No matter what ethnic style of food you crave, chances are you can find it in Tremont.
The neighborhood just west of downtown Cleveland has the biggest concentration of diverse, independent, chef-owned restaurants in the city. The relatively new Istanbul Grill, featuring the cuisine of Turkey, serves as a bridge between eastern and western cultures.
The Turks of historical times led a nomadic life dependent on agriculture and the breeding of farm animals. As the people migrated, they were influenced by the Greek, Persian, Arabic, Jewish, Armenian and eastern European culinary cultures. All of these influences are apparent in the menu at the Istanbul Grill.
Appetizers like hummus and baba ghanoush, a pureed eggplant dip, and homemade yogurt, mixed with herbs and cucumbers or walnuts ($5.95), are served with grilled pita bread for dipping. Turkish feta, the mildest feta I have tasted, is served with olives and sliced tomatoes ($5.95).
Hot appetizers include sigara borek, which is flaky pastry rolled around a filling of melted feta and chopped parsley ($7), and falafel patties made with chickpeas and herbs, fried and served with tahini sauce ($6). Liver is cut in cubes, flavored with parsley and sumac, fried and served with sweet red onions ($8).
Burgers appear on the menu, but they are made with a twist. The Istanbul burger is ground lamb seasoned with Turkish spices and grilled ($9.50). The veggie burger is falafel-based and comes with homemade spreads ($11).
Vegetarian dishes include stewed okra and tomatoes served over rice ($11) and a stew of white beans with tomatoes, onions and peppers ($12). Grape leaves filled with rice, carrots and pine nuts are accompanied by a Mediterranean salad with feta cheese ($12).
A variety of kebabs tops the list of meat entrees. Our server recommended the Adana kebab ($13.50). Seasoned ground lamb and beef are flavored with red pepper, paprika, parsley and onions and grilled on flat skewers. Other kebabs are made with chicken, lamb, ground lamb ($13.50) or filet mignon ($18). Kebabs are offered plain, or served with a yogurt and tomato garlic sauce. Combos are also available.
Lamb or chicken saute is made with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and peppers, seasoned with a house spice blend ($13). Lamb chops are simply grilled and served with rice ($21). Eggplant is stuffed with lamb, beef, tomatoes and peppers ($13.50).
Seafood is limited to whole grilled trout with Mediterranean sauce ($18) and grilled fish of the day at market price.
Desserts are baklava and kazandibi, a caramelized milk pudding sprinkled with cinnamon ($5.50).
The Istanbul Grill, 2505 Professor Ave., is open for lunch and dinner. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Major credit cards are accepted. Carryout and catering are available. Phone 216-298-4450.