkish food.

In a shopping plaza with ample parking, Sultan’s exterior is nondescript and gives no indication of the gracious dining space inside. Immediately upon entering you get a sense of the Ottoman-themed decor, with a scimitar motif topping the upholstered booths. A deep rich burgundy is the predominate interior color with burgundy and white linen tablecloths adorning the tables. It’s a lovely and comfortable dining room where care and attention seem to be taken with the design and appointments, and I was hoping for the same with the food.

Platter perfect

We began with what you should always begin with if you are dining Mediterranean style—a platter of appetizers to share, in this case the Large Appetizer Sampler ($19.95). In Turkey, it’s called mezze—small temptations—sort of like Spanish tapas. In Greek it’s called mezes and mazzat in Lebanese. In all these cultures it’s a platter of small tastes of different dishes served communally with guests spooning and dipping with bread—most often pita. It’s said that this communal dipping implies a mutual trust between guests and hosts—no one is getting poisoned if you’re all eating the same food.

Sultan’s platter featured an amazing Baba Ghanoush, which gets its distinct smoky flavor from eggplants being cooked over wood fired grill, then whipped to a satiny consistency with the addition of lemon juice and tahini, an oily sesame cream. The Hummus was also top notch, as was the bread—a basket of tender warm puffed pita, almost good enough to eat alone, but why would you with all the delicious mounds of mezze to scoop up? The Cacik, slivers of cucumber in cool mint flecked yogurt, provided a welcome crunch and something to spoon up instead of dip, as did the Piyaz. Made up of white beans, red bell pepper, tomato and onion with a special dressing, it was a stand out as well. We added on Fried Calamari ($9.95) for a hot appetizer, and found it to be well done, with a particularly tasty dipping sauce.

You’ve got Keb-Options

The full menu offers a lot of great options for the Shish Kebab aficionado. Everything from marinated and grilled chunks of lamb, to Iskender kebabs ($18.95), which use a meat (Doner style) similar to the Greek gyro, cooked on a vertical spit and shaved. Then there’s Adana kebabs, which feature chargrilled ground spiced lamb, beef or chicken. Sultan’s offers a great way to try these variations with two menu specials: The Sultan’s Family Special (for four, $59.95) which includes chicken kebab, shish kebab, doner kebab, adana kebab, grilled kofte, chicken steak, chicken adana or The Sultan’s Family Special (for two, $35.95), which includes chicken kebab, chicken adana, doner and grilled kofte. PIP went with the traditional Shish Kebab ($19.95) perfectly done marinated grilled chunks, which arrived alongside a mound of rice pilaf and some particularly tasty charred green and red peppers and onions. It paired well with the red blend I ordered, as well as our friend’s pinot noir (both $7).

You’ve also got Eggplant Options

The sumptuousness of eggplant—its soft slippery melting meatiness—and its predominance in Mediterranean cooking, make this a cuisine that ranks at the top for me. I was happy to see two dishes on the house specialty list that we tried, the Baked Eggplant ($16.95) and the Ali Nazik ($17.95). (Both of these dishes included meat, but there are vegetarian eggplant options for non-lamb lovers available, as well as an interesting sounding Okra Stew and a Falafel Dinner.) Happily, each dish was served with the same chunky grilled peppers and onions as an accompaniment. The Baked Eggplant was served with the savory rice pilaf which the Shish Kebab featured, along with ground spiced lamb and a tangy tomato sauce with a slight cinnamon note. All agreed it was delicious, but the Ali Nazik was probably the favorite. Topped with a lamb mixture, it rested on a pillowy bed of a puree of roasted eggplant brightened with a sunny yogurt tang. It was a delicious mouthfeel, so soft, and the perfect platform for the savory meatiness of the lamb. It’s the sort of dish that you’ll fall for and won’t be able to order anything else. I did, and I can’t wait to try it again.

For dessert, we tried the Rice Pudding ($6.95) and the Special Baklava ($9.95). The baklava, baked in a big round pan and served in a giant wedge, was enough to share and still take some home. The layers of flaky phyllo were ethereally light and crispy, brushed with melted butter. Stuffed with chopped pistachio nuts and oozing with honey syrup, it paired divinely with the Turkish coffee ($2.50) we finished with. Feeling fed as well as sultans, we headed back discussing a return visit. What’s the Turkish way to say bon appetite? Afiyet Olsun! I’m practicing it for next time.

Sultan’s Mediterranean Cuisine is located at 7305 Tyler’s Corner Dr. in West Chester. For more information please call 513.847.1535 or visit sultanscincinnati.com.

Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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