As you may know if you’ve read my note about advertisers, not just anyone may advertise on this website. In the old days, there was a Maginot Line that separated the editorial division of a publishing entity and the advertising department. The latter dared not attempt to influence the former. In the new world, that line is less fortified, blurrier. But there is still a line. I insist on it. And the people who sell advertising space on my site are required to vet potential advertisers with me before making a sales call. And yes, I’ve turned down some ads.
So when Anatolia, the Turkish and Lebanese restaurant that opened two years ago on Restaurant Row, expressed a desire to be on these pages, I said I would have to go back to see how they were doing. My first visit, in 2009, had been pleasant enough, but the restaurant was still new. I’m pleased (and my sales team is relieved!) to report that not only is the experience at Anatolia still a pleasant one, it seems to have improved in the last couple of years.
Anatoila occupies a small space in the Dr. Phillips Marketplace, near Greek Corner and Morton’s Steakhouse. Tables are covered with white cloths and a gold runner under the lamentable pane of glass. Chairs are a comfortable high-back leather, and walls have a hue of rich mild chocolate.
The menu might intimidate the timid diner but will provide exciting opportunities to the adventurous one. Tavuk adana, kuzu pirzola, izgara kofte and cacik might seem, um, foreign to you. A closer read on some of them will reveal some more familiar items. The kuzu pirzola, for example, are lamb chops. But there are plenty of things that are certain to be new to many.
I sampled a number of items, beginning with an array of dips, some familiar, such as hummus and babaganouj, and some less familiar, such as a pulpy eggplant salad, kisir, a variation on a taboule theme, and cacik, a yogurt-based dish that was both thick and creamy.To best enjoy the dips, be sure to order the lavas (lavosh), which is baked in the brick oven and comes to the table all puffed up like Jiffy Pop.
Appetizers are divided into hot and cold lists. And by the way, this would be a good time to mention that a majority of appetizers are designated as vegan. You could make a feast of appetizers free of meat products and leave feeling quite full.
Hot appetizers included arnavut cigeri, which sounds so much better than fried calves liver. This featured little bite-sized chunks garnished with tomatoes and raw onions; and icli kofte, an egg-shaped patty fashioned out of cracked wheat and filled with ground lamb. I also had the lightly breaded and perfectly fried calamari and a wonderful falafel patty. All of it was delicious — even the liver.
For my entree I had the mixed grill, an ample sampling of meats, each available also as a single entree, that could easily serve two people. It had adana kebab, seasoned ground lamb formed around a skewer; lamb shish kebab, cubes of tender meat; lamb chops, just in case you didn’t have enough lamb before; dana kebab, cubes of grilled beef; and tavuk kebab, which would be chicken. All were well seasoned and delicious, and were accompanied by rice and a medley of grilled vegetables.
My favorite dessert was the kazandibi. Described on the menu as baked caramelized milk pudding, it reminded me of a cross between creme brulee and flan. It was so creamy and wonderfully rich. Anatolia’s baklava, the iconic dessert of phyllo pastry with pistachios and rose syrup, was less cloying than most.
Service was attentive and friendly. Everyone is eager to please and readily available to explain menu items and offer advice.
Two years in, Anatolia seems to have settled in and offers a relaxed, comfortable and yet exciting dining experience. I’m glad to see them still doing well, and I’m delighted to have them here.
Anatolia is at 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to Anatolia’s website. The phone number is 407-352-6766.