Where to Lavash Bar & Grille, near Danehy Park in North Cambridge, where Turkish specialties are on the menu.
Why Wherever chef Ozcan Ozan (his first name is pronounced Erzjun) is cooking, run, don’t walk. At this new spot, he’s turning out exceptional food.
The Back Story Lavash is owned by Mesut Kara, raised in Istanbul on the Europe side. He had pizza restaurants before this, most recently Boston Crust in Brighton, which he sold. The Cambridge restaurant was in the works for many months, finally opening in January. Chef Ozan owned Sultan’s Kitchen in the Financial District for 36 years, where there were always lines out the door. He closed it in 2018. He’s also the author of “The Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook” (1998). Ozan, who is from Izmir on Turkey’s west coast, is sending out superb bowls of traditional soup, cold and warm meze, an array of kebabs, and some classic phyllo pastries and puddings. The name lavash comes from the large flatbreads made in the region, though warm pita is in the bread basket.
What to Eat Ezo Gelin, the famous red lentil soup simmered with bulgur, is glorious here, as is an egg-lemon soup, something like Greek avgolemono. Patlican Saksuka, with chunky seared eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers, is as nice a version as I’ve ever eaten. The tiny beef dumplings called manti, covered with a yogurt sauce, are meaty, juicy little nibbles. All the kebab plates — lamb shish, Adana lamb (ground), Adana chicken, chicken shish, beef shish — come with bulgur, chopped tomato salad, and marinated onions. The grandest is Yogurtlu Kebab, a popular dish that combines small lamb kofte (ground meat) with cubes of lamb on squares of pita that are spread with pulpy tomato sauce (it’s enough for two). Ozan is making rice pudding and almond pudding, but the most unusual is a deliciously milky pudding called kazandibi, with a caramelized, cinnamon-scented top, something like creme caramel, but without eggs and so less rich.
What to Drink You can watch your Turkish coffee being made in a hammered copper coffee pot with one long handle. It’s set over heated sand on a tray until the water comes to a boil. Turkish tea, poured from a large rectangular copper machine on the bar, is served in the traditional short hourglass-shaped glass cups. Lavash doesn’t yet have a wine and beer license.
The Takeaway Ozan is a gifted cook and Kara an attentive host. Turkish food is slow food, labor intensive because of the many elements that go onto one plate. The dining room seats 70 (another 50 on a patio) and is well appointed with wood-slab tables and chairs with rush seats. There’s no menu on the website, so you can’t check out the place before you go. Just get in the car and see for yourself. 26 New St., Cambridge, 617-714-4478.