Vourla Mediterranean Grill and Cafe (Vourla) is a Turkish restaurant in Naples and is located in the Coastland Center Mall in Naples. Turkish cuisine is an amalgam of geographical and cultural impacts dating back from The Ottoman Empire, an empire that lasted for over 600 years.
Modern countries whose territories were part of The Ottoman Empire include Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Greece, Lebanon and Israel. From this map, one can see a range of cultural, agricultural and culinary influences from Northern Africa to the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.
Having seen some online dining offers available through a third party, my dining companion and I were all the more anxious to try some of their Menu Offerings. Although Vourla is adjacent to the Coastland Center Mall food court, it’s a world away in terms of cuisine.
The two standouts from this menu selection were the Muhammara, a walnut and red pepper spread, and Haydari. The latter meze is made from Labneh, a thick, tangy strained yogurt with a texture similar to cream cheese.
At Vourla, the haydari is mixed with garlic, walnuts, garlic and mint, then drizzled with olive oil. We also tried a third meze, the Pink Sultana. It is mixed with cooked, chopped beets and garlic again drizzled with olive oil. All of these were good and perfect accompaniments to spread on the wedges of pita bread served.
My dining companion ordered a Fattoush Salad. This is a “bread salad”, and a way to use up day-old pita bread. The pita is cut into chips and fried to enhance flavor. This is added to a variety of vegetables, seasoned with Sumac and dressed with a vinaigrette. Trying to forgo the carbs, my dining companion traded the pita chips for extra feta cheese. An almost fattoush salad. Nonetheless, it was still very good.
They also have a lunch special that runs Monday to Friday for $17.95. This includes soup, a limited selection of one meze, and a choice of a number of kebab dishes. The kebabs come in a number of versions. There are Adana Kebabs, which is ground meat or poultry hand-shaped onto a skewer and grilled. There are sis (Turkish) or Shish Kebab items, with cubes of meat grilled on a skewer and Doner Kebab offerings.
I started with a Turkish classic, the Lentil Soup. It was really good, made from lentils, carrots, onions, garlic and a small amount of tomato paste. The soup was served, as it traditionally is, with a fresh lemon wedge, and drizzled with aleppo pepper oil. Aleppo pepper is mild, and the oil adds a nice contrast to the soup.
For the meze, I tried the Carrot Tarator, which the owner generously let me substitute as it is not on the lunch special menu. This starter has shredded carrots, labneh and garlic.
I finished with my main, a lamb and beef doner kebab. This very flavorful meat was served with grilled tomato and jalapeño pepper, a very traditional Turkish Rice Pilaf, an equally traditional Turkish pickled Red Cabbage Salad with raw onion, parsley and sumac and a mint/yogurt sauce for the meat.
Interestingly, Turkish rice pilaf usually incorporates a small amount of pasta like orzo or vermicelli that is fried before adding to the rice. I was first exposed to this as a child, eating Rice-A-Roni. I suppose I was eating Turkish rice pilaf long ago and didn’t even know it! I thought the lunch combination, was delicious and very reasonably priced. Highly recommended.
On a second visit, I tried a couple more menu items. The first was the hot meze, the char-grilled Spanish octopus. It is first grilled and then served in an extremely hot serving dish filled with sizzling sumac butter with a grilled lemon half. The octopus was really tender, though extremely hot. I had to wait a couple of minutes to let it cool down. The sumac butter sauce was not a big draw for me, though adding squeezed lemon added a bit more acidity to this dish, which I felt it needed. I prefer a bit more “brightly-flavored” or savory sauces for my octopus. Others may enjoy this.
I wanted to try a different kebab dish. I chose the chicken shish kebab. The chicken was good, moist, and flavorful. Unfortunately, the sides were exactly the same as the doner kebab from my previous meal. It was disappointing. Perhaps they were out of bulgar wheat pilaf, green peppers, and red onions.
At the end of the meal, a cup of Turkish tea was served. It was strong but pleasant. A bit of sweetener was all it took to have a nice ending to this meal.
All in all, the food and service at Vourla were good. The lunch special was delicious, an exceptional value, and showcases Turkish food that almost no one else in town is serving. With all the menu items sampled, I would recommend that most highly. I think readers will like Vourla, there may be something there for everyone.
That’s that for another post on Forks.
Vourla Mediterranean Grill and Cafe
1860 Tamiami Tr. N.
Naples, FL 34102
Open 11 AM to 12 PM daily; Lunch served daily from 11 AM to 4 PM; Lunch special from 11AM to 4 PM Monday-Friday; Kitchen closes at 10 PM; All major credit cards accepted.
[image_carousel source=”media: 85998,85997,85996,85995,85994,85993,85992,85991,85990,85989,85988,85987″ limit=”50″ slides_style=”photo” controls_style=”light” crop=”none” columns=”1″ adaptive=”yes” spacing=”yes” align=”center” max_width=”900px” captions=”yes” arrows=”yes” dots=”yes” link=”image” target=”blank” autoplay=”3″ speed=”fast” image_size=”medium_large” outline=”yes” random=”yes”]