Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Istanbul in Brooklyn

There are a bunch of Turkish restaurants in Brooklyn. I don't know if it's because there are that many Turks in Brooklyn or because Turkish restaurateurs are savvy businessmen who know that their restaurants are extremely popular with the many Russians and other former Soviet emigres in Brooklyn. I briefly mentioned Taci's Beyti in a piece I wrote about pides. Taci's is one of the best places in the city for Turkish kebabs. But don't eat dessert there, because just down the block is a real treat, the first American outpost of a famous Istanbul baklava baker and cafe, Güllüoğlu.

The sign says Güllüoglu, Since 1871. I knew they weren't in Brooklyn since 1871, but they've been in Istanbul that long. Way back then, Çelebi Güllü introduced baklava to Turkey, based on a recipe he had picked up in Damascus. The chain is still a Güllü family operation. The Brooklyn cafe has a charming old-world European feel. According to the Brooklyn branch's website, "At Güllüoğlu Baklava and Café all Güllüoğlu products are imported from the Istanbul factory frozen and vacuum sealed. A baker trained in the Güllüoğlu tradition at the Istanbul factory then bakes the products fresh each day for our N.Y.C customers." The ingredients for the baklava, hand picked by one of the Güllüs include "pistachios from Barak and butter from Şanlıurfa (Urfa) made from sheep’s milk, which is made clear in the heat of the sun and sealed in airtight containers."

I actually didn't try the baklava or that other Turkish specialty, kadayif (a shredded-wheat pastry) my first time there. I was full from a big lunch, and had really stopped in for a Turkish coffee. But as I looked at the different pastries and puddings something caught my eye. It was in a container next to the rice pudding and other milk puddings, and was covered with a variety of nuts. It seduced me. I wasn't sure what was under it, and the girl behind the counter wasn't able to or didn't want to explain. It turned out to be a milk-free fruit pudding--apple, or maybe quince (a popular fruit in Turkish desserts and preserves), with what might have been a slight citrus accent, just sweet enough, not anywhere near cloying, my idea of a satisfying dessert.

I went back the following weekend with a friend and tried two of their pastries, something I had to do after discovering just how famous an Istanbul institution Güllüoğlu is (as a matter of fact, my Turkish friend Cem, in Canada, was amazed that there's a branch in North America at all). I tried the double pistachio baklava and the şöbiyet, which is a baklava augmented by kaymak, a kind of clotted cream. An order of baklava consists of three small pieces, but they're so rich and sweet that one is quite enough to satisfy your sweet tooth (I took what I couldn't finish home). You can definitely taste the sheep's milk butter in the pastry, which adds a subtly cheeselike dimension.


Güllüoglu, 1985 Coney Island Avenue (between Avenue P & Quentin Road). Q or B train to Kings Highway.

Taci's Beyti, 1955 Coney Island Avenue.


Post a Comment

<< Home