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Passing by Avesta

Posted by Emily / March 5, 2008

I’m a sucker for good advertising. So the first time I passed by Avesta and saw a woman sitting by the window rolling bread dough into paper-thin sheets, I wanted to try the place out immediately, despite having just eaten my weight in jap chae at Maison Bulgogi.

I wasn’t able to convince my dining companions to have a second dinner that night, but the image of that woman making bread was stuck in my mind. A few weeks later, I returned to Avesta, stomach grumbling and ready to taste some of that bread.

The interior of the small Turkish café looks extremely pretty and cozy, with intricately decorated tapestries, stools, and cushy booths. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that those stools and booths look a lot more comfortable than they feel. On my first visit, I sat on a stool at a relatively low table, which meant that I spent the entire meal in the Hunchback of Notre-Dame position. On my second visit, I tried to play it smart by requesting a booth in the back. But the benches were so far away from the table that I had to perch on the edge to reach my food. Thankfully, Avesta’s food is good enough to redeem its uncomfortable seating.

The café allows customers to choose any three appetizers, or mezze, for $6, and this is definitely the best way for two or three diners to start a meal off. Avesta’s hummus is particularly creamy and has a potent garlic flavor. I wasn’t blown away by the dolmas, which seemed a bit dry, but a pureed eggplant mixture was perfectly spiced. And of course, the warm, flat bread makes the perfect utensil to scrape up the food.

After several trips to Avesta, I’ve gotten the sense that none of the other main dishes quite measure up to the manti ($8). Tiny balls of beef are wrapped into dumplings and soaked in a thick yogurt sauce. A drizzling of deep orange butter on top of the white sauce gives the dish a striking appearance. And it tastes great too; with the mild, tangy flavor of the yogurt and a few subtle spices in the beef.

And of course, no Turkish meal would be complete without an outrageously sweet dessert. Avesta’s baklava ($5) is nicely crispy and crunchy, but I preferred the other pastry they offer, which had chopped nuts and honey mixed into a bed of shredded wheat. Sadly, I’m getting on in years and the name of this treat escapes me at the moment, but a bit of internet searching suggests that it was called tel kadayif.

As long as you don’t need to reach anything on the table, the booths can be quite comfortable. It’s easy to sink back into the soft bench, listen to the calming Middle Eastern music, and watch passers by on the street as they stare at the woman kneading bread inside. Most of them go on their way eventually, but they’ll be back.
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escubio / November 22, 2008 at 11:48 pm
Thanks for sharing the picture of the mante. I hadn't seen this since my last trip to Turkey two years ago and it was the dish I missed the most. It's good to know there's somewhere to go in the country for good old mante!
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