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Dec 21, 2007 12:31 PM

Turkish delights?

I was flipping through the channels last night and came upon a show called Food Safari and they were profiling Turkish food. Yum! Got me wondering if there were any authentic Turkish restaurants in Montreal? Ideas? I'm craving it!

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  1. Have been twice to Su in Verdun. Comfortable if not particularly Turkish decor (the space was an Italian restaurant in its previous incarnation) but consistently good and sometimes inspired food. If you like meat and eggplant combos, the hunkar begendi is alone worth the trip.

    Less refined but even more affordable is Avesta (2077 Ste-Catherine W. 514 937-0156), usually with a woman making flat bread in the window. Especially strong on mezze (the better for scooping up with that delicious bread).

    8 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      I'd like to second the recommendation for Avesta, though more of a cafe than a restaurant. They make killer sandwiches.

      1. re: Moosemeat

        Great! Sooo happy now. Off to eat! - Thanks!

      2. re: carswell

        Su was featured as one of the "not to be missed" restaurants in todays Gazette. I am curious now. Since I am half-Turkish, I am a little bit fussy about Turkish food and I rarely bother eating at Turkish restaurants outside of Turkey (well except a few that amazed me). Avesta was OK, but I only went once (at some odd hour, so I guess it wasn't a good test) and didn't really feel to go back. I'll try and report when I get a chance to try Su. "Hunkar Begendi" is a gold standard in old school Ottoman cuisine and one of my favorite dishes ever. If they can pull it off, they will make me very happy.

        1. re: emerilcantcook

          I tried Avesta once more, during regular dining hours instead of some odd time and I am happy I did. I found it much better than most Turkish restaurants I have tried in North America.

          The manti (tiny stuffed dumplings in yogurt sauce) was pretty solid, almost on par with what you can get in famous places in Turkey. This is a labor intensive dish and many home cooks do not bother to make it at home. Or they cheat by rolling the dough thick and cutting the dumplings big so it takes less time to fold the pouches. Resulting dumplings are normally not as tender, but people don't like to bother making them thin and delicate. I really appreciated the fact that the dumplings were small; that is the measure of their goodness and the love that gets into it. The mezes and borek were decent too. The potato-meet borek had a nice kick, and the ultra-flat bread that came with the mezes were freshly made, warm and smelled lovely. The stuffed vine leaves tasted a little bit dry, but they were very well seasoned with spices and herbs unlike most other bland versions you see around town. I hate when my stuffed vine leaves are stuffed with underseasoned rice. The desserts were just OK; but it is really hard to make a really good baklava so I don't want to complain too much. Oh, the tea was good too; served in traditional hourglass shaped tiny glasses and it was properly brewed, a la Turca.

          I am happy that I tried them again; this will be another addition to my rotation. They also inspired me to make another version of the manti at home, the one that is baked and then briefly steamed so that it regains its plumpness. The resulting flavor is much richer than plain steaming; but for some reason no one I know likes it. Perhaps that is why no restaurant makes it that way, but it seriously tastes better.

          1. re: emerilcantcook

            How was the service? I went a couple of times for lunch but stopped because they're sooooo slooooowww.

            1. re: mainsqueeze

              It was pretty good, but the place wasn't very crowded to start with. The first time I went there it took forever to get my meal though; and we were the only patrons. I think that one was a problem with the kitchen rather than the service.

              1. re: emerilcantcook

                I've been to Avesta several times and would recommend avoiding the lunch-time rush. I'd also recommend the lamb saç kavurma if you're in the mood for something a bit more substantial yet not too heavy.

            2. re: emerilcantcook

              Just had a chance to finally try Avesta, and I really liked it! The mezze are really delicious. I had the hummous with lamb, an odd presentation, but the lamb was very delicate and went well with the hummous. Mouhamarra was very different that other mouhamarra I've had from Armenian/syrian places, but I really liked the very nutty flavour it had, and I was surprised that I enjoyed its firm texture. I also had a red cabbage mezze, the eggplant Avesta, the garlicky carrot and yogurt mezze and zucchini dolmade. I was not a huge fan of the dolmade, I found the rice a little mushy. But I loved the carrot mezze - it was very special, very unique. And the homemade lavash is really wonderful, it has a fabulous chewiness, and they serve it warm! It is very cool to watch the lady rolling out the bread in the window.

