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Lunch, Anyone? Saray Restaurant

Comm Ave hideout offers great Turkish food, service

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It’s easy to miss Saray Restaurant amid the clutter of buildings at Packard’s Corner. The exterior is a nondescript storefront with simple signage and a maroon awning shared with a liquor store. But inside, the food is an entirely different story.

We stopped by the eatery—which bills itself as “Boston’s premier Turkish restaurant”—on a recent Monday afternoon with several friends. It was the first time any of us had sampled Turkish cuisine. Not knowing what to expect, we were happy to find that Saray’s lunch menu offered just what we were looking for—simple, traditional dishes in the right portions for only $9.99. Paired with the friendly and knowledgeable waitstaff’s great service, it guaranteed that both our hunger and our curiosity were sated.

We had the benefit of sharing the restaurant with only one other party. Our waitress answered our questions patiently and offered suggestions as we mulled over the menu. Sitting at our window-side table in the tranquil, dimly lit dining room, we almost forgot about the B Line trolleys screeching down the tracks and the frantic car horns blaring just feet away.

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Saray’s most popular appetizer, the cheese pastry, is a light, airy, crunchy creation.

We went with our waitress’ suggestion and started with a cheese pastry appetizer called sigara borek—thin, crispy filo dough with a filling of feta cheese and dill on a bed of lettuce and tomato ($6.95). The appetizer was exceptionally light and mild, a starter that didn’t fill us up before the entrées.

Saray’s lunch specials offer simple, moderate-sized portions of Turkish and Mediterranean favorites served with a side of rice, chopped onions, and pickled cabbage, along with a choice of either hummus or red lentil soup. The price—under $10—was what got us hooked initially, but what really impressed was the quality of our meal.

The chicken kebab entrée was a hit all around the table. A basic presentation did not in any way detract from the flavor of the dish. The thick-cut chunks of white meat were succulent, with just a hint of spice along with more robust flavors offset nicely by the smoothness of the hummus.

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The hearty ground lamb patties in the adana kebab are tastily accented with a slathering of Saray’s homemade hummus.

We also ordered the doner kebab, a mixture of marinated sliced lamb and beef, and the adana kebab, meat patties made of ground lamb, red bell peppers, and paprika. The heavier, meatier texture of the lamb was a nice contrast to the chicken and was also offset well by the hummus. The flakes of lamb in the doner kebab provided a different experience on the palette from the lamb in the adana kebab.

The accompanying red lentil soup also proved a pleasant companion to the meat dishes. The soup was tasty and comforting after braving Commonwealth Avenue in 30-degree weather.

We finished off our meal with a sample of Saray’s baklava ($5.95 a serving). The syrupy sweet confection is made of filo dough, baked with a walnut or pistachio filling, and coated with honey. The small squares might be enough to induce a sugar coma in some diners, but we found them a delicious treat.

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The baklava at Saray is a sugary treat and a great way to end a hearty meal.

Saray also offers numerous seafood dishes, salads, and soups, including a lamb soup (called paca) and a tripe soup (temiyeli iskembe), both $4.95.

The welcoming atmosphere and delicious food made our experience at Saray exceptional. An inexpensive, interesting, and satisfying meal is hard to come by in the city, but this restaurant does it well. It’s the perfect place to enjoy an unfamiliar cuisine.

Saray Restaurant is at 1098 Commonwealth Ave., Boston; phone: 617-383-6651; hours: open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Take an MBTA Green Line B trolley to Packard’s Corner. Saray accepts all major credit cards and offers online ordering; delivery is available for orders of $15 or more and runs between $1 and $5.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the comments section below. Check out or list of lunchtime tips on Foursquare.

2 Comments

2 Comments on Lunch, Anyone? Saray Restaurant

  • anonymous on 11.29.2012 at 12:40 pm

    Turkish food? more like dog food. It looked like someone else’s leftovers and tasted like sour milk. do not order here unless you want bread, cause thats the only thing that is good. [via Yelp]

  • Joseph Crane on 12.06.2012 at 3:43 am

    Never actually had Turkish food. Always meant to try it, though. Maybe tomorrow for lunch since I’m in town! Price is definitely affordable, that’s for sure. :)

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