2871 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport (203) 333-9393
The two requisites for sampling a restaurant are an open mind and a healthy appetite, and equipped with both, I ventured to the Turkish restaurant Bereket on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport on a recent Thursday.
For years there has been a Bereket tucked behind a gas station on Main Street. Another apparently unrelated Bereket opened in the Black Rock neighborhood two years ago.
When I arrived at the end of lunchtime, four groups of diners were lingering over their food. The atmosphere of gentle chatter and radio station pop music was as welcoming as a neighborhood restaurant should be; the establishment's wood-paneled décor, elegant and decorative tiling, and smart table settings gave it a more upmarket edge.
The menu is straightforward and explanatory, for those diners unfamiliar with Turkish cuisine. Most of the appetizers featured are served cold, and kebabs are the most obvious choice as an entrée. Lamb, beef and chicken variations are available and the meat is halal.
I opted for an old favorite — house-made hummus — for starters. The chickpea-based paste is made at the restaurant, and it was a little short on garlic for my taste and rather heavy on olive oil, which is more to the Turkish style. However the dish was saved by the most delicious pita bread, slightly blackened on the grill, and the crunchiest of cucumber slices.
I was barely a quarter into the hefty plate of hummus when the charming waitress arrived with the main dish. And, oh, what a dish. Like a Looney Tune character, my eyes widened and jaw dropped. A more magnificent, well-stacked and colorful plate of food I have rarely witnessed.
Six slider-sized lamb kofte nestled on two piles of rice and bulgur wheat, accompanied by an array of red cabbage, chopped salad, grated carrot, grilled tomato and pepper. Calling kofte meatballs is really a disservice: these were ground lamb patties, grilled to perfection, with a crunchy shell and moist tender meat inside. The whole dish was a fragrant, vivid delight, even down to the texture and freshness of the salad leaves.
Short of being sponsored, or engaging in some kind of eating competition, there was no way I could consume the entire dish. Or any dessert. Instead, I ordered a Turkish coffee. Served in the most exquisite cup and saucer, the coffee is marvelously intense and textured — the final drops at the bottom of the cup have the consistency of fine sand. This is coffee to sip and savor while in happy contemplation of a satisfied appetite.
Not to be done out of a dessert, I ordered a rice pudding to take away. I crowdsourced an opinion of the dish (which really did feed a crowd, even though nominally it was an individual dessert), and it merited a seven-and-a-half out of ten. Unlike many rice puddings featured in other international cuisines, this had a firm consistency, a tasty burned "skin" on top and was delicately sweet.
The next time I visit Bereket, which is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, I'll take a team of hungry spendthrifts along. Appetizer, entrée, coffee and my takeaway rice pudding came to $25.36, which is very reasonable considering that the leftovers alone provided a full bonus meal.
Bereket doesn't serve alcohol (Turkish fruit juices and mineral water are available), but you can bring your own and the restaurant will charge $5 corkage fee for wine and $1 for bottles of beer. There's table seating for 40 indoors and a further handful of outdoor tables at the front of the restaurant.