A la Turca

A virtual Xanadu for any aficionado of the Byzantine
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TURKISH TREAT Lebanese, Syrian, Greek — a craving for Mediterranean or Middle Eastern can be satisfied at a number of Bay Area restaurants, yet what if you want the one cuisine bridging the two? Inexplicably, Turkish restaurants are sorely missing from an otherwise all-inclusive food scene.

But deep in the cracked-out heart of the Tenderloin resides the consistently delicious and ridiculously affordable A la Turca. It's a virtual Xanadu for any aficionado of the Byzantine: flat-screens showing Turkish channels, an all-Turkish waitstaff, hard-to-find Turkish dishes like fried carrots in yogurt sauce, a swarthy Turkish chef in the window shaving glistening slices of doner off a spit, the potent Turkish tea served in the traditional diminutive tulip-shaped glasses, and Turkish wine selections. Add the smell of diesel, cigarettes, and that ubiquitous lemon cologne, and I would swear I was in the back streets of Istanbul.

And thankfully, the food is incredible. The lahmacun (Turkish pizza) is perfectly crunchy on the edges and covered with a thin mixture of flawlessly seasoned tomato and ground lamb. The doner is divine. But I would go to A la Turca for the manti alone. Manti is Turkish comfort food — meat and onion ravioli in a spicy tomato and garlic yogurt sauce (bring Altoids). I've never found it outside Turkey, but A la Turca has a delectable version available only on Sundays (I've always thought the mark of a great restaurant is that it can make demands on you).

The desserts were surprisingly bland, but the rest? Çok güzel.

A LA TURCA Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–11 p.m. 869 Geary, SF. (415) 345-1011, www.alaturcasf.com

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