Take 1: Back to Lagun Balik Restaurant
We leave beautiful Zephyros Hotel after spending two nights under the star-filled sky. We drive the length of the Datca Peninsula while watching the Bodrum Peninsula beckoning us across the Gokova Bay. It is beautiful. The sun is warm, the sky is clear. After the heavy rains, everything is sparkling.
I am so excited that we are taking my brother, his first time, to Bogazici (ancient Bargilya) to see the pink flamingos and eat at the Lagun Balik restaurant. Unlike our first meandering visit, this time it is easy to find the road to take us to this beautiful fishing village. The flamingos are everywhere. Unfortunately, this time they are not near the shore of the lagoon. No matter how far they are, you can still see their graceful moves as they walk on their long thin legs.
We park in front of the Lagun Balik restaurant. I always get a warm feeling when I go back to a place after a long break in between. The owners, Ahmet Bey and Guloren Hanim recognize us immediately. It was such a great warm welcome. I introduce my brother. Guloren Hanim keeps looking at him as if she recognizes him. When I mention that my brother is a cardiologist in Mersin, she jumps in and says, “Oh, you are the famous Dr. Mehmet Metin!” What a small world!
Although my main goal is to show my brother the flamingos and have him try the best food around Bodrum, my hidden goal is to take a picture of the warm tahini dessert that we ate here last time – a photo I forgot to take then. It was last January. That time, I took pictures of everything we ate. But, I have a sweet tooth, and the dessert looked so good that I jumped in to eat it; of course by the time I remembered to take a picture of it, the whole thing was gone.
This time we tried their specialty mezes: Root celery salad with apple and walnuts, Lagun style local cheese meze with herbs, pumpkin with walnuts, and sea bass ceviche. We ordered raki. There is nothing better than to sample mezes, sip milk colored raki and talk and talk and talk. Ahmet Bey and Guloren Hanim kept joining us in between dealing with other customers. If you were here, you could see the bliss in every person’s face. Magical!
After an absolutely amazing seafood platter, we opted not to have the fish main course. We were already full.
And, the dessert came. I stopped every one reaching over to take the first bite of warm tahini, orange juice, apple chunks and walnut pieces. Now, it is time for the photo shoot that the tahini dessert deserves. I accomplished my goal.
But, my desire to go back to Lagun Balik Restaurant will never end. We have three of my college friends visiting us this weekend. Guess what! We are taking them to the same restaurant.
Maybe, the flamingos will come to the shore this time and we will get to see them close by.
Take 2: Back to Lagun Restaurant, again!
We pick up Aysun, Nurgun and Sinan, three of my dear college friends, from the Bodrum Airport. It is about 11 in the morning. After a short drive, we arrive at Lagun Balik Restaurant. I already called ahead and told Guloren and Ahmet that we are coming.
The weather is calling for a light rain, but it is warm. We debate about eating outside. The waiter prepares us a table outside -but, worried about the potential rain. Without a word of complaint, the waiter starts carrying everything inside. Of course, we can’t help feeling bad about giving him the extra work of setting up our table twice.
Guloren is in the kitchen creating her marvels. Now, I learn more about her cooking. She creates all her food. Everything is fresh. Everything is from local ingredients. Ahmet tells us:
“Our friends begged us to open a restaurant for years every time they tested her food.”
I am glad those friends succeeded. And, Al and I continue to support these incredible creations every time we go to Bodrum.
This time we pick two different items from the display of mezes: clementine infused leeks and cranberry beans in olive oil. We order the leeks twice more! It melts in your mouth.
The waiter tells us that the meze display reaches to more than twenty items a day and they are all gone, twice over, in summer. And all mezes are seasonal. Let’s see what we are going to eat this summer!
We order levrek (seabass). The presentation is incredible. The taste surpasses all! Now, my friends are even more impressed.
The rain is gone. A little sunshine is peeking through the clouds. We take a table outside (again!) and eat our tahini dessert with Turkish tea on their deck. A little girl, daughter of the kitchen aid, joins us in a conversation. She is thirsty for a talk and tells us her own little stories.
We hug Guloren and Ahmet. We will go back again! In July!