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Lentil soup and a rose for Eid.

Image: Alice Levitt

I was smart enough to throw a sweater over my sundress before walking into Nazif's Turkish Grill during Sunday brunch service, but I was not smart enough to make a reservation. Scanning the room full of diners celebrating Eid, it seemed apparent that I'd have to make alternate plans. But the slew of young women working the small restaurant insisted that there would be a table ready for me in three minutes. They were right. And as I was seated, owner Nazif Farsak presented me with a single red rose to mark the end of Ramadan. I was thoroughly charmed and no longer felt like quite as much of a sore thumb.

The lentil soup was among the richest, most flavorful versions I've tried. I gravitated toward it because it was one of the few dishes wholly familiar to me, and one of the few that remained filled. Apparently, the kitchen was struggling to keep up with the Eid crowd. I had to wait for the sausages to be replenished before pairing them with menemen, an egg scramble dotted with tomatoes, onions and chiles, which somehow remains admirably moist in its chafing dish. Similarly, the thick phyllo pie known as börek retained its slippery cheese-spinach-egg filling but also, miraculously, a crisp exterior.

Farsak told me that salads change weekly and the options were remarkably varied. Eggplant dishes were the best of the extended bunch. Not surprisingly, they were the sparsest, too, but I was able to score tastes of tender, yogurt-coated slices and chunks in garlicky tomato sauce. 

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Sweet and savory pastries on the dessert table.

Image: Alice Levitt

Simits, the Turkish bagel equivalent, are available for an additional fee. They're an ideal palette for the range of preserves, cured meats and tangy sheep cheeses laid out on another table.

But I was saving my carbs for the dessert table. Cheese-filled breads and big, bubbly crusted rolls waited alongside fluffy, liberally spiced tea cake cut into petite cubes. Another, syrup-soaked gateau was placed next to cream for an extra layer of indulgence.

When I finished and paid, Farsak asked if I enjoyed myself and seemed pleased with my praise. But he did suggest that I make a reservation next time. Noted, good sir. Noted.

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