At Sultanahmet Koftecisi, forget the meatballs

Go for the salad and not the meatballs (or fish) at Bodrum's Sultanahmet. Photo by David Lansing.

“Where do you want to eat?” Sidar asked me. It was sometime after one and I was more thirsty than hungry.

“By the water,” I said. “On the beach.”

“I know a place,” he told me and began to walk quickly through the narrow streets of Bodrum.

Did he really know a place? I don’t know. It’s hard to say with Sidar. He always marches off as if he knows exactly where he’s going but usually when he picks a restaurant, it seems to be a bit happenstance. Like walking down a street where you know there are lots of coffee shops but you don’t have a particular one in mind.

“This place is good,” he said, standing outside the Sultanahmet Koftecisi restaurant.

Kofte is the Turkish meatball. I was thinking more like fish. “Meatballs?” I said.

“Not just meatballs,” said Sidar, leading me inside. “Also very good seafood.”

It was a beautiful setting: On the beach facing the Bodrum Castle. But the menu seemed a bit odd: Chateaubriand, beef stroganoff, chicken curry, schnitzel, carne asada.

“What about fish?” I asked our waitress, the wife of the cook.

“Not today,” she said.

“You don’t have any fish?”

“We have fish,” she said. “But not very good.”

Well, at least she was honest about it. I asked her what she would recommend. “Kofte,” she said, and when I sighed she added, “or iskender kebab. Very good.”

I was not going to have meatballs. And I wasn’t at all sure I felt like iskender kebab, a kind of döner kebab made from thinly sliced lamb or beef basted with hot tomato sauce and served over pieces of pita bread slathered in melted sheep butter and yogurt. Not the kind of thing I usually go for when it’s 90 degrees out and I’ve kicked off my shoes to wiggle my toes in the sand.

Instead, I went for the usual meze—humus, smoked eggplant and pepper, stuffed grape leaves—and a big shepherd’s salad (coban salatasi) with chopped tomato, cucumber, onion, and peppers. Much better than meatballs.

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