January 2005: Nizam’s
Nizam Ozgur's Turkish restaurant in a small shopping area in Vienna has more than a quarter-century of experience, topped by 21 years on the 100 Very Best Restaurants list. It rarely disappoints. Copper plates and Turkish ceramics grace the walls. The restaurant attracts both local gourmands and expatriates from the Bosporus. It surpasses just about every restaurant in Istanbul.
A selection of mezze, the Turkish counterpart to tapas, is a good beginning. Sigara borek, one of the best, is a cigar-shaped pastry filled with feta cheese, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and deep-fried. Other good mezze are the baba ghanoush, a variety of other eggplant dishes, white beans bathed in tomato and olive oil, and grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, and currants.
The star of the show is the doner kebab, a large cylinder of seasoned lamb on a vertical spit and cooked to order. Once available only on weekends, it now can be had nightly. Other treats are lamb shish kebab cooked as ordered; tas kebab beyendi, fork-tender lamb over smoky puréed eggplant; and ravioli-like manti filled with spiced beef. Wine enthusiasts should sample the rarely seen wines of Turkey. Both the baklava and the milk pudding make happy conclusions to the meal.