Based on the recommendations on this board, I went to dinner on Wednesday night at Divan, the new Turkish spot that opened up on 22nd and Carpenter. I wanted to like this place, since it seemed like much effort was put into decorating it and the service was very nice, helpful, and patient. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this place, and I walked out feeling ripped off. The quality of the food at this place is not up to the standards of other small-to-medium Philly BYOBs at which I've eaten in the past 5 years.
I ordered the minced smoked eggplant with lamb dish and was very disappointed. First, the dish cost $14.50, and the quantity of lamb in the dish was minimal, consisting of a few paltry-sized stew cubes. For that price, more lamb should have been provided. Besides the egglplant, there were a few peppers in the dish, but not much else. Beyond the scarcity of lamb, the other problem with the dish was that the eggplant did not seem homemade and had a heavy quality reminiscent of preservative-laden food. The flavor of the eggplant seemed vaguely familiar, and I realized that--to the best of my recollection--it tasted just like a packaged minced eggplant I had eaten last year, by a brand that I believe is called "Sabra." My hunch, and I could be totally wrong about this, was that Divan was actually serving Sabra eggplant, available at many stores for a few bucks, with a few cubes of stewed lamb and charging $14.50 for it. If this is the case, the restaurant should be ashamed of itself. If I wanted a large quantity of Sabra eggplant for dinner, I would have gone to grocery store and bought some and would not have bothered going to a restaurant, from which I expect fresh food.
Even if I am wrong in my hunch about the origin of Divan's "smoked eggplant," I can still say that I
was dissatisfied with the dish. Most of it consisted of the eggplant, the flavor of which was good in the first few bites but got old after the sixth or seventh bite. I quickly ran out of lamb or vegetables to mix with the eggplant, because the dish consisted of so little else besides the eggplant. By itself, the eggplant tasted bland and heavy.
I also ordered the "cigar" appetizer (I forget the Turkish name), which consisted of fried dough stuffed with spinach and cheese. The dish tasted like a combination of herbs and heavy oil--not awful, but nothing with which I was particularly excited either.
The restaurant charges a $5 corkage fee if you bring wine. The waiter told me that this was a standard practice as of late in Philly BYOs. I have been living in NYC for the past couple of years and Sabrina's and La Viola are the only other BYOs at which I have eaten since I returned to Philly, but I am not accustomed to being charged a corkage fee. In my experiences at Django, Rx, Sabrina's, and La Viola, four of the better BYOs in the city, I have never been hit with a corkage fee. At the very least, when I was at Divan, I should have been informed of the corkage fee before the waiter served the wine. When the restaurant is already charging $14.50 for a lot of eggplant and a few bits of lamb, I thought this fee was excessive.
I will definitely not return to this restaurant. I hope that the expanding number of BYOs in Philly does not lead to a dilution of the quality of food at these establishments. Divan should be ashamed of itself and should have offered me a much better meal for my $.
I just ate there again Tuesday night and it was as excellent as the first time. A $5 corkage fee is besides the point for me when they are making some of the best meat dishes in the city. The lamb adana is incredible, and the doner is the best I've ever had...and I'm picky about doner.
Two of us shared the mixed appetizer platter (which could easily feed four as an app...and I have a large appetite) each had an entree, two coffees and a dessert, and the check was $60 plus tip. If there's a corkage fee in there, it's still *well* worth the price. Service was also very good if a little hovering.
If you stay away...you're just plain missing out on an extremely good restaurant. These guys can cook.
My wife and I did not feel this way. First of all, I do not think Turkish is one of the world's great cuisines. It is, however, the backbone of a lot of other cuisines, like Bulgarian, "Middle Eastern," Greek, Romanian, and Serbian. For that it is interesting, and I like it. That said, the food tasted very authentic to us, precisely how it would taste had I ordered it in Bucharest or Sophia (I have never been to Turkey).
We thought prices were reasonable, particularly compared to the other Turkish resturant in Philly, Konak.
The atmosphere and service are all good. And I think corkage fees are pretty routine and $3 seems like awfully little.
I assume your eggplant dish is not one of their strongest. The mixed grill and appetizer dishes we got were very good, as was the other dish you did not like, the Burek, which is a dish common to all the region's cusines.