Anatolian Table Turkish Bistro
Here’s a question: If you’re reviewing a restaurant and you visit three times, and on two of the times you have unremarkable service and on one visit you have the lights turned out on you at 8:58 p.m. and are practically pushed out the door, how much weight should that third time be given in the review?
Any restaurant can have a bad day, or a day when everyone needs to get home early to watch America’s Got Talent, but on the flip side, many people only give a restaurant one chance. On my third visit to Anatolian Table Turkish Bistro, the server was certainly polite, but there was a constant undertow of pressure urging my party out the door. The restaurant closes at 9 p.m. We convened a bit before 8 p.m. At 8:35 p.m., when we had just started on our entrees, we were told that we had to put in our dessert order because the kitchen was closing. At 8:45 p.m., the check was dropped off. At 8:50 p.m., the server hovered in a way that clued me in that I had to stop chatting and pay right away. As mentioned above, the three of us ended up out on the sidewalk before the stroke of 9.
Without the hard sell, I estimate we would have been done by about 9:15 p.m., but we would have had a relaxed, convivial experience instead of one that was frustratingly truncated. But, again, anyone can have an off night.
So, let’s move on to the food. We ordered the appetizer platter and zucchini pancake to start. The appetizer plate is uninspiring. Perhaps it’s not fair to judge Turkish baba ghanoush against the baba ghanoush at Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon, because one is Turkish and one Lebanese, but I missed the smoke of the latter. As it was, the dip had very little taste. Both the spicy and regular hummus were also bland, and grainy to boot. An eggplant tapenade and a carrot yogurt dip were much better. The fried zucchini pancake, studded with scallion and dill, was moist—almost soggy inside. The soft texture was a pleasant surprise, however. The entrees all arrived with a refreshingly crisp salad and a side of lightly pickled cabbage.
Let’s get the vegetarian entree out of the way: It was one of the worst dishes I have had in a while. Cafeteria-line-style veggies—big watery chunks of zucchini, red and green bell pepper and even McDonald’s-esque crinkle-cut pickles swimming in a soup of that bland eggplant dip. I ordered it as takeout, and for $13.95, there was no pita included. This dish was very sad-making, and half went into the trash, despite my hunger. Insert frowny-face emoticon here.
The beyti kebap, or ground lamb in a wrap, resembled a tasty lamb burrito, and I’ll be a monkey’s aunt if it wasn’t actually wrapped in a flour tortilla. Either that or it was the most tortillalike lavash ever. A plate of mixed kebabs was tasty, but for $19.95 was small and served with only a single Turkish meatball and two chunks of juicy breast meat, one kefta and a few shreds of doner.
In fact, all of the plates are on the stingy side. For the same amount of money you could get kebabs, plus hummus, tabbouleh, pita and a pile of rice at Maalouf’s and probably have enough for lunch the next day.
The desserts were a horror show. The rice pudding came directly out of the refrigerator and had crusty drips down the side, as well as a thick membrane on top that I struggled to pierce. The kadayif, or shredded wheat vermicelli topped with “light” (read: heavy) house syrup and pistachios was stale.
We left both on the table. The Anatolian Table Restaurant in Rocklin is acclaimed—this publication gave it a four-star rating in 2008. The menu at this “bistro” is much less interesting, which is odd—it’s likely that Midtown diners are more adventurous than those in Rocklin. The restaurant has been largely empty all three times I’ve visited. It better up its game to survive in Midtown’s competitive restaurant atmosphere.