I don’t know too much about Turkish cuisine. There’s way more Persian and Greek restaurants in Vancouver than Turkish. But I love Anatolia’s Gate, if only for their amazing lavash bread straight out of their brick oven! Their Turkish pizza (lahmajun) is great too…so thin and crispy, and the meat mixture they spread on top is delicious.
Now cut to last week, where after navigating the tough parking situation at London Drugs at Victoria Drive and 41st, I spotted a newish Turkish restaurant called Istanbul Lounge & Gourmet on 41st beside the VanCity! I got takeout from there a few days afterwards and was pleased with their humble, homecooked flavours.
Istanbul Lounge & Gourmet is on Victoria Drive and 40th. That’s the Vancity just to the right. Foodwise, there isn’t a whole lot of note in the immediate vicinity, except for maybe Shima-Ya Sushi across the street. On the other side of 41st, you have (maybe) The Soup House and Kim Phung. Further north along Victoria Drive, there are some great places like Kalvin’s Szechuan, Amay’s House, Chau VeggieExpress and Hoi An Cafe. But it’s a heavily Asian area, so it was a bit of a surprise that someone would open a Turkish restaurant here. A refreshing surprise.
The takeaway lesson here is good value for the money.
I couldn’t find their menu online (not even on their Facebook page), so here you go. As always, click or finger-zoom to enlarge.
Dishes like börek and donair. Humble, basic yet authentic stuff. Sometimes I’m in the mood for this kind of food.
In addition to their regular menu, they have weekend-only (Fri-Sun) specials that sometimes go beyond Turkish food. I missed their Ali Nazik Kebap, so I’ll have to keep an eye on that. I ordered an Eggplant with Minced Meat (Karnıyarık) instead, which is sorta similar and sorta not… I also ordered a Beef Donair Plate and a Lentil Soup, all to go so I could have it with beer at home 😀
I was mildly impressed with how clean and comfortable it was inside. I saw a few tableside lamps that you’d see in any person’s home. A bit strange to see them in a restaurant, but it just added to the homey feel.
Salad that came with by Beef Donair Plate. Basic iceberg lettuce, cucumber, tomato salad, made better with the addition of feta and olives. Totally not fancy stuff, right?
And here’s the Beef Donair Plate with mashed potatoes on the right, with a bit of hummus beside it. Rice with chick peas underneath the donair meat. The meat is actually REAL meat, not the mystery meat full of binders and fillers that you see at most cheap donair places. Cacik (that’s tzatziki to you and me) drizzled on top.
Eggplant with Minced Meat (Karnıyarık) served on the same rice with chick peas and mashed potatoes as in the donair plate.
Looks like I got some orzo in there too! Unexpected surprise 🙂 Man, they love their starch! Rice, chickpeas, orzo, hummus AND mashed potatoes!
The eggplant came with a bit of Turkish tzatziki (cacik). It was VERY garlicky but when eaten with the food it was great.
Also got a Lentil Soup. There was a guy eating in the restaurant while I was ordering, and he insisted I try the lentil soup and squeeze lemon into it. I saw they served lemon with the soup in the restaurant but when I brought the takeout home, there was no lemon 🙁 But, it’s a huge serving, enough for two people.
It’s very different from the lentil soup from Abdul’s BBQ at Crystal Mall. Abdul’s is cumin-heavy (Syrian style, I guess), whereas Istanbul Lounge’s lentil soup was a lot milder, perhaps with paprika replacing the cumin. There also seemed to be rice or other grains in there along with lentil. Very mild, comforting and hearty soup.
The soup came with this slice of buttered whole wheat bread. I’m not kidding. That’s how homestyle it is! 😛
Rice with chickpeas. The short grain rice had a bit of an oily quality to it. Not a turnoff or anything, I guess it’s how they like their rice seasoned. Notice how the donair meat is actually meat, not slices from a huge formed meat obelisk.
I liked the orzo. Nice slippery contrast to the other starches.
Cross-section of the eggplant. Can’t go wrong with soft eggplant and ground meat on rice!
On the whole, the food was mildly seasoned, humble and hearty. This whole meal was ~$25 and could feed two people easily with a bit leftover for lunch the next day. I did sprinkle some sea salt on the eggplant dish cuz I thought it needed a little more kick, but hey, that’s why I bought these fancy sea salts in the first place 😛 I appreciate that they prepare the food on the milder side. Seems to be the style for Turkish homecooking. I’d totally get takeout from here again.