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Nizam, Cafe Divan, or Kazan - help me choose

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My folks and sister are taking my wife and me out for my birthday. I know about Nizam, Cafe Divan, and Kazan but have been to none of them, and know less about the first two than the last. I'd like a nice, sit down place. It doesn't have to be fancy, but I don't want take away, counterfood either.

I've heard good things about Divan and Nizam, but middling reviews of Kazan.

Thanks for any insights and/or additional recommendations. Apropos of other places you might suggest, I'm looking for someting in NoVA - Arlington, FC, Fairfax. We'll go to MD too.

Cocinero Cubano

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  1. Among Turkish friends and acquaintances, I find people devoted to Nizam and Kazan in equal numbers. It generally seems to break along geographical lines; people living closer to Nizam prefer Nizam and people living closer to Kazan...

    I'm not Turkish, but we live near Kazan so we've dined there at least 6 times a year for the 26 years the restaurant has been in business. (I'm really not obsessive about dates or statistics. The restaurant has a huge banner hanging outside announcing the anniversary.) We rarely even bother looking at the menu. We adore their donner kebab with yogurt, their taramasalata, and their orange baklava. The iman bayildi is so sublime that I often order some as take out, and I have been known to offer that as an appetizer at a dinner party in my home.

    One caveat: The wine choices at Kazan are mediocre.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Indy 67

      We like Nizam's in Vienna and that's where we go when we want to enjoy a good meal and good conversation with friends/relatives. It's quiet, well run, cozy...and the food is very good. We've even gone there on Christmas Eves when we didn't have relatives visiting. The moussaka is very rich, more of a casserole than the Greek version (I love both types).

    2. I am Turkish and the only restaurant I know is Cafe Divan and I assure you you will love the food..at my last visit the portions were a little smaller than usual but the good thing about Cafe Divan is they have a website you can visit and take a look at the menu.They have a take out section and that part of the restaurant has a seperate door and a small place for people to eat their doner sandwiches or whatever quickly. It is not a very fancy place nor it looks bad in any way. I have to be honest since I live in Maryland I never heard of Kazan..but I have heard all positive things about Nizam's..Cafe Divan is opening a bar in the same building so infront of the building on the very left there is your restaurand,in the middel the carry out/fast food type and finally there will be a bar I am not sure what they will call it.To sum up thums up for Cafe Divan..

      3 Replies
      1. re: efes

        Maybe I was misguided or maybe I've been spoiled by the Turkish food in London, but I wasn't especially impressed by Cafe Divan last night. Their imam bayildi was gently seasoned, tender, and tasty; the hommos was just how I like it - full of tahini; my girlfriend's lamb chop and doner kebab were juicy and delicious, but I was underwhelmed. At the waiter's suggestion, I ordered a sucuk pide, which had spicy bits of sausage tucked into its folds of chewy bread, but its tomatoes tasted off. Though it is winter, the quality of the produce was not good. The tomatoes stayed hard despite their oven time and were mealy, making the entire middle part of my pide a bit unpleasant to eat.

        Likewise, their mezze platter had great sugur boreki but middling most everything else. I found the dolmas to be dry, though pleasantly minty and was put off by the limp iceberg lettuce.

        Did I order wrong, or am I just a fiend for liberal seasoning and really fresh produce?

        1. re: Hungry Man

          I've been to Cafe Divan a few times and each experience has been different. One meal was outstanding, one was the absolute pits and others have been somewhere in between. Nizam's is consistently pretty good. Dining there is a bit like having dinner at a Turkish home. Though it's a very different type of dining experience, I would recommend Zaytinya.

          1. re: Hungry Man

            I don't think you were off. I'm Turkish and have been consistently underwelmed by Cafe Divan. Perhaps their meat dishes are better. I tend to stick to the veggie/seafood side and have not been overly impressed. They really screwed up the su boregi, for example--overcooking (or leavivng it under a heat lamp for too long) so that instead of being the soft almost lasagna-like texture it is supposed to be, it was crispy. I could barely find the cheese in the sigara boregi, and the kalamar comes with cocktail sauce! (versus the white, garlicky sauce you'd see in Istanbul). Everything still tasted good, but they were definitely not what they were supposed to be. I keep going back, but have to accept that it is not quite what I would expect.

        2. Nizam's is quite good, but I wouldn't go there unless I was in the company of a male - attitude.

          Kazan's is good, but the atmosphere is lacking since they remodeled some years ago.

          I've never been to Cafe Divan.

          I like Temel's, which is off Pickett Road in Fairfax. Good doner kabob on Saturday nights.

          1 Reply
          1. re: anni

            Temel is great. kazan has the best atmosphere.

          2. I have only been to Cafe Divan and wasn't too impressed with their food. The service was okay. I love Turkish food and thought Divan's wasn't too flavorful.

            1. Nizam is quite good. Yogurtlu dishes were particularly good and my hubby loved the doner kabob. you could go over to Nielsen's frozen custard afterward for dessert!

              1. Divan is incredible!!!!!!!!!! not even close and i've been to all three

                1 Reply
                1. re: Chris K

                  You must have gone to a different Divan than me. At has gone downhill.

                2. have only eaten at kazan's, but we liked the food. recently had the swordfish kabob (very good flavor, texture, juiciness, but needs more fish), mr. alka had the braised lamb shank. good, and generous. hummus, so-so (with a shish-taouk kind of chicken on top); fried calamari, very good! salad fresh, but no big deal.

                  simple environment, decent service. our hosts love the place (and they are greek).