              The prices are very reasonable, and the food is very fresh. I like this place very much.

        2. I love the kumpir (turkish baked potato - a street food in turkey) at Patate Au Four on Ave des Pins Est, at Laval. Yumyum.

          9 Replies
          1. re: mainsqueeze

            There is also Anatol on Park near Jean-Talon and Chateau Istanbul on St-Denis. I haven't been but I would be interested in hearing opinions about them from others.

            1. re: hungryann


              We went once about two or three years ago, based on a review in one of the weeklies. Were not impressed in the least bit, and haven't been back.

              1. re: zekesgallery

                Which one? Anatol or Chateau Istanbul?

                1. re: hungryann

                  Warned away by word on the street and MBE's review -- -- one of the last before he left our fair city, I've never been.

                  MBE, the infamous Mirror rave and several other websites refer to it as Restaurant Anatolien (if memory serves, that's also the name on the sign) though, oddly, Canada411 has nothing under that name, while Anatol brings up the bulk foods store, Anatole nada, Anatolia a travel agency.

                  EDIT: Just checked the printed business phone directory. It's there under Anatolien. Guess Canada411 has some gaps.

                  1. re: carswell

                    I was always wondering about that place, as it is not very far from my neighbourhood - just across the railway viaduct. Hope someone has been to Château Istanbul - I love good Turkish food (at least the versions I've had in Europe), and while I know it would be easy to get to Verdun or southwestern city centre by métro, it is hard to convince friends to go to the other end of the city...

                    There is a fairly large Turkish grocery shop (think it is called Istanbul) in a strip mall at the northeastern corner of St-Laurent and Crémazie (just north of the boulevard métropolitain).

                2. re: mainsqueeze

                  I passed by Patate Au Four a few days ago. It was snowing, so I could only take a quick look, but it looks like their menu has expanded. I did more than my fair share of kumpir eating during the 90s. It was the biggest food trend of that decade, kumpir shops were everywhere and they were cheap. I think I ate so much that I still do not want to have one single bite of it, even after two decades. But good news is they now serve borek and Turkish style panini with sucuk (spicy dried sausage).

                  1. re: emerilcantcook

                    Where was this abundance of kumpir shops? I had never heard of kumpir until patate au four opened. They're had the borek for as long as I remember. I don't know about the sucuk.

                    1. re: mainsqueeze

                      Ummm, should have specified. They were abundant in Turkey. Around late 80s-early 90s, almost every friggin corner of Turkey had a kumpir shop. It was a new thing, nothing like any other Turkish food we have eaten. I might speculate that the recipe was brought by the people who mass migrated from the Balkans around the same time. It was different, cheap and satisfying, so kumpir places were as popular as New Kids on the Block among the high school kids. Of course by the end of the decade, most kumpir shops went bankrupt. There are still some, but I'd say the thing is now perceived as a novelty food item.

                      I think I once ate kumpir for two weeks in a row for lunch, including weekends. I guess there is too much of a good thing. Still I'd take its complexity against bland steakhouse baked potatoes any day.

                      How is their borek?

                3. Howdy!

                  Apologies for being obtuse, Anatole.

                  And if you want to see how ahead of the curve Chowhound is, re-read this thread on Turkish food:

                  1. I happen to really like Turkish Delight (I think it's called "loukoum"), but have not had any decent stuff in years; most is too sweet. I used to buy some made in England of all places, and it was really good. Anyone come across any acceptable versions ?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: souschef

                      The one sold at the La Khaïma at JTM is pretty good. It's in the new building in the hall between Le Prince Noir and Brûlerie St-Denis.

                      1. re: Campofiorin

                        The place is actually called Riyad, but their loukoums are quite good indeed.

                        La Khaïma is a restaurant on Fairmount.

                        1. re: SnackHappy

                          Yeah that's right, my bad but this is the place. Loukoum is indeed pretty good.

                          1. re: Campofiorin

                            Thanks for the info. WIsh I had checked CH before leaving Montreal today.

