I recently had the opportunity to meet two new, warm, and friendly faces here in Ankara. They invited me to dinner at one of their favorite spots, minkaa, a restaurant located on 415.Cad., close to the United Nations building.
The story is that minkaa is named after the traditional clay pots usually used to cook meats. In an earlier visit to to Beypazari, I learned the pots are called, Güveç. When I figure out the difference, I will let you know!
Minkaa is a popular place for lunch, however, on a Wednesday evening, the neighborhood is calm and quiet and so is the restaurant. Parking is easy at night both in front of the building and on the street.
The restaurant is clean and welcoming. At approximately 600+ square meters, there is ample seating for 50 or so guests. Decor is basic, but a step above most small restaurants, with elegant scroll damask table runners and large white place settings.
While Minkaa serves traditional Turkish fare, it is not just another kebab and köfte place. The menu is rounded with other items such as schnitzel and fish. The menu is very reasonably priced, with most items under 14TL.
We tried the special, a fish known as mezgit balığı (Hake). As with all Turkish restaurants, I suggest you ask how the fish is prepared. I have never seen a description on a menu. And in fact, when I have asked in the past, I usually just get an odd look, as if they simply want to respond, “Yes, it is prepared.” This time, I went with the flow and didn’t ask. The fish was breaded and fried. That’s fine by me. I’m not the biggest fish fan, and anything fried gets by me. However, if you don’t like or eat fried food, definitely ask first!
Chef and owner Orhan Karataş was kind enough to bring us samplings of other dishes. We were served lentil soup topped with croutons, köfte, Karadeniz Kavulma – a cubed meat dish from the Black Sea region, and Lolita Chicken -a grilled chicken breast.
The lentil soup had a creamy and smooth texture, with good flavor, especially with the croutons. The köfte was typical and less spicy and flavorful than others I have tried. Unfortunately, I am unsure whether the meat was beef or lamb, but it was tender! The chicken breast was a center cut (or keel) that had been marinated for 24 hours before being grilled.
Side dishes of İspir Fasulye (white beans), rice, french fries, salads, pickled veggies, and a steamed vegetable medley were also served. The veggies were overcooked, but the side dishes were fresh and light.
If I had to describe my meal in one word, it would be “solid.” Overall, the meal was good, above average. Minkaa is a good choice if you are looking for a quick, quiet and reasonably priced dinner place. It would be a great place to introduce your foreign friends to Turkish cusine. Because of it’s size and location, minkaa is also nice spot for a private party.
Things I liked? Nothing was overly-salted as most foods here are. The menu had a variety of dishes. The lentil soup is one of the nicer ones I have tasted. Owner and staff were very friendly. Restaurant was clean, warm, and welcoming.
What I didn’t like? I didn’t find the meal hot enough, but that is typically the way Turks eat meals and hence, serve them. I found myself ordering the special long before I was offered a menu. (This is not the only place where I have been asked what I want without being shown a menu.) Finally, I was never offered a glass of çay. And that’s just odd!
I am sorry to say that none of the dishes made me drool. Turks have a way of introducing dishes as “special” even when it’s found on thousands of menus. They are natural salesmen. This was also the case at minkaa. Chef Orhan is a quiet and likeable guy. He’s not pushy. A mutual friend of his and my hosts, however, was selling the meal. She described Lentil soup as “special”. It is not. It is not even particular to Turkey. It is a common soup found in many countries. (My apologies to the chef. My annoyance with this soup stems from many visits to Turkey in which this soup was pushed on me as “special.”)
After almost a year here, I am looking for something new – for that one Turkish restaurant that makes my heart pound and leave my palate crying for more! I have eaten in the top restaurants of San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and Philadelphia. I have fallen for slum diners in Charleston, SC and Tallahasse, FL. I have lived on cheese and wine with the locals in Tuscany haunts. I have nibbled with the Parisians on side streets known only to the townies. I am certain Ankara has more to offer. And I have a feeling that Chef Orhan may have something up his sleeve.
Orhan has been cooking since he was 15. He has years of experience here in Turkey, in Bahrain, and Ireland. He knows what he is doing in the kitchen. Perhaps he will surprise us with a bit more creativity and flair at his new venture, a second location. Opening in May at Tepe Prime, the new high rises on Eskshehir Road, the restaurant will be a larger space and have at least 20 other neighboring competitor restaraunts.
Wishing you the best at the new location, Orhan!
415. Cad. (previously 2.Cad.) 15/B
0312 495 03 95
Hours 9a.m. – 9:30p.m.
Delivery is available
You are so well versed in your culinary skills, why not open your own place? I believe you could bring a flare that the Turks have never seen before! Any thoughts on that?
Artie – I would love to open my own place. I would really like a bed and breakfast, where I just prepare a few dishes for breakfast and dinner. I need a work permit though . . .
I used to live just by this restaurant, and both the quality and the prices are very good. Their take-out service is very good too. I also strongly recommend this place.
Five years here and I’ve only ever had one meal in one restaurant that to my way of thinking met the criteria of “special” and that was in Cappadocia. When I came here I was so excited that I was going to experience one of the four great cuisines of the world, I’ve been mainly disappointed! And it frustrates me. The food is sometimes good, normally okay, rarely rocks my world and only once was in any way other than bog standard which is amazing considering the quality of the ingredients. I thought it was just because I lived on the Aegean coast but it seems it is the same in Ankara too.
I don’t know what a minkaa pot is but it looks different to my unglazed pots. Güveç just means casserole, so a Güveç is a casserole dish and anything like a thick stew gets called Güveç.
Running a little B&B is fun and you get loads of praise for your cooking which makes you feel good 🙂
I totally agree, Karen. Turkish food was so exciting when I lived in the States. But now I find it is the same thing every day. No variation to meals. No variation to the ingredients. I even like my sigara boregi better than any I’ve had here.
I would love to run a B&B. But I don’t think there is much call for it in Ankara. I will have to look into it more. The thought of cooking a few great dishes twice a day is inviting.
Any snow your way? We are getting hit hard. We have about a foot so far and it’s still coming down!
We didn’t get much snow, a few flakes blowing around, but it was very cold. Warming up now thank goodness, I was sitting outside painting today so hopefully that is winter done. xxxx