The appetizers were so scrumptious and the dessert so impressive that we would certainly return to Cinar in Cliffside Park. However, in hindsight we should have ordered our entrees after we finished our appetizers, since as soon as our appetizer plates were removed from the table our entrees were served. They were lukewarm and the meat on the mixed-grill platter was overcooked.
Starters were crispy shelled kibbah balls made with cracked wheat and stuffed with a spicy combination of sautéed ground lamb, nuts and herbs; creamy hummus; thick lebni with homemade yogurt, walnuts, dill and garlic; and smoky babagannush (eggplant spread), which were all scooped up with the warm pita bread. Olive oil and vinegar added zest to the colorful red, white and green shepherd salad with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, red onion and parsley dusted with feta cheese; a classic dish made with fresh-tasting ingredients.
Three entrees were shared and although the food was not piping hot, we were able to discern the spices used and interesting flavors in each dish. Unfortunately, because the meat was overcooked the mixed kebab platter was most disappointing. Containing lamb and chicken shish, adana kebab, two charred grilled patties made from a ground lamb and beef mixture and a lamb chop (you can order as many as you want for an extra charge), tomato and hot pepper, the portion was enough for two or three people to share. The Turkish home-style specialty of ethereal manti, a steamed dumpling of light dough stuffed with sautéed ground lamb and onions were gleaming in a garlic-yogurt sauce topped with butter. Think of these delicate morsels as Turkish ravioli. If only they were served hot we would have enjoyed them more. Shrimp were baked with tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic and topped with kashkaval cheese (a semi-hard, yellow cheese that derives its name from the Italian cheese “Caciocavallo”); a robust dish, recommended if you are looking for something different. Addictive honey drenched baklava had us at the first bite; they were exceptional.
Cinar is open daily from 11:30 AM to 10 PM. The restaurant is small. Be sure to make a reservation.
Cinar Turkish Restaurant
677 Palisade Avenue
Babagannush, lebni with homemade yogurt, walnuts, dill and garlic and hummus.
Mixed grilled meats.
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein
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