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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Aş Evi, East Ridge Road

Thanks to a recent piece by Chris Lindstrom in City, I recently became aware of Aş Evi, a Turkish restaurant and takeout place on East Ridge Road in Irondequoit.
I was interested, not only because the food sounded good, but because I'd had some experience with Turkish food, having done a post in November 2011 about Istanbul Market on Norton Street.
In particular, at Istanbul Market I tried a Turkish dish, lahmacun, that is, as I described it then, a cousin of pizza. It consists of an oven-baked flatbread topped with a mixture of ground meat and spices.
Aş Evi offers traditional pizza, and that's what I had in mind when I went there the other day. But on arriving, I reconsidered. I'd like to try their pizza, but I figured, start with what they know best, and lahmacun is close enough to pizza to warrant a blog post. So that's what I got.
At Aş Evi, you can get one piece of lahmacun for $3.49, or three for $9.99. I opted for the latter.
Each lahmacun starts off with a small round of dough, which is quickly stretched into about a nine-inch disk. It's then topped with a mixture of ground beef and chopped garden vegetables, before going into a pizza oven for a few minutes.
After emerging from the oven, my three lahmacuns were folded and placed in my to-go box, with chopped tomatoes and white onions, iceberg lettuce, and a couple of lemon wedges. Apparently those are commonly put on the lahumacun, but I treated them as a side, the better to experience the lahmacun itself. And the experience was a good one.
The lahmacun base is a flatbread that's somewhere between a crepe and a tortilla; not as sweet as the former, more breadlike than the latter. The bread emerges from the oven spottily browned, with an aroma reminiscent of a freshly made pancake. It's chewier, more glutenous than a crepe, but a little puffier than a tortilla; somewhat reminiscent of Indian naan, but more pliable and not quite as charred.
I suppose you could eat it with a knife and fork, but it seems meant for rolling up. Not folding, like New York pizza, but rolling. The toppings don't spill out, and you get a full hit of flavor with every bite. It's an almost perfect hand food.
And that topping. It's meaty, spicy and complex, stretching beyond the limit of my admittedly modest ability to identify individual flavors. Cumin, garlic, peppers, ... a hint of cinnamon, or coriander?  Trying to pick out individual flavors became like trying to listen for each individual instrument in a symphony. Stop, and just enjoy the whole, which is what I did.
Now as I said earlier, Aş Evi does sell traditional pizza. So while I was waiting for my lahmacun, I asked proprietor Selami Tulum if he uses the same dough for pizza that he uses for lahmacun. No, he does not. And he told me that he doesn't sell a lot of pizza, which doesn't surprise me. Not because I think the pizza is likely to be bad, but because, well, why would you go to a place that does great Turkish food, and order pizza? So I have no idea what the pizza is like.
But I still want to try it. I'm guessing it is good. And I want to try Aş Evi's pides, which are described as a thick dough crust stuffed with various optional ingredients, including cheese, meats, and vegetables.
In short, I want to go back. Soon. I'll do another post when I do so, but in the meantime, I urge you to get to Aş Evi. I can't yet vouch for anything but the lahmacun, but if you like pizza (and you're not a vegetarian), you need to try this.

Aş Evi, 315 E. Ridge Rd., Rochester 14621

Tue. - Sun., 10 a.m. - 11 p.m. (but call to confirm)

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