CLOSED: A La Turk (Toronto)

Good luck getting a table at A La Turk without a reservation. I’ve learnt this the hard way – trying to secure one last minute or stopping by after work hoping to hear seats for two are vacant. It hasn’t happened yet.

It may be their complimentary bread and dip platter. It takes a lot of willpower not to just tear into the hot puffed pita that arrives fresh from the oven. Indeed, I often lose and suffered from slightly singed fingers.

Yet, it’s that steaming toasted pita with a slather of cool dip that gets you excited for the rest of the meal. There seems to always be a garlicky creamy spread, a sweeter carrot one, and a zesty and slightly spicy tomato dip (it’s my favourite_. The fourth condiment can vary between a lightly pickled vegetable or zucchini tzatizki.

Mix a couple of dips together to create something really good, but also save them for pairing with main dishes. They went nicely with the mixed kebab ($36) platter where the chicken wing was grilled beautifully but lacked seasoning. A dip in the creamy garlic sauce saved the wings and made it sing.

Meanwhile, the kabab didn’t need a thing, the mixture was filled with herbs and a bit of chili and so flavourful that you’d want to leave it plain. Since it’s cooked on the grill, there was a bit of smokiness but restrained enough that the kebab’s meaty herb flavours could still be enjoyed. The lamb chop was overdone, but remained moist and delicious, a bit of lemon zest would make it even better. Lastly, the dish is finished off with cubes of steak cooked medium… it’s good, after all, it’s steak.

The side of bulgur rice reminded me of a softer dirty rice. It definitely could use more salt, but with some of the saved tomato chili dip, it was fantastic. Plenty of veggies finish off the dish so you can mix and match the garnishes with the meat. Even the puffy bread the meats rest on is worth a taste, it’s soft and flavourful having soaked in the lovely juices.

If a platter of grilled meat isn’t your thing – sorry we may not be able to dine together - A La Turk has a number of dishes that combine proteins on a more balanced basis. The stuffed eggplant ($12) is something I order every time. Soft and meaty, the eggplant is filled with bell pepper and walnut pomegranate paste for sweetness and ground beef for a savoury element and texture. It’s so good that I may order one for myself in subsequent visits.

That bit of texture is sadly what’s missing from the koro dolme ($12) that takes peppers and eggplant stuffing them with a thick mushy rice. It really needs something else in the filling to add a bit of bite, or at the very least, cooking the rice less and incorporating more spices and herbs. In its current form, it was too sweet and tangy for me.

Having had manti ($25), a Turkish style dumpling, at other restaurants, A La Turk’s version wasn’t the strongest. The dough was too thick and the filling in miniscule portions that it almost tastes like you’re eating gnocchi with yoghurt. Less of the tart garlicky sauce and more texture within the dumpling could improve the dish.

The sarma beyti ($28) takes a seasoned veal and lamb kebab and adds tons of gooey cheese and eggplant and wraps it in dough before baking it in the wood oven. While I’d always lean towards sharing the mixed grill platter, this dish is a close second and is a hot sandwich at its finest.

Whatever you do, save room for dessert. Their kunefe ($8 for the small) takes time to prepare, but you really want them to not rush this. It turns out best when they cook it on a lower temperature so the vermicelli noodles turn a crispy golden brown and the cheese melts into a gooey blob but the syrup doesn’t burn yet.

It’s a sweet that can sometimes be a miss, on one visit the charred bits around the edges gave the dessert a bitter bite. But more times than not it’s that sugary, crispy finish that makes you yearn for more. It might explain A La Turk’s popularity: the fresh pita and dip starting off the meal on a strong note, while the kunefe ending it with a sweet finish. Pick up the phone to make that reservation.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3443 Yonge Street 

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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