We may better know Turkish food for its kebabs, but the Turks also have one of the finest bread cultures on earth. Few New York restaurants take advantage of that—good bread isn't as common in restaurant bread baskets as it should be, and decent pide is hard to find. The newly opened Mmm... Enfes in midtown does.
We first encountered the "Turkish Savories" shop at the Bryant Park Holiday market, and when we learned last week about their new brick and mortar lunch spot, we paid a visit for a sampling of the menu. (You can also check out Midtown Lunch's report here.)
Mmm... Enfes specializes in bread-based portable foods: gozleme, buttery flatbread rolled up with savory fillings; burek, cylindrical and square pastries filled with meat, vegetables, or cheese; simit, circular breads topped with sesame seeds, and the like. Most of the menu doesn't need plates or utensils, and is primed for desk-side meals.
The simit ($2) may be my new favorites in New York, and are the only ones I've tasted that evoke the light but chewy crumb and white sesame sweetness that you encounter on the streets of Istanbul. We hate comparing simit to bagels, and we won't, but we will say this is a breakfast bread or afternoon snack worth going out of your way for.
Also executed well and primed for snacking: lentil balls ($1.50 each), cakes of red lentils mixed with bulgar, parsley, and lemon. They're light and creamy the way they should be, with nutty stubs of bulgar adding textural interest. One is a fine snack; four make a light lunch bolstered by some salad greens.
We also recommend the slender sigara borek ($2), which is long and on the bready side with a sharp cheese filling (our bet's on kasseri). Pair it with a simit and a couple lentil cakes for a piecemeal lunch that, if carb-y, feels like more than just a selection of snacks.
We'll also give a shout out to Mmm... Enfes's pistachio baklava ($1.50), pricey for the portion, and syrupy sweet, but with crisp pastry and serious pistachio flavor.
We were less charmed by the larger borek ($3.50 to $5.50) and sandwich pressed-gozleme ($6.50), in which dry fillings were overwhelmed by greasy pastry. But these are the exceptions to an otherwise solid menu of simple carbs done well. Small bites may be the best here, which is fine by us; the shop is just one block south of Bryant Park, so come warmer weather, we'll have picnics on our minds.
70 West 39th Street, New York, NY 10018 (map)