                          2. re: SnackHappy

                            I bought some loukoum at Riyad today. Found it too chewy; almost hurt my jaw with the first bite....seriously !

                        2. re: souschef

                          I really don't like Turkish delight that much, especially the soft wobbly ones (extra dislike points for the ones that are rolled in coconut, which is a 20th century bastardization of this delicacy). The only ones I find worth their calories are the chewier "double cooked" ones, and they are really hard to find. Some suggestions though...

                          My friend was talking about getting very decent lokums from Nocochi, and this place might be a good bet. Nocochi's goods are real hit and miss in terms of freshness, but when they are fresh they are really good. The cookies usually look more interesting, so I never checked their lokum.

                          There are also boxed "fancy" lokums La Vieille Europe. I remember getting a bergamot flavored lokum, made in Cyprus. It was pretty good but expensive like most stuff sold there.

                          The best commercial Turkish manufacturer of lokum is "Divan", which is a legendary patisserie chain. Almost equally good are the Hacibekir ones (this is the name of the dude who is the inventor of the recipe), but I prefer Divan perhaps because the patisserie is ingrained in my childhood memories of ridiculously decadent cakes and profiteroles (they make both traditional Turkish and French sweets). Most other stuff that look like over-solidified jello are tourist grade non-delights with too much sugar and not much flavor (unless they are loaded with fake fruit flavorings).

                          The above two brands are much easier to find in England than Canada, but I sometimes see them at random places in North America (I once spotted some Divan at Winners of all places). The double cooked pistachio lokum from Divan or mastic gum lokums from Hacibekir are the perhaps best Turkish delights your money can buy.

                        3. Just arrived in town tonight and decided to try out Avesta, a nice walk from our hotel. I've never eaten Turkish food before, but we really enjoyed our meals. My wife ordered the little dumplings and when I told our waiter that I couldn't handle spicy foods, he suggested that I get the same thing and he could make it not spicy. We both loved it. There must have been 50 of those little dumplings in a bowl filled with yogurt and I think sun dried tomatoes, with parsley and mint? around the edge. We each had a glass of wine (we're not picky so I can't tell you much about it), I had a Turkish coffee, and we shared a baklava. Total bill, including tax, was only $44. We'll return, maybe even this trip :)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: UnConundrum

                            Oh, I'd forgotten about the little manti (dumplings). They are so yummy!

                            1. re: mainsqueeze

                              Just came back from lunch at Avesta. The manti were soooo delicious! Little tiny nuggets of yumminess burried in tangy-minty yogurt sauce. Oh boy oh boy. The red stuff is actually red pepper and melted butter, I believe (not sundried tomato). It is definitely my favourite of the dishes we've had there.

                              We also shared a spinach and feta börek (tasty, but a little chewy - maybe it's supposed to be this way?), and a spicy beef gözleme that was not very spicy at all, but the pide was so fresh and fluffy that all was forgiven.

                              I'm happy to report that since the last time I went the service has gotten much faster, making it a more viable lunch option. When I'd gone before it was painfully slow. I'll definitely be going back more often now.

                              1. re: mainsqueeze

                                <Little tiny nuggets of yumminess burried in tangy-minty yogurt sauce. Oh boy oh boy. The red stuff is actually red pepper and melted butter, I believe (not sundried tomato)>

                                I remember it being red pepper. And it should be. Sundried tomatoes are not very common in traditional Turkish cuisine, and I've never seen it on manti.

                                I love Avesta's manti. I used to make this this dish at home, but I do not want to spend hours making so many mini dumplings. (There is even a saying: Takes 4 hours to cook, 4 minutes to eat) It is too labor intensive, and Avesta's version is fine.

                                <We also shared a spinach and feta börek (tasty, but a little chewy - maybe it's supposed to be this way?) >

                                Nope it shouldn't be if it is freshly made that day. This usually happens with day old borek that is reheated. Also the spice levels in Turkish meals are very subtle compared to Indian and Thai meals (except for a few regional dishes), so I can understand that the gozleme not being that spicy. It probably had some crushed pepper in it, and that was enough to call it spicy. Nothing like Bangkok 3X dishes :)