Review: Efes Bistro Fish & Grill House in Boca Raton
Lentil soup from Efes Bistro Fish and Grill House in Boca Raton. (Carline Jean / Sun Sentinel ) August 11, 2011 | By Chan Lowe, Sun Sentinel
4 stars out of 5
Overall impression: Have you ever been to a restaurant where everything was perfect, down to the last detail? Where the server cheerfully guided you though a menu full of exotic offerings, made helpful suggestions, then went into the back to prepare the food herself? Where every savory, uniquely seasoned recipe, steeped in the mists of history, seemed to contain a little of the cook's soul? Where you left feeling that you had been the recipient of a personal gift? If you would like to have that experience, go no farther than Efes Bistro Fish & Grill House in Boca Raton , because you will have the meal your mama would make for you if your mama was one amazing Turkish cook. The cook and owner in question is Sakina Yilmaz, who graduated from cooking school in Turkey and for many years operated a restaurant on Chapel Hill, N.C.'s historic Franklin Street.
Ambience: Efes (Turkish for Ephesus) is cozy and intimate, with a simple decor of small Turkish rugs on the walls, private booths lining the walls, and barrel-tiled roof scenery evoking a Turkish village. It is the understated setting for the star of the evening, which is the cuisine.
Insider tip: Make your first visit with friends. There are so many delectable items to try that you will all want to order different things and dive into each other's plates..
Starters: Efes divides appetizers into hot and cold, which vary in price from $4.95 for cacik (homemade yogurt and cucumber seasoned with garlic and fresh dill) to $8.95 for arnavut cigeri (diced calf liver sauteed in olive oil with onions, tomatoes and parsley). Since most palates are new to Turkish cuisine, we recommend that the first-timer try the mixed appetizer platter, either hot or cold ($11.95- $16.95), or both if you are a party of four. Each offers a mysterious taste adventure, displaying an almost spiritual understanding of seasoning that is characteristic of an area bestriding the ancient and storied spice routes of Asia. Turkish beans with fresh herbs, eggplant babaganoush, soft and succulent zucchini pancakes, delicate feta cheese and spinach in hand-rolled phyllo and rich kibbe—little football-shaped nuggets of ground lamb and beef, bulgur wheat and spices and walnuts, fried to perfection—are just some of the ingredients. Appetizers are served with home-baked Turkish bread, a round, aromatic loaf embedded with sesame seeds that you have to force yourself to stop eating. Each entree comes with a choice of soup or salad, and the red lentil soup is a standout all by itself. As you savor its thick, creamy goodness, a bewitching flavor emerges out of context. What is it? "It's mint," Yilmaz confides with a proud smile.
Entree excellence: There are many seafood, meat and vegetarian entrees available in the $16 to $22 range, all of which are served on your choice of rice or bulgur wheat (we liked the bulgur), and even this seeming afterthought was prepared with loving care. Of course, there is shish kebab. The lamb version ($18.95) consisted of tender, medium rare cubes of meat grilled with tomatoes and peppers, and as with all entrees, was accompanied by sweet and sour pickled red cabbage along with onion or shepherd salad, diced tomato, cucumber and pepper in vinaigrette. Again, the mixed grill platter ($22.95) offers newcomers the best tour of Turkish cuisine, including a delectable lamb chop, char grilled meatballs with Turkish herbs, shish kebab (chicken and beef are also available), and a peppery ground meat kebab. There is also a whole category of Turkish pide , or pizza ($9.95-$14.95), and even these smack of the exotic. One example is mozzarella with Turkish air-cured spicy beef sausage topped with egg on a pita bread base.
Sweet: Baklava at Efes ($4.95) is like nothing of this earth. Layer upon layer of gossamer phyllo, dripping with honey, stuffed with crusted walnut and pistachios—it comes as three pieces, but Yilmaz is happy to add another if you are a party of four. The perfect complement to this divine end-of-meal closer is an ornate demitasse of freshly-brewed Turkish coffee—dense, semi-sweet, and explosively flavorful.
Service: Top-notch, personal and appreciative, like being a guest in someone's home.
Dining deals: Turkish wraps (in homemade lavash, or flatbread), all under $10, afford a less-expensive tasting tour. A three-course early-bird special ($10.95) is available from 3:30-5:30. There is a four-course prix fixe menu for two for $39.95.
— Chan Lowe
Big choice of fresh fish and seafood, fancy fresh cheeses that you can try only here
— Marky's Gourmet