Saray is a new Turkish restaurant in Packard's Corner, in the space on Commonwealth Avenue that used to be Beckett's Pub. They opened the weekend before Thanksgiving, and BarmyFotheringayPhipps and I tried them out this evening.
The decor is elegant and simple, with tablecloths and cloth napkins, a two-tone wall treatment in ocher and pale brick, and Art Deco style sconces.
The menu isn't quite as extensive as the Family Restaurant in Brookline Village, but offers soups, salads, a range of hot and cold appetizers, seafood dishes, a variety of kebabs, and a number of other entrees. They don't serve liquor, but have a number of interesting beverages such as Turkish soft drinks and juices.
(Sorry - my descriptions are going to lack proper names because I neglected to make notes on the proper namers for dishes!)
We started with a combo appetizer that gave us five generous scoops of various items - hummus and baba ganoush, plus a second item also featuring smoky eggplant, a spread of lebne with spinach, and a delicious spread of tomato, mildly hot pepper, and walnuts. These were served with a small round of Turkish bread - when that ran out, our waitress happily provided seconds.
BFP had the doner kebab for his entree - it came as shreds of meat on either side of a mound of rice pilaf with whole chick peas, along with a grilled long pepper, half a Roma tomato (also grilled), cabbage apparently lightly pickled with beet juice which gave it a shocking pink color and a faint sweetness and earthiness, another salad of paper-thin slices or red onion tossed with parsley leaves, and a cup of tart, hot, garlicky pickles. I had a vegetable stew with lamb (it can also be had as a strictly veggie dish or with chicken), which also came with a serving of the pilaf with chickpeas. While it was entirely pleasing and satisfied my lingering post-Thanksgiving craving for vegetables, I think BFP chose better.
For dessert BFP had a milk custard flavored with rosewater and topped with slivered blanched almonds; I had an interesting pudding of stewed dried fruits and legumes (apricots, figs, currants, chickpeas, white beans, and rice, garnished with pomegranate seeds.) Mine was tasty and I'm glad I tried it because it was so unusual, but again I think BFP got the better item. The pudding would be a great dessert to share, though, and would probably be improved by an accompanying cup of tea.
We chose an expensive appetizer, so the total for app, two entrees, one glass of cherry juice, and two desserts came to just under $60 (plus tip.)
At 7:30 on a Wednesday night the restaurant was half full, including two parties of 5 and 6. Our waitress apologized for being a wee bit harried when she first came to take our order - we were the third party in a series of four that all arrived at the same time, and as she explained to us, the second server was absent that night because they had a class, so she was alone on the floor. However, once she regained her composure her service was excellent, and she was friendly and genuinely interested in our enjoyment of the food.
We enjoyed both of the sadly short-lived Turkish restaurants that were previous tenants of the space now occupied by Grille Zone. Saray is a cut above those in quality of food, and much superior in atmosphere. I wish them success.
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