by Alice Levitt
515 Depot Street, Manchester Center, 366-8181
Looks like you won't be eating Ikea meatballs anytime soon. They've just been pulled from stores after Czech food inspectors found horse meat in a sample of them. Personally, I like horses, both to ride and to eat.
But if you're still screaming for a chance to eat inside a furniture store, Depot 62 Home Furnishings Center in Manchester Center has you covered.
And instead of Scandinavian fare, you'll be able to dig into the best wood-fired Turkish specialties Vermont has to offer.
The surroundings are what might best be described as futuristic Turkish shabby chic, all furry woven chairs, quirky chandeliers and antique antlers and tennis rackets. It's an apt background to the dishes that emerge from the oven looking primed for a Martha Stewart photo shoot.
Case in point, the organic hummus, served on a woven tray. But really, the chickpea dip was a bit of an afterthought when served next to soft, sesame-topped pita bread that was hot, chewy and right out of the fire. If I ever run a marathon, I want to carbo load at Depot Café.
But the hummus was still nothing to sneeze at. Optimally creamy and smooth, it benefited from a liberal dusting of sumac. I just wish that it had had more garlic and lemon for more of a punch. Next time, I'll likely try the smoky baba ghanoush or soup of the day (yesterday it was a very appealing red lentil) instead. Luckily, the bread, which is also organic, comes with every entrée.
Case in point, the Adana chicken. At $14.95, the free-range chicken breast dish sounded expensive, but it contained enough food for two meals. I missed having a vegetable on the side, though.
Marinated in a yogurt sauce flavored with garlic and red pepper, the chicken reminded me of a Turkish take on aromatic Indian reshmi kebab.
The pita slices broke in half easily, making it possible to assemble a fun sandwich with chicken dipped in the yogurt sauce on the side. The sauce sang of fresh dill, a surprising flavor that conjured summer on that snowy Vermont day. Happily, I still have leftovers waiting.
There was also more than enough of the "Taste of Anatolia" pizza, known in Turkey as lahmacun. And not because I didn't want to finish every bite. The flatbread was as delicious as it was beautiful. But there was a lot of it.
On top of the organic dough, local lamb was juicy but not greasy. Cumin and coriander gave the meat an earthy flavor of the spice route, while finely chopped onions and tomato lent sweetness and acid, respectively. A squeeze of lemon enlivened the flavors even more. A nice touch of fresh parsley suggested fresh Middle Eastern salads.
Our server bullied us (in a friendly way) to try the baklava, and I'm glad she did. I usually find the dessert excessively sweet, but the Depot Café version used just enough honey to let the nuts within shine. The phyllo dough, rather than being bogged down with the sticky sweetener, was flaky and buttery. Call me a baklava convert.
Here's hoping I can make it down to Manchester for another taste soon.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to email@example.com.