At Pera Turkish Kitchen, the Sunday brunch buffet is a dazzling affair. Stepping foot through the front door, one is greeted by the sight of tables weighed down under great plates of fresh cheeses, spreads, jewel-colored jams and pastries shaped like pinwheels. There’s a steaming pot full of saffron-tinted soup, too, and a bevy of honeyed desserts. And it’s not even noon yet.
Situated in Far North Dallas, Pera Turkish Kitchen was the first restaurant opened in Dallas by chef and owner Habip Kargin. Kargin’s culinary career took him from Turkey to New York and finally, as so many things weirdly do, to Texas. Since Pera opened in 2012, Kargin has created a veritable army of Pera restaurants, includingd Pera Wine & Tapas, Pera Henderson and Pera Mediterranean Grill. But this isn’t about a Pera military, it’s about one Turkish restaurant that looked Dallas’ brunch scene square in the face and said, “To hell with your French toast. Pass the pide.”
Pide is to Turkish food as pita is to Greek food. It is a wondrous freshly made bread, and Pera’s version is whisked to tables straight from the oven. The billowy loaves are more substantial than pita and are a delight on their own or when slathered with some tahini-rich hummus or cacik, a house-made yogurt and cucumber-herb dip.
Tahini and cacik are but two items from the cold half of the buffet. Chief among their chilled compatriots are a slightly sweet take on tabbouleh salad, dolmas (sticky rice bundles threaded with lots of mint and packaged in briny grape leaves) and shepherd salad, a lemony, olive oil-kissed combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers.
The hot half of the buffet serves as a nice antidote to all of the healthy fats and fresh produce afforded by the aforementioned dishes. Take the rice, for instance, which benefits from the traditional Turkish preparation involving the inclusion of orzo pasta and a generous — nay, Paula Deen-approved — amount of butter. And then there’s the lentil soup: a thin, creamy, slightly starchy pool of sweet, earthy goodness.
In true Texan style, many diners bypassed the cold buffet and hot sides in favor of stockpiling Pera’s protein-packed offerings. Cubes of beef shish tasted of rosemary and fire, while the chicken kebabs benefitted from chili and a little char, and strips of gyro delivered all the salty, fatty deliciousness our pide could hold. Sadly, the dry falafel did not hold a candle to the carnivorous offerings, though it could likely hold up a multi-story building.
Save room for one of Pera’s many pastries, both savory and sweet. On the savory side, fillings of spinach and onions or ground meat and spices are showcased by a carriage of thin, crisp pide. The sweeter side includes baklava drenched in honey and rice pudding.
Pera Turkish Kitchen serves a brunch unlike any other in Dallas. There are no bloody marys (it’s BYOB, in fact) nor grits nor artisanal doughnuts. But there are more dishes than you will likely have the gastrointestinal fortitude to try. And unlike so many buffets, wherein quality is sacrificed in the name of quantity, here the dining experience proves that abundance and excellence are not such unlikely companions, after all.
Pera Turkish Kitchen, 17479 Preston Road. Sunday brunch begins at 11 a.m. $12.95 per person.
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