Restaurant Review - Tasty Turkish in Marietta

Efes a destination for baklava and belly dancing

The sign out front announced a belly dancing show taking place. But walking into the humble storefront on the Marietta Square, I didn't see any place for a hip-swinger to jut her stuff. In fact, the cramped, vinyl booths and fluorescent lighting didn't look like anything more than a quick stop for a kebab or gyro.

We took a seat at one of the tables up front and were quickly told that the real action takes place in the back.

Efes is yet another Mediterranean grill taking up residence in the Atlanta area. This one does serve lunch gyros and kebabs during the day from the front of the restaurant. The signature sandwich is the Efes Club ($5.95), a double-decker loaded with turkey, Turkish sausage, cucumbers, lettuce and tomato wrapped in a pita. They even carry such run-of-the-mill grub as tuna salad sandwiches and chili dogs. But if you're looking for something completely different, just push on through to the other side.

The back area of the restaurant is a sprawling dining space with Turkish rugs, red drapes, low lighting and pillowed benches. Now this is where we could see some belly rolling as our own tummies rumbled.

The menu includes several pages of authentic Turkish and Greek cuisine. Start with the cold mezes (appetizers). Order hummus, tabouli or baba ghanoush separately (mezes range from $3.95-$5.25 individually) or select the combo platter. For $13.99 you get an assortment of dolma (grape leaves filled with rice, pine nuts, currants, spices and herbs), hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli and patlican salatasi (eggplant and green pepper diced and pan fried). We also ordered an extra portion of yogurtlu ispanak (fresh spinach with yogurt and garlic). The proportion of burghui (crushed wheat) to chopped parsley in tabouli made a big impression on me, and I didn't enjoy the mainly burghui mixture. My friend liked the fact that it wasn't tomato heavy and gobbled it up. There was plenty more to munch on with the garlicky hummus, spicy patlican, creamy baba ghanoush and soothing ispanak.

Before we could get to the menu's pages of kebabs, the belly dancing began. I've never seen someone belly dance to Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" before, but the dancer pulled it off with her slinky attitude, even if I didn't see any jewels on her bared tootsies. Soon enough she began balancing swords on her head to more traditional music and shaking her bangles in diners' faces.

We were able to order a kofte kebab (ground beef mixed with herbs and spices, $9.99) from the selection of other beef and lamb choices before the next round of dancing began.

Other diners entered to catch the show and get a spot of strong Turkish coffee and desserts. The freshly made baklava is hard to pass up, but for something a little lighter there's the seker pare ($2.25), three shortbread-type cookies made with almond. The kalbura basti — a turnover filled with walnuts and spices — is a specialty of the chef.

Featured belly dancers perform Friday and Saturday nights for added entertainment, but you don't need their hip swaying to convince you that Marietta has a great new addition on the Square. Just take a bite of a kebab to find that out.??