There is a new restaurant just off of Sand Lake Road in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips that seems to have been busy since its opening, and now I know why. The restaurant is called Anatolia, named for a region in Turkey that happens to be one of the great crossroads of ancient civilization. The friendly and welcoming people of Turkey have been hosting visitors in one form or another for centuries and that warm welcome translates beautifully into the restaurant that now carries the name of that legendary region. Travelers are often told to go to Turkey "for the history, but stay for the food."
Many Mediterranean recipes show the influence of Turkish cuisine: yogurt salads, meats cooked in olive oil, stuffed vegetables in vine leaves, and phyllo dough desserts have placed Turkish foods among the world's great cuisines. With so many dishes dependent on vegetables, there are abundant menu items to please both the vegetarian and the meat-eaters among us, and all of these culinary choices are offered in Anatolia's menu.
You'll want to begin your meal with the many choices of "mezeler" (appetizers), Turkish specialties which show off the originality and unique skills of the restaurant. Not only could the appetizers make up a tasty meal unto itself, but Anatolia offers a special platter of five appetizers on one plate. Choose from several forms of roasted, grilled or pureed eggplant, fine chopped salads, or stuffed grape leaves, but please be sure to order the Haydari – a thick, creamy yogurt mixed with walnuts, spinach and garlic. Haydari is the perfect dipping sauce for the restaurant's home-made breads, and the Lavas (bread) is an experience unto itself, served hot and steaming to your table.
Of the hot appetizers, we were most impressed by the lightness and texture of the calamari. Chefs can only prepare calamari with that texture when they really know what they're doing. Another winner is the "sigara boregi", a finger roll of phyllo dough wrapped around a melt-in-your-mouth feta cheese. Not to be missed are the Icli Kofte, a magnificently seasoned ground lamb found inside a "cracked wheat" pastry.
For the main course, lamb and chicken are the featured meats and these are offered roasted, skewered, ground into patties or sliced paper thin and then variously seasoned with dill, mint, parsley, cinnamon, garlic and lemon. I was happily stuck on the Haydari sauce, which served as the perfect complement to both the lamb shish kebab and the "doner," — thinly sliced strips of beef and lamb slowly rotating on a skewer. Cooking is all about seasoning in Turkish cuisine, and Anatolia succeeds magnificently. Even the ground lamb kebab has its own distinct taste and texture, placing it among the favorites.
Of the desserts, I must admit the Turkish version of baklava is lighter and more enjoyable than other native versions. A dessert called Kunefe, made of shredded dough layered with a pastry cheese and drizzled with syrup and served warm, was not only a magnificent surprise, but in the words of my guest: "That blows cheesecake right out of the water."
We loved our experience at Anatolia. From the very friendly (and informative) staff to the bistro-like atmosphere to the unique and delicious menu, this is truly a family friendly restaurant that is a pleasure to recommend.
Anatolia is open for lunch and dinner every day. It is located at 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd. in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, just north of Sand Lake Road. Call 407-352-6766 or visit anatoliaorlando.com.