PHLReview

photo credit: GAB BONGHI

Pera Turkish Cuisine review image
8.2

Pera Turkish Cuisine

$$$$

944 N 2nd St, Philadelphia
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Sometimes it feels like The Restaurant Gods shoot new places out of a t-shirt gun and somehow they all land on 2nd Street in Northern Liberties. This trendy area has become a restaurant row of sorts, with neighborhood staples like Añejo, Cafe La Maude, Heritage, and Jerry’s Bar all within steps of each other. And since new places continue to pop up every few months, you could get serious whiplash when you’re looking for a great spot to head to with friends. But on an endlessly crowded block, Pera Turkish Cuisine is a BYOB that’s good enough to make your shortlist of go-tos over all the other options.

GAB BONGHI

Pera Turkish Cuisine review image

The restaurant, located in the old Dmitri’s, is a casual space where you can share traditional mezze plates and chewy manti dumplings. Inside, you’ll find simple wooden tables, rustic clay sculptures, and colorful art showing off Turkish sunsets and old temples. There’s beautifully patterned stone tiling along the bakery case where pastries like nutty baklava and sweet cheese kunefe are on display. Everyone who dines here—from those looking for a slower pace from the bars and breweries on the corner to people out for a casual date night—will spend their evenings fantasizing about a vacation near the Black Sea between scoops of charred eggplant and tomato-y lamb beyti.

GAB BONGHI

Pera Turkish Cuisine review image

At the heart of Pera’s food are simple Mediterranean flavors. Though most dishes only have a few elements, when you take a bite, a parade of flavor begins. Start with something light like the smoky babagannoush, silky humus, lamb kebabs with a subtle hint of lemon, and parsley-packed tabouli before heading for the heartier dishes like their slow-cooked lamb shank. You’ll be in for smoky, juicy bites of tender meat and vegetables that are coated in a subtle spritz of lemon and a few flakes of mint and parsley.  

GAB BONGHI

Pera Turkish Cuisine review image

While there are some cuisine detours on the menu (like a cheeseburger and chicken tenders), stick to the impressive lineup of Turkish dishes. Pera’s straightforward cuisine and charming ambiance make it a standout in the area, no matter the occasion, so grab your friends–or your date, or your parents, for that matter–skip the nearby spots, and head inside.

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Food Rundown

GAB BONGHI

Pera Turkish Cuisine review image

Humus

The humus is creamy, smooth, and packs some heat from the pool of chili oil in the center–a perfect balance to whatever IPA you bring with you. Served with triangles of warm and fluffy pita, it’s a starter you shouldn’t miss.

GAB BONGHI

Pera Turkish Cuisine review image

Manti

The doughy stuffed manti are simply excellent, incorporating bits of savory lamb inside the dumplings, cool yogurt on top, and a spicy pepper drizzle that gives them a bright red pop. You may need more than one order.

Hunkar Begendi

At other spots, you may find the slow-cooked lamb shank cut into cubes (which makes it easier to share). But here you get the lamb shank bone-in and served over a bed of light and creamy smoked eggplant. The meat is so tender it’s almost falling off the bone, and it’s packed with a ton of flavor. You’ll have to find a good carver if you want to pass it around the table–it’s a dish that everyone will want more than a few slices of.

GAB BONGHI

Pera Turkish Cuisine review image

Çipura

We’re no mathematicians but we’re sure that smoky taste in each bite + super juiciness + a tender yet satisfying crisp = great grilled fish. Pera has the equation down pat. The whole fish is great for sharing–especially on a summery day–and should pair well with any wine or beer you bring.

Kunefe

From the flaky shredded layers of phyllo dough, each inch oozing with mozzarella cheese, to the syrupy sugar on top, we can’t say exactly what makes this grilled dessert one that we can’t stop thinking about. But we’ll keep ordering it until we figure it out.

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