Istanbul Palace introduces Turkish fare

meat, rice, sauce
Doner plate at Instanbul Palace

Voice-Tribune review by LouisvilleHotBytes

Louisville’s first Turkish restaurant has settled down in the East End, as Istanbul Palace, a popular spot in Lexington, has now moved to our town.

If you reckon you might enjoy Turkish food because you love turkey on Thanksgiving, you may want to re-think that: Despite the apparent coincidence of names, the turkey does not come to us from Turkey with a capital T. It’s a North American bird, most likely named by early settlers based on what they thought they heard the American Indians say.

Turkish food, to the casual observer, might seem to resemble Greek food, but I’d be careful about that, too: Turkey and Greece, both of which have been major world powers in their time, have a long record of rivalry, and sadly that relationship has had its rocky periods.

Nevertheless, if you like Greek gyros, chances are that you’ll like Turkish Doner, not to mention all the other “Greek” goodies like humus, baba ghanoush, falafel and taboulleh, all of which actually traveled from the Southwest Asian rim of the Eastern Mediterranean to Greece. I’m not sure who had moussaka or dolmas first, but again, both regions have made them warmly welcome as part of the cuisine.

If you’re looking for an education in Turkish cuisine, Istanbul Palace makes it easy. Opened recently in the Westport Road-area quarters that formerly housed La Perla de Pacifico, it offers a fairly extensive and quite affordable selection of Turkish delights.

The menu is extensive, starting with about two dozen appetizers, salads and sandwiches, from $4 (for the house salad) to $10 (for a meze appetizer sampler with humus, eggplant baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves and haydari yogurt and walnut cream). All six sandwiches, including gyros, shish kebab and falafel sandwiches, among others, are $6.

A baker’s dozen dinner meat entrees and four vegetarian entrees range in price from $8 (for Istanbul chicken, marinated ground-poultry meatballs char-grilled on a skewer) to $24 (for the Palace Silver Platter for two, a combo of lamb and chicken gyros, chicken kebab, Istanbul chicken, adana kebab, humus, mujver, falafel and salad). Most main courses are in the $10 to $15 range.

Drop by at lunch time (11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-3 p.m. Sunday) and choose among eight lunch specials, all $6: chicken kebab, Istanbul doner, shish kebab, Istanbul veggie delight, Turkish baby okra and moussaka.

A shared appetizer, cigarette pie ($6), contains no Turkish tobacco, thankfully. Four chubby cylinders of phyllo pastry were rolled around tangy feta cheese and a ration of chopped dill and parsley, deep-fried crispy and golden and plated on a thin bed of chopped romaine.

The soups of the day were excellent. The paprika-scented chicken noodle added tiny bits of chicken white meat and whole chickpeas, with tiny pasta broken into half-inch lengths. Lentil soup consisted of tender lentils chickpeas in a warm, thick and gently spicy soup.

The Doner kebab lunch ($6) was much like a gyros served disassembled over sticky short-grain rice rather than built on a pita. Thin slices of lean, grilled beef and lamb were arrayed on top, with sauteed onions piled at one end of the plate, crisp and tangy pink pickled cabbage at the other, and a bowl of yogurt sauce.

The Turkish baby okra ($6) resembled a Cajun-style dish with a Turkish twist. Tiny, tender whole green orbs of undersized okra were cooked with tomatoes, onions, herbs and a few stray garbanzo beans. If you think you don’t like okra, this Turkish version may recalibrate your opinion.

“Bread dessert” ($4), a square of white sheet cake made with yogurt and drenched with a light, sweet syrup, was topped with a rosette of whipped cream garnished with fine-chopped walnuts.

Everything was excellent and fairly priced. With an appetizer, two lunches, two glasses of clove-scented, black and strong Turkish iced tea, the toll came to $27.56 plus a $6 tip.

Istanbul Palace
2840 Goose Creek Road