A Turkish delight in Irondequoit
Döner miss out on these kebabs! Photos by Tomas Flint
If you have never heard of or seen As Evi, I cannot blame you. It’s located in a plaza that has been an Irondequoit fixture for decades and is mostly known for a popular bingo place and a well-known coffee and donut chain.
Not one to be blinded by a grid of numbers or mass-produced donuts, I found As Evi on a drive to dinner elsewhere.As far as random restaurant finds go, As Evi may very well top my list. It serves homemade, from-scratch everything Turkish dishes, and is owned by a Turkish family who immigrated to the US years ago. Their dedication to the cuisine is obvious from the care they take with each dish and the time they are willing to spend explaining each menu item.
What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Turkish food? If you guessed a rotating, vertical spit of juicy beef or lamb, you would be in the majority. This delicious meat, known as döner kebab, is believed to have been invented in the midnineteenth century in the area that is now Turkey. Yes, the döner kebab is most likely the gyro’s grandparent (someday 23andme will have a test for whether different foods are related).
As Evi does indeed offer döner kebab.You can get it as a sandwich like most people are used to. However, I suggest trying the Iskender kebab—a mountain of thinly sliced döner kebab piled onto a piece of fried pide (Turkish flatbread) and covered in a tangy tomato sauce.The tart note from the sauce, the crisp and salty meat, and soft pillowy bread are a combination not to be missed. Another kebab that is unique to As Evi is the beyti kebab. Ground beef is seasoned with garlic, medium-hot peppers, parsley, and other, secret seasonings. It is then shaped onto skewers, grilled, wrapped in a very thin flatbread, sliced, topped with the same tangy tomato sauce, and served with a side of yogurt.The alternating temperature of hot kebab and cold yogurt keeps you coming back for another bite.
If you have ever thought to yourself, “This meat lover’s pizza needs more balance!” meet the As Evi “special” pide. The dough is thick around the edges and thin in the center. A generous variety of Turkish-style spiced and cured meats (pastrami, sausage, etc.), soft scrambled eggs, kashar cheese (a Turkish mozzarella of sorts), onions, mushrooms, and peppers coexist in delectable harmony in this pide. As Evi offers a few vegetarian versions. My vegetarian pick would be the patatesli pide—stuffed with mashed potatoes, onion, peppers, and garlic, and topped with kashar cheese.
Now, there would be no balance to the table if you didn’t order the lebni or the coban salatasi (shepherd’s salad). Lebni is a cooling dip made of creamy homemade yogurt mixed with a hint of garlic, crushed walnuts, and plenty of dill. It is served with sesame-seed-topped slices of yet another type of Turkish bread made in-house at As Evi. The coban salatasi is a salad made of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, and parsley tossed in a bracingly acidic vinaigrette. It is the perfect way to refresh your palate in between bites of kebab and pide.
Then there’s dessert. Yes, you should have saved room! Kunefe is a dessert as rich in history as it is in its complex flavors. Purportedly harkening from the thirteenth century, kunefe consists of shredded pastry wrapped around a slightly salty cheese, topped with a fragrant syrup and crushed pistachios. Served warm, the cheese pull on this dessert is unbelievable, and the cheese keeps this dessert from becoming cloyingly sweet.The texture of the crispy pastry strands with the creamy cheese along with the perfumed syrup makes this a one-of-a-kind dessert that must be ordered. As Evi also has one of the best baklavas I have tasted. Baklava tends to be too sweet for me, but not here. Paired with a glass of hot Turkish tea, this balanced baklava can also be a tea-time snack.
I grew up where “family style dining” meant platters of food shared with your dining companions. Each dish was generously portioned and large enough to serve more than one person. In many restaurants in the US, “family style” dining seems to be closer to tapas style—smaller portions that fly out of the kitchen as they are ready.
At As Evi, the portions are indeed my idea of “family style.” The plates are large and generous. Go with your family (related by choice or blood!) and have a feast at As Evi. From the size of the dishes to the kindness and generosity shown by the owners, you will finally understand the saying, “When you are here, you are family.”
As Evi 315 East Ridge Rd. Rochester 544-0101