FADA is a friendly bistro in Williamsburg with tango on Tuesdays, live music on Fridays, a good Sunday brunch, and excellent French food. The restaurant has a Turkish connection too, which was celebrated Monday evening with ISTANBUL MEETS NEW YORK. There were mezes (small or shared plates), traditional with an occasional twist, from food artist Dilara Erbay; Turkish liquor and wine; music that made you want to dance; belly dancers who did; and good company from staff and fellow diners alike, some of them wearing traditional outfits.
This was not my first exposure to Turkish food, which is both true to itself and similar to other Mediterranean cuisines, but there were tastes and preparations I had not experienced before. I decided to wait on the Turkish wine, starting instead with a glass of rakı, pronounced [ɾaˈkɯ], an anise flavored liquor served icy cold and diluted with water. It is green and turbid like absinthe, although smoother and milder, and less alcoholic, refreshing and palette cleansing. A Turkish feta with zahtaar, fresh and savory, heralded the start of the mezes, first the cold, then the hot. Among the former were pickled beets, green humus, and a wonderful roasted pepper and walnut puree. The most interesting and, to my taste, delicious, was a creamy salad of monk bean sprouts that reminded me of a céleri rémoulade.
With the arrival of the first hot meze, a crostino of cheese and Turkish merguez, similar in taste to a spicy chorizo, I decided to switch from rakı to a Turkish red from Denizli. It took a while for my palette to adjust, but it proved to be an agreeable blend, with a touch of sourness and a hint of the pungency that wine aficionados refer to as “barnyard”. It was a good choice for the nutty Armenian pilau that followed, with mussels, to which a squeeze of lemon added a necessary sharpness. There were a basket of crispy cheese-filled sigara borek, with a clear mint dipping sauce, and, my favorite dish of the evening, meat filled dumplings, manti, cooked just a little more than al dente, a garlic yogurt sauce provoking a contrast in flavor (with its sourness) and in temperature (with its coolness).
Meanwhile, there was the public preparation, on a great steel platter, of a meatless köfte. Normally a köfte is kneaded for hours and literally cooked by the friction and natural heat of the hands, but the veggie-egg substitute was done in time for the last meze, formed first into a log and then into balls. There was a touch of ritual, holy and beatific, the hands of the preparers coming together, prayerlike, their heads inclined. Belly dancing followed, with a live drummer, as did dessert, a savory, pomegranate sprinkled halva, with a dollop of creamy carob. The meal had been perfectly sculpted as an event, food as an occasion for dance, music, and conviviality.
For information on FADA, click here.