I have this thing about Middle Eastern food – while I know there are differences in region between Middle Eastern dishes, I could never figure out what those differences were. They all melted into they same pot of hummus, baba ganouj, and felafel. To be honest I couldn’t taste the difference between take out Middle Eastern versus sit down Middle Eastern.
So finally, visiting West Coast Rebecca in San Francisco, we discovered Tuba restaurant. A true, blue authentic Turkish restaurant. Because West Coast Rebecca has actually been to Turkey, we had someone who could vouch for the authenticity of Tuba. And authentic Tuba was! It also address my twin ignorances of not know the regional differences and not knowing the difference in gourmet vs. divey.
We did order a HUGE amount and it ended up being $40/per person but that was because we did a zillion appetizers and drinks and baklava. We could have ordered half that amount and been very happy. We did avoid the sampler platters because at other restaurants, Middle Eastern sampler platters end up having like a 1/3 of a cup of dip that the entire table fights over. Looking at other sampler platters, this was not the case and there was a nice abundance. Added to that abundance was the awesome Turkish flatbread that was halfway between Greek pita and naan and utterly delicious.
Located in the Mission, Tuba is the real deal. And it gave me true blue sense of how Turkish food is different from Middle Eastern food. A core component of Turkish cooking is yogurt, REALLY good yogurt. From the cold appetizer menu we ordered the Ezme – roasted pepper and walnut dip – and the Haydari – mint and yogurt dip that was the highlight of the meal. There was a wonderful simplicity to the thick and creamy yogurt dip. It was amazingly flavorful and substantive.
From the hot appetizers we ordered the Feta Prawns, Zuchinni Fritters and Sigara Boreği – feta cheese cigars. All of them were wonderfully executed, coming out hot and in the case of the fritters and cigars – crisp. I wouldn’t order the prawns again because the flavors were really flavors you would have in any other restaurant. On the recommendation of WCR, we ordered the lentil soup to share. That was truly eye opening because it was far different from any other lentil soup we’ve had. It was very well spiced and made as a puree. Because we had so many appetizers, we only Hünkar Beğendi, the lamb stew with the an eggplant puree. The stew was fully flavored and savory but the puree was eye opening. rather than being like baba ganouoj, it was thicker to be like a porridge that would complement the lamb stew.
I will say that it’s better to make reservations. We didn’t have any and they were nice enough to accommodate us but they were packed and initially told us they couldn’t squeeze us in.