Cappadocia draws on a diverse food history from the homeland, with charcoal-grilled meats that are out of this world.
“This is traditional Turkish food,” he says. Everything from the show-stopping puffy lavas bread to richly marinated meats is made in-house, lessons learned from years in the restaurant business in New York.
“I’m a cooking man,” Yilmaz proclaims.
The restaurant is situated on a well-traveled stretch of Semoran Boulevard bordering the Azalea Park neighborhood. The building, which had housed Café Italiano for almost 50 years, is not far from the hulking Colonial Drive overpass, and even Yilmaz says, “It is a difficult location.” Still, and completely coincidentally, Cappadocia faces the Orlando Turkish Cultural Center across the highway so hungry souls willing to brave the traffic on 436 can and do stroll over for lunch.
The historical, exotic region of Cappadocia lies in central Turkey, far removed from the metropolises of Istanbul and Ankara (St. George, of dragon-slaying fame, was supposedly born in Cappadocia). An ancient volcanic land of hot, dry summers and cold snowy winters, it is full of craggy valleys and underground cities, homes and churches carved out of the rock by nature and man. Its food culture has been shaped since its days as the biblical Hittite homeland by occupations: Persian, Roman, Armenian, Ottoman, Anatolian, Greek and Turkish. And traces of those influences show up on Yilmaz’s straightforward menu.
Those familiar with other Turkish restaurants in the area will be pleased with the appetizers—hummus, baba ghanoush and tabbouleh—all available on one convenient combo plate ($14.99). The smooth chickpea dip, slightly smoky eggplant and parsley-laden salad are joined by thick, strained yoghurt dip (what we call “Greek” yoghurt, but wonderfully tart and rich) and a rice-stuffed grape leafsarma. A glass of Turkish wine and this platter would make a fine dinner.
A more substantial starter, Kiymali Pide ($13.99) is a boat-shaped concoction, like an open-faced calzone, thick dough encompassing hearty ground lamb, peppers and tomato, savory with parsley and the aroma of cumin.
I indulged in the chicken mixed grill platter ($14.99), thinking I could get away with just a tasting. I was wrong. Large chunks of lightly spiced white meat, charcoal-grilled marinated dark meat “chops” and a full serving of chicken Adana, a shaped kebab of minced chicken served pilavüstü (over rice), was such a generous serving that lunch the next day was an equally satisfying meal. Grilled fresh tomato and a charred spicy pepper accompany the entrees.
Another Adana kebab—the name refers to the city where roasting chopped meat over charcoal is a specialty—features lamb ($15.99), spicy with red pepper and garlic and tart from sumac spice. A variant, the “special” Beyti kabab ($16.99), wraps the sausage-like meat in thin lavas bread with a drizzle of yoghurt and pureed tomato. I would have liked even a bit more heat with these items, which I’m sure can be arranged.
There is elegance in simplicity, regardless of location, and the sincere Mr. Yilmaz is creating elegant and simple food worth trying.
SWEET AND IRRESISTABLE
Ask about dessert and the automatic response is “Kunefe” as if it could really be any other choice. The traditional Anatolian treat sandwiches shreds of toasted phyllo pastry with stringy, mozzarella-like kasar cheese, baked on a hot copper plate and served saturated in sugar syrup and ground pistachio. It’s large, killer sweet and irresistible.
Cappadocia Turkish Cuisine
565 N. Semoran Blvd., Orlando