A La Turca Gives Hollywood a True Taste of Turkish Cuisine
Turkey is the only country in the world located on two continents, a bridge of sorts among Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, making it one of the world's true melting pots. And so it goes with the food, a commingling of many cuisines in one. With its roots in Ottoman culture, Turkish fare has developed into a unique fusion of Asian, Mediterranean, and Balkan flavors, with dishes varying from one region of the country to the next.
All photos by CandaceWest.com A La Turca serves authentic Turkish fare in downtown Hollywood.
At A La Turca, the food is emblematic of the country's southeast region -- cities like Urfa and Adana -- where the kebab reigns supreme. Meat, spices, and olive oil are often an integral part of each recipe, and Istanbul native Ugur Unal is steadfast in ensuring each is prepared to exacting standards.
Unal opened A La Turca in downtown Hollywood in 2005, shortly after relocating his family -- including his mother and sister -- from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where they owned two Italian restaurants. Today, the restaurant has relocated from its original location off Hollywood Boulevard's main drag to a new space nearly twice the size, allowing for seating of larger parties.
The 3,000-square-foot space a few blocks east and one block south of the original location wasn't planned, says Unal, who had wanted to expand the restaurant into a neighboring space and then was forced to move when his ceiling collapsed. The new restaurant has been a welcome change -- still familiar, with an upscale touch while retaining the same color palette of muted browns and grays. New features include rugged stone walls and a bar that serves beer and a variety of Turkish wines. A sidewalk patio allows for alfresco dining, and whether inside or out, the white-tablecloth service is flawless.
Although Unal considers himself the executive chef of the restaurant, designing the menu to reflect authentic Turkish fare, he no longer works the line. Instead, he travels his native Turkey extensively, sourcing ingredients and recipes to ensure the most authentic experience and freshest flavors. As a result, everything -- from the sweet Turkish olive oil to the spices, even some fish and meat -- is delivered directly from the homeland, while breads and desserts are made in-house from scratch.
A La Turca's menu opens with a selection of more than 20 hot and cold starters -- or meze -- small sharing plates served with a basket of pita baked fresh on the premises twice daily ($6 to $12). An offering of the best can be found with the chef's meze sampler, a tasting plate of several cold meze, including hummus, roasted eggplant, and cacik -- a tangy, almost cheese-like yogurt flavored with cucumber and drizzled with the house olive oil.
Although several meze are enough to split among friends, the menu extends further with Mediterranean-style small plates with offerings like the rocket salad, nothing more than fresh arugula dressed in lemon juice and the restaurant's sweet house olive oil; or a fragrant red lentil soup ($5 to $13).