Back in June, the night I went to Paint Along Studios, I happened upon Bosphorous. It was their opening night, the word was not out yet, and I ordered some Kofte and baklava to take home-and was promptly blown away.
You have to understand, Lakeland is not a haven for ethnic food. You want Pho? drive to Tampa. Greek food? There's a limited menu at Pappas', but a full Greek dining experience requires travel along I-4. Kosher? You're out of luck. So, to have an honest to God, authentic Turkish restaurant was just not something I expected.
The kofte were grilled expertly, with wonderful seasonings and a nice, gentle char. A mixed salad was in the container, topped with an orange dressing that was at once sweet and tart. The cracked bulgur was mixed with tomato sauce and an expert infusion of mint. In short, a talented chef was at the helm in a storefront previously occupied by a barbeque joint.
The next visit was a few weeks later, and the whole family traveled with me. GameTeen went for some feta rolls, spring roll sized delicacies that were stuffed with the salty Greek cheese. They had a great crunch, and GameTeen was kind enough to share some of the large appetizer plate. Chef and I shared the Mixed Grill for two, which honestly could have fed four, and Ed had the Chicken Kofte. For dessert, the most amazing Baklava again, delicate phyllo overflowing with buttery honey and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Incredible food, and leftovers enough for three for a decent price.
Tonight, we went back again and if it's possible to improve on it, they did. The boys wimped out, with GameTeen requesting the Lavas, a huge grilled bread (think pita's better cousin), Chef got the feta rolls and Ed and I split the mixed grill, and it was overflowing with beef and chicken Doner Kabobs (and strangely, I think the chicken were the better, with a seasoning blend Ed and I could not figure out), easily a half pound of sliced gyro meats from the spit, lamb and chicken kofte and ample helpings of that amazing bulgur/tomato dish and salad.
I ended up eating most of the salad, because I knew it wouldn't keep at home-and it is SO incredible. All four of us had plenty of meat, and still we brought enough home for two lunches tomorrow. The grilled flavor tonight was just a step above the July visit's meal, which we already thought was darn near perfection.
Here's the good part. Lakeland probably isn't known as an ethnic food destination because we have a population base that was born and raised locally. The first few times I either got takeout or we dined in, there was a table, maybe two occupied. From the pictures on their Facebook wall lately, and what we saw tonight-it was a full house.
I joked to Ed that if we polled the tables and asked where diners were from, it was likely that, like us, these were transplants looking for something beyond the chain restaurants that dot the main roads.
Thankfully, we finally have it in Bosphorous.