In Dallas, until recently, a Mediterranean restaurant meant a Greek restaurant. Hungry Turcophiles subsisted under a Hellenic hegemony—with its imprecise renditions of Turkish dishes, and the Greek names to boot. But in the last few years, a handful of Turkish restaurants have planted the flag. The newest and best is Pera. Our waiter was a wiry Eurasian translation of Sean Penn. He was prompt, darting like a squirrel to bring us a basket of pide bread—circular pillows of sesame-sprinkled greatness. We introduced the bread to flavorful appetizers: saksuka, a sautéed melange of cool eggplant, zucchini, and carrots; and ezme, a lively blended salad with pepper paste, pomegranate, and molasses. Then the red-lentil soup arrived. Amid the menu’s exotica of Turkish transliteration, it’s easy to overlook the humbly titled offering. Don’t make that mistake. The soup summons the joy of eating something simple done well. For the main event, I settled on hunkar begendi and rejoiced upon the first mouthful. Tender bits of marinated lamb mingled with a tomato sauce atop puréed eggplant. The accompanying rice produced something like an Anatolian stir-fry. My companion was less thrilled about her pilic topkapi, whose Cornish hen was overpowered by cinnamon-heavy traditional rice. Our waiter returned, and I asked his name. “Cengiz,” he said, hand extended. The name Cengiz, I recalled, is the Turkish analogue to Genghis—as in, the Mongol emperor. I took his hand. Conquest, indeed.
For more information about Pera Turkish Kitchen, visit our online restaurant guide.