Explore the Mediterranean 

Future site of Istanbul
By: Mark Hancock

Diners soon will have more metro Mediterranean options.

Rashid Ayare and Mehmet Karyaldiz, owners of Couscous Cafe, 6165 N. May, will open Istanbul near the end of June. The Turkish-cuisine restaurant will be in the former Taste of Egypt location at 3604 N. May.

Istanbul will fill a food void of sorts, providing a cuisine largely underrepresented in the city.

Ayare said its focus will be Turkish food, especially kebobs and lahmacun. The latter is a flatbread pizza made with a hearty red sauce, usually containing minced beef or lamb, vegetables and herbs. Lahmacun will be made in a brick oven, adding a tasty element to the fare.

Ayare already operates another Mediterranean concept: Shawarma Vite. Located at 1129 Elm in Norman, it is named for the traditional Arabic dish shawarma, and specializes in Middle Eastern and Moroccan food.

Shawarma is a blend of meats— typically beef, chicken, lamb and veal — roasted on a spit, similar to the meat mixture used for gyros. The restaurant opened late last month.

Another familiar name in the metro, Zorba’s Mediterranean Cuisine & Bar, is expanding its fame. Late this month, owner Reza Bastani will open a Basil Mediterranean Cafe at 211 N.W. 23rd, contributing to ongoing development along the Uptown 23rd Street strip.

The original Basil, 6620 E. Reno, in Midwest City, has a menu similar to Zorba’s, but with additional items.

Diners familiar with Zorba’s will be pleased to see the osso buco lamb shank, kubedeh, tzatziki, hummus and gyros on the Basil menu. Patrons also can choose from pasta dishes, a Basil burger, children’s menu items and several vegetarian options, including a delicious spanakopita (spinach and feta wrapped in phyllo).

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