I. Loved. It. Granted, I don't have a whole lot of tapas eating under my belt, having previously only patronized one other joint. (Which was Cafe Madrid, in case you were wondering. I would write a review of them, but I was too busy being swept off my feet.) I am by nature critical of everything. This not only makes me a bad tipper (I admit it, and I'm working on it) but also a bit of a snob when it comes to my dining experiences. A tapas restaurant should serve enough on the plate for two people to enjoy, but not so much that it can double as an entree for one. It is a delicate proportion that Cafe Izmir pulled off well.
I suggested the place to a blind date that I was meeting that evening. You know the type: "Sure, whatever you want. Price is no object. I own my own business, did I mention that? You pick, babe, anywhere and anytime. I can do it anytime because I set my own hours because I own my OWN BUSINESS. Did I mention that?" But I digress. This is not a review of the date, after all.
We get there on a Wednesday around 6PM. I immediately park myself on a choice piece of sidewalk. The place is already packed tight. Being the savvy Greenville dweller I am, I warned my date of this beforehand. He went in to get water. He then became indignant over the wait, which stretched to over a half hour. For anyone who finishes this review and decides to give Izmir a try, I warn you: you will wait if you go during peak dining hours. It's a Lower Greenville hot spot, what do you expect? Shut up, sit on the sidewalk (Like I did, or mingle stylishly in the parking lit like everyone else) and wait for your table. They're happy to let you booze in the meantime. If you've ever wanted to publicly intoxicate yourself on the streets of Dallas, here's your big chance.
Once you get inside, the place is gorgeous. I'd almost be inclined to use sexy. Ever been to the adjacent club, Kismet? Izmir is similarly styled. The lights are dim enough to lend an air of privacy (that you do not actually have; I'm talking to you, kinky couple to my left.) while still making it possible to see and enjoy your impressively presented food. Candles cast a flattering light on guests, adding a sensual air. The music is a soft lull that shines just above the usual hum of conversation. The waiters are dashing, charming Middle Eastern men that know all about what food you'll love and the wine or cocktail that will perfectly compliment it. The owners are always present and no doubt keep a watchful eye behind the scenes, keeping the whole place running like a well oiled machine.
They bring out the plates two or three at a time, as to not overwhelm the small tables. Our hummus and pita bread were first, followed by cheese and Russian chicken salad. Then, the sausage and steak were presented, along with more hummus. This place is known for it's outstanding hummus. It's not to be missed, which is not something I say often. I loved all of it, with the exception of the falafel. Then again, I never was a falafel fan.
To keep myself alert through the insipid droll of conversation that just kept flowing from the maw of my companion, I ordered a cup of their Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee is prepared quite differently than what you're used to. In a specialized pot, (Called a Turkish coffee pot, imagine!) water and sugar is added and topped off by very finely ground coffee. Without mixing, it is heated until the water breaks the surface of the now moist grounds. If the amount of water or the amount of coffee is off even a little, the water will break through too quickly and the entire pot is ruined. Once it breaks, everything is mixed, then heated again. Just as the liquid reaches the top, it is taken off the heat and mixed again. This is done a total of three times, but the third time it is not stirred and the foam is used in the final product. This perseverance makes for a most perfect cup of silky joe. Izmir goes so far as to add milk to the mix, which makes it divinely creamy and takes away just enough bite. The cup is tiny, about the size of an espresso, but it packs a punch. If you refuse to try the hummus, don't deny yourself the after-dinner coffee. Seriously.
I escaped relatively unscathed from my date. Although I refuse to see him again, I've gone back to Izmir several times with friends. I prefer to walk, as Izmir (and Kismet, which shares the same owners and parking) is valet only. I've been to both places, and have met both the owners. They are very nice people, and they know exactly how to run a smooth operation. The employees are polite and knowledgeable, even a tad smug about that fact. This just adds to the fun.