you may not feel the love in big cities like istanbul or ankara, but when you go to less-populated places in turkey the locals' hospitality is legendary. our tour guide told us that it was not uncommon to be offered to join the dinner table if we knocked on the door of someone's residence in the evening. unfortunately we weren't invited anywhere, though my dad did try his best to get some young girls and also some boys my age to invite us to dinner. though the girls had a hard time understanding him, they did point us in the direction of a restaurant they liked... at least from what we understood. it advertised a turkish-uzbek menu and looked very small inside, like someone's living room. maybe it was a friend of one of the young girl's family? in any case, it looked inviting to us.
luckily the turkish owner/server spoke very good english and welcomed us warmly. my parents ordered way too much food, as usual. i think they are like me in that they enjoy trying new foods.. but at the same time i sense they hold those tough times after the war close to their heart and like to see a lot of food on the table. in any case, the owner's uzbek wife cooked up the dishes very quickly and at least i was overwhelmed by the spread. of course we started with bread and the ubiquitous lentil soup, which i quickly fell in love with. followed by lamb manti; dumplings that are steamed and smothered in yoghurt and drizzled with hot sauce. a mixed grill platter with lamb and chicken and a few vegetables. the most delicious dish served was also the most deceptive; uzbek pilaf. rice is a funny thing in turkey; i think most americans think of rice as a bland starch to cleanse the palate from the main dishes which are presumably mostly meat. the rice dishes we were served on this trip were almost always bursting with flavour, usually cooked in butter or olive oil and carefully simmered with broth. this pilaf was no exception. there were generous hunks of lamb along with chickpeas and grated carrot, and half a head of roasted garlic as the cherry on top. of course we didn't waste one clove of it and spread it greedily on the bread.
during the meal, the owner offered to put on some traditional uzbek music and chatted with us a bit. apparently he had been born in this city, ürgüp, and moved to istanbul for school. after marriage and kids and divorce, this small town called to him and he moved back. he found his new wife and they opened the restaurant together. it seemed like a place the locals enjoyed; the other diners were an old man smoking and drinking raki and a group of young ladies talking over lentil soup and occasionally checking on their babies. everything had been homemade and so delicious. it was such a privilege to eat with and talk to this man and wife team. they were even kind enough to pose for a photo with my parents.
if you are ever passing through ürgüp, you'd be doing yourself a favour by eating here.
(close to the intersecton of)
atatürk blv and sarıhan sk
ürgüp, nevşehir 50400