After a long period of time, Turkspot team visited Cafe Divan two weeks ago with a gang of about 20 people. There is a lot to say… Here is a review from four of the gang members, straight from the horse’s mouth! But first, a little bit of background info on Cafe Divan:
Cafe Divan is located in a triangular-shaped corner building surrounded by glass walls with two separate dining rooms: one more of a cafe style with wooden tables and chairs alongside the glass walls; and one more of a bistro style with a more elegant interior design, furnishing and a bar section. The restaurant is suitable for any size of groups and many occasions: reunions, date nights, or drinks.
Now it is time to review the food. In short, no one in our group returned back home wishing he/she had eaten something else! I go first:
(age:28, female) : You may remember me from the older posts in which I was referred to as the “Hünkar Beğendi Expert”. Yes, I visit Turkish restaurants all around the US and try hünkar beğendi, chunks of lamb served over beğendi— smoked and mashed eggplant with a secret recipe–, more on this later…
I started my dinner with a cup of traditional lentil soup, which was very delicious. Whenever I miss lentil soup, like the ones Turkish moms make, I go to Cafe Divan. Then I ordered hünkar beğendi. It was delicious but different from the traditional hünkar beğendi you may have in Turkey. The lamb chunks were tender as they should be, but beğendi was a bit runny. As it is time-consuming to prepare beğendi; in general they dilute it or serve it in small amounts in the US. In Cafe Divan, my beğendi was partly replaced by large chunks of carrots and squash. It makes the meal lighter for sure but the lighter it is, the less delicious your kabob will be.
Finally, I ordered Künefe as dessert, alongside a cup of Turkish tea. Künefe is a traditional dessert from southern Turkey, made from shredded phyllo dough with a fresh cheese filling. It is baked and covered with a sweet syrup and served hot. It is usually a really heavy dessert but Cafe Divan served it with less syrup than usual and with no topping, making it lighter but, again, less delicious than it should be.
(age:28, male): I also had the lentil soup which was one of the better ones I had in the USA. The trick is to always add a hint of fresh lemon juice. I shared an eggplant salad with my wife and found it to be average.
Chicken Shish Kabob
For main dish I ordered Chicken Shish Kabob. The chicken pieces had an amazing taste. I definitely recommend it – 5 stars! Just like the hünkar beğendi, it was served with steamed vegetables (not part of the traditional Turkish Kitchen) and white rice. I wish there was a little bit more rice – all the rice was gone before I was halfway through the chicken pieces. The serving sizes were not very large, but it was enough for the night. I finished my dinner with a small glass of Turkish Tea – brewed from loose tea leaves by the way. The tea was OK, but it wasn’t worth anywhere the amount they were charging: $2 for an espresso-sized ordinary tea.
Overall, I had good food in a lovely ambiance. Two things I should add: First, Cafe Divan is never disappointing for large groups; they let you take your time. Second, the bread, oh the bread… I could go there just to enjoy the bread!
(age 24, male): I am a newbie in the DC area, but I have seen my share of not-so-good kabobs and Turkish food made in some other restaurants. So, I didn’t keep my expectations too high. Fortunately, I am looking forward to the next time I will be there!
As a starter, I ordered Sigara Böreği (Cigar Shaped Pastry), an appetizer served hot with cheese on the inside and crispy yet soft on the outside. It was not the best I had, but it sure felt nice. It was hot when served and the selected cheese was appropriate, although not the exact one you would use in Turkey. I selected Kavurma as my main dish: an authentic meal with lamb or beef cubes. It is traditionally served on a copper plate but Divan served it on a regular plate with rice and a sauce of onions, tomatoes, green peppers and the like. Although it was not exactly what you would get from a traditional restaurant in Turkey, it was delicious, and can be a nice alternative for those who like kabob.
Generally, without dessert, I don’t feel like I had a complete dinner, so after realizing others offered künefe (more info above), I could only resist the thought of ordering one for myself for a few seconds. It is a dessert you should probably share with another person, because it is large and very sweet. My tea was already cold until the dessert came, so I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I could with a well made hot Turkish tea.
(age:26, male): In addition to the great soup that has received compliments from fellow reviewers, I ordered Su Böreği – boiled flat noodles layered with feta cheese and parsley and baked- as an appetizer. It was better than expected. Then, I had the Döner Kabob (similar to Greek gyro) as my main dish. The slices are usually cut too thick in the US, and Cafe Divan was no exception — until this time. A recent change of the main chef may be the reason to a great improvement in the way this traditional Middle Eastern food was prepared: slices were thin and cooked thoroughly. However, I feel like the serving sizes get smaller each time I visit Divan (or is it just me getting greedy?). Even with the soup, appetizer and dessert, I didn’t feel full at the end of my meal.
Usually Turkish restaurants in the US make changes to the menu items to appeal to the local customers, making them less appealing to the Turkish folks! At Cafe Divan, our overall food experience was good, and we recommend it for your next Turkish food fix.