Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Black Sea – St. Paul, MN

The only other time I ate at a Turkish restaurant was with GBFN in NYC. It was delicious and I knew I would eat it again soon. D.Rough has been talking about the awesome gyros at Black Sea and we finally got around to eating there. She warned me it was a pretty small place, but R2 and her had eaten there and been really happy with the prices and the food.

We showed up and had to wait a couple of minutes for a table. There are only like 8 tables in the place, so it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll wait for a table. Some of the tables have little curtains between them for the illusion of privacy, but it kind of adds to the charm of this place. There are various Turkish items all over the walls of this place and they’re all for sale. Shawls, vests, hats, and coffee/tea sets. And finally there’s a flat screen TV that shows soccer – AWESOME.

On the way to our table, I checked out some of the food on other people’s tables. The lentil soup they have looked awesome and also the baklava (which I’m not usually a fan of) looked great. After scouring the menu pretty seriously, we both decided on some good stuff. We thought we’d start with a plate of hummus. Then, I got the Black Sea Combination Entrée with rice – beef and lamb gyro meat, chicken kebob, and 2 Turkish meatballs. I finished my order with a homemade lemonade. D. Rough ordered a lemonade first and the guy asked if she’d be eating any food with her drink or if she was done ordering – hilarious. She laughed it off and went with the Black Sea Döner Combination with rice – chicken, lamb, and beef gyro meat in a pita.

The server brought out the hummus pretty quickly with some triangles of fresh pita bread for us to eat it with. It was pretty awesome stuff. I know there’s not much you can do with hummus, but it was really flavorful and light. It also had a couple pieces (like two) of Feta and two olives as well. As usual, we finished up the pita pieces long before we finished the hummus, so we were left with a significant amount of hummus left. I’ve decided next time I order hummus, I’m going to scoop ungodly portions of hummus onto each pita piece and throw rationing to the wind.

While we were eating the hummus, D.Rough pointed out how crazy fast the people behind the counter making the food were going. It was pretty impressive how fast they moved and threw things around and still managed to get everything on the plate looking awesome. Then we saw the giant platters they were putting food on and thought maybe we should have gotten a plate of meat for two or three people. But even that amount of food looked to be serious while assembled on the huge platters.

Our food came out and it looked great. The best part was it tasted as awesome as it looked. The lamb and beef gyro meat was very flavorful and juicy. I’m personally a big fan of when they throw the meat from the pole onto the flat top grill and char the edges a bit, but even without that little touch, the meat was great. The chicken kebob was really good as well. But the best part of the meal were the Turkish Meatballs – they had some sort of awesome seasoning/spice in them and were flat, rather than round like most meatballs you see (I wonder if that still means they are technically balls…). I used some of the tzaziki sauce they brought out to us and it was made with homemade yogurt sauce – which in this case had some serious tang to it. It wasn’t bad, but both D.Rough and I both commented on it. We just had to scale back our usual usage of it, that’s all. The tomatoes weren’t the best tomatoes ever, but they’re not even close to in season, so it’s forgivable.

D.Rough’s was more or less the assembled version of what I got and a slightly smaller portion, but she was super happy with hers and I’d highly recommend getting it in pita form. We used some of the lemon pepper oil that was on the table as well, and it was alright, but I didn’t use a ton of it.

The homemade lemonade isn’t like the homemade lemonade at Asian restaurants where it’s super sweet. This is VERY subdued on the flavor, but it actually works well with the spices of the meat. I wasn’t sure about it when I was drinking it by itself, but after the food came out, it went with the meal very well.

After dinner, D.Rough needed some closure on the meal – it was between baklava and Turkish coffee. She’s had baklava before, but not Turkish coffee, so she decided on that. They brought out the coffee in a tiny cup and it looked BLACK and evil. Apparently, it was since she was a little surprised at how bitter it was and also how freakin hot it was. She added a little sugar to the cup and decided that about the middle third of the cup was the perfect temperature and sweetness level. But the top and bottom thirds of the cup were either too hot and bitter or too cold and sweet. The only problem with the cup of coffee was that at the end of the cup, there was a serious layer of black sludge at the bottom, so be careful if you decide to stir your cup of Turkish coffee. You might regret it. Let the stuff settle and cool off, and you’ll likely be happier. I don’t drink coffee, so I’m completely making that up.

I made a quick trip to the restroom while I was there and was surprised at how large the bathroom was. It also has a large barrel vaulted ceiling. Sure it was just a bathroom, but it was a pretty big bathroom. For some reason, I like to review bathrooms at the restaurants I go to. Deal with it.

Overall, this place is fantastic. I’d be happy to come back here very soon and try a couple of other things. I kept seeing cabbage rolls on the menu and I’d like to give one of those a shot. They sound delicious. The food here is fantastic, the service is great, the clientele is mixed enough to do some people watching without being scared, and the prices are really reasonable. I’m looking forward to my next trip back here!

Top 5 things about Black Sea
1. Turkish Meatballs
2. Beef and Lamb Gyro meat
3. Hummus
4. Chicken Kebob
5. Super service

Bottom 5 things
1. Really small space
2. Turkish Coffee sounded a little off-putting – maybe if you get used to it, it’s not so bad
3. Only two pieces of feta and two olives on the hummus plate
4. Tzaziki sauce just had a weird tang to it – probably shouldn’t be on the list, but it was odd
5. My Turkish is a little rusty, so it was difficult to understand what they were saying on the soccer channel


1 comment:

Brian said...

Thanks for reviewing the Black Sea! From your review it sounds like the Turkish coffee you ordered was prepared correctly. Turkish coffee is essentially ground into a powder and it's normal to have grounds at the bottom. I have heard before this is the only place to get real Turkish coffee in the TC, and your review has convinced me I need to have theirs! Thanks