MORRIS COUNTY — When one hears Mediterranean food, visions of Kebabs, hummus, baba ghanoush, baklava, and olive oil, at once come to mind. Of course, there is so much more to the various cuisines of the wide-ranging Mediterranean region than anyone usually realizes. Eastern Mediterranean cuisine includes regions such as Turkey, Greece, Egypt, and Israel; the Southern Med would include Italy, France, and Spain, and finally, North Africa, including countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya; and of course, this list of country’s is not all-inclusive, but you get the idea. We basically all use the same main ingredients wherever you may find yourself, but somehow every culture someone manages to produce something very distinct and unique relative to its own region. The fact is that Turkish food is remarkably like American food. All that differs is how it is cooked, some of the spices, and the name of it.
Fasil Mediterranean Restaurant, located in the Walmart shopping center in Boonton Plaza, describes itself as specializing in Mediterranean food, grilled to perfection, specifically from Turkey. They go on to explain that their entrees are like Greek, Arabic, as well as other Mediterranean Country dishes. We in Morris County are fortunate to have several excellent Turkish restaurants where we can enjoy this cuisine and Fasil certainly fits into that select category. My neighbor, who is from Turkey and goes back annually, told me that Fasil always makes her feel at home.
That is a good enough recommendation for me to stop by. As stated earlier, Turkey is considered the eastern Mediterranean where foods are often made with a lot of yogurts and cheeses. In addition, spices such as parsley, sumac, mint, and lemon juice dominate dishes in this region. It is also known for its nuts, rice, pitas, chickpeas, and meat kabobs; it is the combination and preparation of these items that are at the heart of what makes this Mediterranean cuisine so incredibly unique, flavorful, and healthy, and as in every culture Turkish cuisine is a combination of the many other cultures that have left their influence over many centuries dating back to the times of then ever-expanding Ottoman Empire.
Fasil Mediterranean, which translates to a suite in Ottoman classical music, exudes a classy, upscale-looking interior, yet the modern, yet rustic, ambiance is casual, comfortable, and welcoming. It is exceptionally clean and organized both inside and out. The beautifully tiled floors and walls, tasteful Turkish décor throughout, pleasant Turkish background music, bright but subtle lighting, soft black leather chairs, and nicely appointed wood-grained tables, all helped to create a vibrant, enticing, and true ethnic atmosphere that transports you to Turkey for the evening.
The outdoor patio dining area is nicely covered, both overhead and along the sides for shade, privacy, and protection from the weather, along with well-spaced seating. There were several groups enjoying their meals al fresco on my arrival, but my guests and I dined inside.
I arrived at Fasil a little earlier than my guests and was sincerely and warmly welcomed to the restaurant by the owner, Tülay, and several staff members. Yaşin, apparently our head waiter, offered me a choice of tables and I chose one with window seating. The wine was opened and water glasses were filled immediately, and Yasin graciously offered me a complimentary glass of Turkish tea as we discussed various Turkish wines.
Since Fasil is a BYOB, I brought along a delicious 2012 Kavaklidere Öküzgözü d’Elazig dry red wine that my Turkish neighbors brought home from their recent trip to Turkey and gave to me as a gift, and which Yaşin immediately recognized from his homeland. My initial impression of Fasil was excellent, and I was looking forward to enjoying some of their fine cuisines.
As my guests arrived and were seated our very attentive, pleasant, and helpful waitress, Özüm was spot on seeing that everyone was comfortable and helped explain any questions we may have had regarding the menu. For our appetizers, we started by sharing a selection of hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Ezme, Stuffed Grape Leaves (Yaprak sarma), and a Tabouli Salad. The hummus was smooth, creamy, and oozing with rich umami flavors, while the Baba Ghanoush tasted equally smooth while being luxurious, smoky, and savory. The Ezme served as the perfect spicy condiment to go with our fresh and flavorful homemade pita bread. The Tabouli salad was bright, fresh, flavorful, and refreshing and was a perfect complement to the hummus and the pita. The grape leaves with their citrusy, green, and tangy taste were a great kick-off for the entrees to come.
As entrées, my guests settled on the Shrimp Kebab and the Iskender Kebab. I went with the Mixed Grill; one skewer each of lamb Adana kebab, lamb shish kebab, chicken and lamb kofte, lamb gyro kebab, and chicken kebab, which was an abundant dish and clearly a meal for two, so I knew I was going to be having it again for lunch the next day.
Everything was prepared, presented, and plated perfectly. All the meats were tender, moist, juicy, expertly seasoned, savory, and satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed my dish. The Iskender Kebab; sauteed buttered bread topped over sliced lamb gyro served with fresh tomato sauce and yogurt also looked delicious and my friend told me it was fantastic. The Shrimp Kebab; grilled jumbo shrimp marinated with garlic, black pepper, and olive oil, and served with rice and a side salad, was tender and full of flavor. The portion sizes of all our entrees were more than ample and everyone left with enough take-out so that they could enjoy it again the next day.
As full and satiated as we were, we could not leave with trying some of Fasil’s desserts. I ordered the Kazan Dibi (Bottom of Cauldron), and my friends wanted to try the Baklava. The caramelized top of Kazan Dibi was fantastic and contrasted quite nicely with the sweet and milky flavors on the interior. It perfectly paired it with my cup of bright, fruity, sweet, hot Turkish tea. The baklava, the most popular dessert in this part of the world, a layered filo pastry dessert, filled with chopped nuts, and sweetened with syrup or honey, was a definite crowd-pleaser. Interestingly, Özüm (our waitress) explained to my friend that his fortune could be revealed by the residual coffee grinds left on the bottom of his Turkish coffee. After a first flawed attempt, and with the assistance of a phone app and Özüm, his fortune was revealed. Of course, it was very positive.
Fasil Mediterranean Restaurant is highly recommended. The food was delicious, and the menu is extensive enough to meet anyone’s needs or tastes. Prices are moderate and you get a lot for your money. The gracious hospitality and service cannot be beaten. If you do not have the time or inclination to travel, there is no doubt that one great way to experience a different culture is not by necessarily by going, but through their cuisine. Experience a taste of Turkey, visit Fasil!
Dine-in · Take Out – Curbside pickup · No-contact delivery; BYOB – Nearby Liquor Store – ample parking – outdoor dining; Closed on Tuesdays
Bir kahvenin kirk yil hatiri vardir
Translation – A coffee between new friends/acquaintance offers 40 years of friendship.
Fasil Mediterranean Restaurant is located at 308 Wootton Street, Boonton, NJ 07005. Call (973) 917-3334 or visit www.fasil.us.