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A La Turca
869 Geary Street/Larkin St., SF
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Pre-trial hearing at Julep
9/20/02

Out front. Turner

No, I've never been in a Turkish prison, Captain, nor do I have any interest in doing so. Luckily, A La Turca is a restaurant, not a prison, and that's where we come in.

High hopes. We had them. Hopes to get the scoop on a hot new Turkish joint that just opened in the Loin. Well, the SF Weekly beat us to the scoop, but I wonder if there was a different chef that night. We were generally underwhelmed, while the Weekly guy seemed delighted, Turkishly. Go figure.

Anyway, I think we all agreed they seemed afraid of over-spicing, which is unfortunate. The Baba Ghanouj ($3.75) seemed fresh and all, but needed salt and maybe something else. Weird. The Sigara Borek ($3.75), however, were pretty good. But then, they were deep fried. Flaky pastry "cigars" filled with feta cheese and parsley, fried up crisp. Kind of hard to screw that up. Our other appetizer thingie we split was a Black Sea Pie ($3.75), the ground beef/roasted onion one. That was good, too, with a decent amount of seasoning up in there, and again, a nice flaky pastry crust. They've got the flaky crust thing down.

Baba and BreadSo, I decided to get all adventurous and order a "specialty platter" instead of playing it safe with a gyro or common kebap. Why do I bother? I chose the Alexander Kebap, also known parenthetically as Iskender ($8.75). The menu read "Small cubes of bread, fresh homemade sauce, Gyro strips, topped with touch of butter, yogurt." That sounded good to me, Jack. But whoa, when it gets to the table, it's smothered in tomato sauce! Now, that might not be such a big deal, but I wasn't prepared for it, and if it had said "tomato sauce" on the menu I think I would have avoided it. Just doesn't seem right, somehow, and it wasn't. I found the tart tomato sauce overpowered everything else, when I hoped for some subtle interaction amongst the gyro strips, bread cubes, and butter, yogurt. Couldn't really identify the touch of butter, yogurt. Big plate of food, though.

I'm guessing that's all authentic Turkish food there, including the exotic (Iskender), but I was reminded of an Indian place I ate at in Basel, Switzerland. Super mild, bland, even. Apparently an attempt to accommodate the tender Swiss palates. Maybe that's what's happening at A La Turca. I wanted to jump back by the spinning Gyrokone(TM) and tell the cook to cut loose a little bit with the authenticity, because I'd think the Turks like a little more zip. Guess we'll have to find another Turkish place for comparison.

 

Vardigan

CigarsOn a previous Füd Court outing, walking to the Ha-Ra, we halted outside A La Turca, captivated by the action on the grill on display through the big window. We stood there, still, watching the skewers smoke on the grill and the meat on the spinning thing slowly spin. We made verbal notes to return.

We returned, and ate there, and were let down. Window shopping daydream routs reality again. What from outside made our eyes big and stomachs eager left us glum, weary, and slumped before the actual plates of food, which began with baba ghanouj, an inoffensive but supremely bland offering. Sigara borek, a deep-fried pastry stuffed with feta and described on the menu as "cigar shaped," was the highlight of our appetizers. Our third appetizer came much, much later, in the form of a Black Sea pie filled with ground beef and roasted onion. This was pretty good as well, tardy as it was.

My main dish, the chicken gyro, brought things back to bland. An imposing plate of food, I shoveled it in and in without tasting a thing, no matter what sauces I introduced. It felt like work, not like fun times with the Füd Court. It is not all glamour, this San Francisco Dining for the Average Eater. We paid and walked out of there. In the windows on the strangely quiet Tenderloin streets, nothing of promise.


McClure

Ah Turkey, I remember it well: The only time in my life I've been a millionaire. Well, to be more accurate, a Turkish Lire-ionaire. I stayed in a cave, slept in a tree house, and drank coffee 'til dawn with policemen who carried machine guns.

A La Turca, at least the one on Geary here in SF, is nothing like that. Only a few bucks in our pockets and no policemen with guns. The place could use some excitement, especially in some of its dishes. The baba ghanouj was ba-ba-ba boring, flat and flavorless. Maybe a pinch of salt would've livened it up a bit but I'm there to eat, not fix the dish. The lamb and beef gyro had a similar lack of flavor. The meat was bland, more like some packaged lunch meat. Where were the tasty spices that usually make the gyro oh so good?

Two reasons to go to Turkey are not the pit toilets or the salmonella, but two reasons to eat at A La Turca are the sigara borek($3.75), delicately fried feta cheese-filled pastries in a cigar shape, and the Black Sea pies. We chose the ground beef roasted onion pie. It had a nice crust with a super good fillin' of, yes, ground beef and roasted onions. Now, this had some super flavor and it was a goodly portion for $3.75. Both the cigar and the pie are worth a visit to Turca. A La Turca recently opened so maybe they are still fine tuning the dishes, we'll see. Anyhoo, I do recommend you journey to Turkey when you have a chance and enjoy the delights they offer.

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