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Sunday
Apr042010

Bereket Turkish Restaurant: Istanbul in Bridgeport

It's been 24 hours since I left Bereket, a tiny hole in the wall Turkish restaurant located behind a Citgo station on Bridgeport's Main Street. As I write this I wonder, is it too soon to go back? 

Bereket has been dubbed by people in the know as Fairfield County's best kept secret, and I finally understand what all the fuss is about. Mind you, this place is not fussy. Hidden beside of the gas station's mini mart, Bereket's small dining space has only 3 tables and boxes of Turkish beverages and pantry staples lining the walls. But what this single room Turkish delight lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in the quality, freshness, and flavor of the food. 

Owner Selahattin Cinar has been in business for 6 years, and chats with customers while holding court in the kitchen preparing a steady stream of take-out orders. He greeted us warmly as we walked in, and we were relieved to find that he spoke enough English to answer questions and help us navigate their extensive menu. When we asked what was good, we were led to a display case filled with cold mezes (appetizers) and kebabs awaiting the heat, and simply told, it's all good. And it was.

It is said that the ancient Ottoman courts passed laws to regulate the freshness of food in Turkey and this cultural tradition explains the pristine quality of the ingredients found at Bereket. For those not familiar with Turkish fare, it most closely resembles Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisine. It is simply prepared, not cluttered with rich sauces, and you get the sense that dining on Turkish food is to dine on recipes that are centuries old.

In keeping with tradition, we started with the Soguk Meze (cold appetizers) and opted for the Mixed Platter. If you are like me and want to try a little bit of everything, I recommend this ordering strategy. This substantial plate allowed us to sample five different salads/dips and was accompanied by a large basket of crusty warm pita. 

Standing out from the crowd were the two salads boasting eggplant as the primary ingredient. Bereket's creamy smokey BABAGANOS had great flavor and texture, while the EGGPLANT SALAD featured roasted eggplant with a larger chop blended with red and green peppers, subtle garlic, lemon, and parsley. Both were light and satisfying. The requisite HUMUS was a rich velvety chickpea paste with just the right amount of tahini and subtle garlic. Also in the mix was CACIK, a cold yogurt with diced cucumbers, garlic and herbs and a mysterious dish (not found on the menu) made with potato, eggs, and yogurt, sort of a Turkish potato salad.The CACIK was mild and tasty with the meat dishes that arrived later in the meal, and never having been a fan of the potato salad I let my other dining partners finish off this one.  

A classic Turkish salad of white beans, parsley, tomatoes, onions and egg arrived next. The ingredients in this simply prepared PIYAZ were dressed with a light vinaigrette and were pristinely fresh. If you weren't watching commuters pumping gas outside, you'd swear you were on the Aegean Coast.

Eggplant is a key player in Turkish cuisine, and our final cold Meze was the IMAM BAYILDI. Served at room temperature, this half roasted eggplant was a mere $5.99 and was stuffed with simmered onions, tomatoes, currants, pine nuts, and peppers,  One could easily make a meal of this alone, and it's worth noting that if you are a vegetarian, Bereket  is a perfect spot to savor varied and uniquely wonderful fare. 

We had eaten our weight in vegetables at this point and as if the cook had read our minds, we were rewarded with the rich savory SIGARA BOREK. There were oohs and aahs as the dish was lowered to the table as it resembled dessert, and indeed this feta and parsley filled Filo dough was truly a treat. When I mentioned earlier that I was ready to go back, it is this dish I crave. Rolls of crispy fried filo contained tangy feta just warm enough to be soft but not oozy, and was accompanied by a yogurt dill dipping sauce. Actually, this was better than dessert. Traditionally it was said that no girl should marry until she had mastered the art of börek making. I wish somebody had put this on my to-do list. 

It was time to bring on the meat and naturally we wanted to experience the full array of lamb, beef, and chicken KEBAB, a descriptor that refers not to skewered meat as some assume but roast meat of all varieties,  All KEBABS can be ordered as a wrap or a plate, with the plates including a generous blanket of delicious pilav and a side salad. 

After spying the fiery spit in the kitchen we knew the DONER-SHAWURMA-GYRO was a mandatory order. The sliced marinated lamb (the Gyro selection changes daily) is shaved off producing thin layers of perfectly seasoned tangy meat. This is Turkey's version of fast food, and it sure beats Micky D's. 

Curious to compare lamb dishes, we moved on to the MEATBALL KOFTE, flavorful browned patties of ground lamb with a tender moist interior. They were delicious as was the TAVUK KOFTE, grilled chicken meatballs, especially when paired with the rice pilav nestled under the meat. While the MEAT SHISH KEBAB (grilled marinated cubes of beef) was a little dry and not as flavorful as previous samples, the CHICKEN SHISH KEBAB was juicy with nice grill marks and the same great flavor as the TAVUK KOFTE patty.  

And then came a very traditional entree that was utterly unfamiliar to me despite my vigilant eating escapades. This was the MANTI, tiny folded triangles of dough filled with ground meat and onion, floating atop a bed of yoghurt and garlic, spiced with red pepper powder and melted butter. The butter seemed to be seasoned with the drippings from the cooked meat, and no words can describe the sensation of eating this decadent dish. The subtle heat from the red pepper, the coolness of the yogurt, and the rich meat packages were a gift indeed. 

