Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ayse's Courtyard Cafe

I had lunch with a coworker at Ayse's Cafe on Plymouth Road.  Ayse's features Turkish home cooking.  See menu pdf here

Ayse’s Café has been serving the Ann Arbor community for over 20 years.  Ayşe (pronounced “Eye-shah”) started a catering business in 1986 and Ayse’s Courtyard Café opened in October 1993. The restaurant underwent an expansion in 2004, adding on the adjoining unit and doubling dining capacity. Ayse’s brother-in-law Hasan joined the business in 2007. The food served has remained traditional Turkish home cooking.

Our emphasis is on fresh, seasonal cooking and we try to use locally produced ingredients as much as possible; our menu revolves daily to reflect this and the rich diversity of Turkish cuisine. We have numerous vegetarian options and can provide gluten free and vegan options as requested.

We are thankful for the business of our many regular customers who we have come to consider part of our family and always look forward to welcoming new ones.
When we got there about 12 noon and there was only one other couple.  The day's menu is on a white marker board over the counter.  Orders are taken at the counter and brought to whereever you've chosen to sit.  The daily menu was not as extensive as the online menu.

Turkish coffee and pita bread

Since I'm a huge fan of coffee/caffeine, I ordered my first Turkish coffee.  I had to check with Wiki to see what this is - water boiled with ground coffee beans with a bit of sugar.  The name describes the preparation, not a specific coffee bean.  See article here  The coffee was served in a lovely little demi tasse cup.  It was strong but not bitter, very tasty.  After my reading on wiki, I knew to avoid the sludge at the bottom of the cup.  From the same article, the more foam at the top the better.

With all that lamb at home in the freezer, I decided to order a lamb dish to get some more ideas.  We still have 89 pounds of lamb in our freezer from our recent bulk purchase.  According to wiki, lamb is not consumed in Turkey as much these days as in the past.

In some regions, meat, which was mostly eaten only at wedding ceremonies or during the Kurban Bayramı (Eid ul-Adha) as etli pilav (pilaf with meat), has become part of the daily diet since the introduction of industrial production. Veal, formerly shunned, is now widely consumed. The main use of meat in cooking remains the combination of minced meat and vegetable, with names such as kıymalı fasulye (bean with minced meat) or kıymalı ıspanak (spinach with minced meat, which is almost always served with yogurt). Alternatively, in coastal towns, cheap fish such as sardines (sardalya) or hamsi (anchovies) are widely available, as well as many others with seasonal availability. Poultry consumption, almost exclusively of chicken and eggs, is common. Milk-fed lambs, once the most popular source of meat in turkey, comprise a small part of contemporary consumption. Kuzu çevirme, cooking milk-fed lamb on a spit, once an important ceremony, is rarely seen. Because it is a predominantly Islamic country, pork plays no role in Turkish cuisine.
I choose the lamb kofte served with potatoes and rice pilaf.  This came with lentil soup or salad and I went with soup as today felt too dreary for a cold salad.  My companion ordered zucchini-lentil stew and salad.

lentil soup
The restaurant was slowly starting to fill up and inversely, service was becoming slower.  At one point after our soup/salad was served, I was sure the rest of our meal was forgotten!  But it came eventually.  This is not the place for a quick lunch.
Salad dressed with oil and vinegar
The soup was a vegetarian lentil with what tasted like a tomato base.  There was a sprinkle of dark spice on top.  The waitress said it was sumac.  Wiki says sumac is used to add a lemony flavor to middle eastern dishes but to me it tasted more like paprika, sort of smokey/earthy.  A nice start to the meal along with the Turkish coffee.

lamb kofte with potatoes and rice pilaf
The meal eventually arrived and looked beautiful and well prepared.  For $11.95, I had expected a bit more on my plate.  I can't say that there was anything really special about this lamb dish that was out of the ordinary or would prompt me to come back.  It was freshly prepared.

lentil zucchini stew
My friend was pleased with her meal - she enjoys vegetarian food that is flavorful but doesn't leave her feeling full.  Her criteria was met.  I was looking for something different or interesting that I could try at home so my criteria was not met. 

I took half of my meal home to share.

Turkish coffee dregs
The flowers in vases around the restaurant are nicely displayed, including the roses on the counter.


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