To finish off our Turkish feast, we enjoyed Bereket's flaky BAKLAVA infused with honey and filled with pistachios and walnuts. The HONEY CAKE arrived in the form of sweet densely moist cookies with a rich honey flavor that melted in your mouth. To finish off the meal we ordered Turkish Coffee, and watched the stovetop preparation of the thick dark beverage with hints of what I can only describe as New Orleans style chicory. Our server asked if we wanted "a little sugar, a lot of sugar, or medium sugar," and medium delivered a slightly sweet but nor cloying drinking experience. It was the perfect ending to an utterly excellent meal. One friend mentioned that Bereket was just like dining in Istanbul, possibly better.  It is truly a Fairfield County find. Don't miss out. 

Note: There is no seafood at Bereket and everything served at Bereket is Halal. Bereket is open year round for lunch and dinner, but we recommend that you call before heading over. In warmer months, there is a small outdoor patio for which you can call ahead to reserve a table. Additionally, they are happy to cater a party of any size for you. As the dining space is very small, this would be a great way to enjoy the full range of their authentic and excellent cuisine. 

Appetizers range from $1.99 for soup to $6.49 for FALAFEL. Entrees will run you about $10.00, and the portions are enormous!! You will be eating leftovers all week. They accept all major credit cards.

NOTE: Bereket has moved since this review. The new location is:

Bereket 2871 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport 203.333.9393

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    Neat Webpage, Maintain the very good work. Thanks a lot.

Reader Comments (13)

Word.

I got tipped off to this by Chef Michael at Valencia in Norwalk. It's legitimacy confirmed by the Turkish finance guy at my Subaru dealer.

The spicy veggie dip (I have no idea what it's called) is hella good.
–CP

April 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris Preovolos

LOVED this place. Went there for the first time this past week and I can confirm the lamb Kofte and Manti was outta sight. I've been to Turkey and the food here at Bereket reminds me of some of the comforting meals I've had in Istanbul.

April 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Yummy! The is a true find. When are we going back?

April 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

OMG - you rock! This is the kind of stuff I want to hear about versus the usual suspects around Fairfield County.

The moment I saw the photo of the enticing SIGARA BOREK, I knew I had to run down for lunch today. What a lovely place! The owner (pictured above) could not be more delightful and insisted I sit and have some tea with him. This most definitely reminded me of being in Istanbul. Every single dish I got was amazing. I could barely breathe as I needed to try every interesting option he put down in front of me. To date my favorite Turkish restaurant is in Paris and this little place literally rivals it. Personally, I love the Citgo location as you seriously feel transported to another country. The mostly Turkish fellow patrons in there couldn't have been nicer either.

The only sucky thing which is not anything having to do with the restaurant is that outdoor seating is only allowed Memorial Day thru Labor Day. Bridgeport needs to change its rule - that is so dumb. Don't they want more business in their town?

Thank you!!!

April 5, 2010 | Registered CommenterMasterofLightChick

Great article, but for the real deal you have to visit Istanbul where the food is delicious, check this out; http://www.best-of-istanbul.com/istanbul-restaurant.html

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMehmet

We tried this last night and it met the expectation created by your blog - delicious! We tried the Lamb Kofte, the Manti and the Imam Bayildi. Thanks! BTW, there is a liquor store 2 blocks away for those who want some beer to accompany the food.

May 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternutmeg

I am so excited that you've covered this and the taco place in Bridgeport. Bereket is our restaurant of choice whenever we are up for going out. Please do even more! It's easy for your readers to try places in the suburbs, but inner city food is often the best, most authentic, and least expensive. Looking forward to more Bridgeport reviews.

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbridgeport resident

I didn't know there were any Turkish restaurants in the area. I used to go to the one in west haven. Thanks so much. I have found so many good places from your blog.

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGini

WOW! We went to Bereket on Saturday night and it certainly lived up to its reputation! We will definately be returning. Thanks for uncovering this great little spot that I would not have found otherwise.

August 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterQuasar

Have been going to this restaurant for a few years now. The owner's traditional Turkish hospitality is on display every time, and the food... oh, the food... it is truly crave-worthy. My husband went on many a Bereket run for me while I was pregnant :)

September 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan M

Good news for Black Rock residents. Bereket 2 is opening (hopefully soon) in the old Helados Vazquez location. There should be more than 6 seats at this new spot. I'm already salivating...

November 4, 2010 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

Note to Bereket: Perhaps one of ther reasons things have slowed down A LOT is because they've added a 5 dollar decorking fee. I have always abhored corkage fees but I understand the illogic...Yes, if the restaurant is busy, and yes, if you need the table, and yes, if the people are lolligagging at the table, then yes, I see the point. But on a tuesday afternoon? What about at a table for 6 where the fee amounts to 80-something cents per, versus a table of one? What about a bottle of two buck Chuck, where the corkage fee is like 250 percent of the cost of a bottle....I don't likje these damn corkage fees.

You don't have a license to sell booze....So why is that my fault?

April 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDe La Vega

I like Bereket quite a bit having been maybe ten times with a few caveats of a minor nature, make of them what you will.

The younger chef (not the old guy pictured above) has a major problem getting along with waitresses. For that reason, and because people come over from Turkey like on vacation and work there a couple of weeks and then go back, there is a ton of waitstaff turnover which stifles relationship building with the staff and serves as a major disincentive to tipping anything but the minimum.

Of course, the corkage fee referenced above now provides one fewer reason to go to bereket.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrealguy

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