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Ayse Meze Lounge, in Frederick's Everedy Square - Middle-Eastern Mezze from Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon - Closed Jan 5, 2020


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Opened about six months ago, Ayse (pron: eye-shae, 6 North East St, 240 651 5155) specializes in small plates of Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese origin, but the primary emphasis is on the Turkish offerings, which are hard enough to find even in the DC area.  We stopped in for dinner last night, and left with a very positive impression of the food.

The menu itself is rather long, and will take several visits to sample fully.  Most dishes were in the $6-8 range, with some items as low as $4, but hardly anything that could even be considered moderately expensive.  Value was generally spot on, although some items like the mantı were a bit precious at $8 for three not-too-large dumplings.

The whole fish, on the daily specials sheet, are noteworthy.  FedExed from Turkey, they were a steal at $18-19 for authentic branzino or dorade.  Limited availability, by their very nature, and no indication of how frequently he has these flown in.

There was a definite pecking order to the "cigars" (aka sigar boregı), although all of them suffered slightly from a rather thick pastry which fried up more like a wonton wrapper than like a delicate boregı pastry.  I was a bit underwhelmed by the cheese version, where it was difficult to detect any of the non-cheese components of the filling.  The lamb version was nice, and boosted by an excellent yogurt sauce which also accompanied a number of lamb-based items.  The duck version was excellent...do make sure you try this item.

Vegetable-based items were delicious all around, the squash fritters having a nice bit of salt to their crispy exterior.  I found the use of dill to be more restrained here than in Turkey.  The housemade suí§uk and also the Adana kebab were decidedly spicy, and well-moderated by the yogurt sauce.  Both had a somewhat dense chew that is authentic.  The kebab here is served curiously unadorned though, over a thin layer of rice and without the customary heaps of chopped onions, tomatoes, or other green.

It turns out that somebody *does* import salep dondurma (orchid root mastic ice cream) to the USA by way of New York, if our server was correct.  You can choose that, or two other housemade flavors.  I had the salep, which might not have been the most refined version I've had, but definitely had the characteristic elasticity and stretchiness.  I don't know if real salep or credible substitutes were used in the ice cream, but again, it's a Turkish specialty worth trying.

We didn't really explore the beverage list much, but there are five types of rakı available, plus a short list of beers including a number of Oliver Ales on draft.  The wine list is also appropriately Mediterranean, and organized into sections labeled Greek, Turkish, Israeli, Lebanese, and "other".

Our tab for two, including beverages but before tip, was under $90 for a face-stuffing variety of dishes.  Two could easily assemble a nice meal here in the $75 range all in, but you'll probably want to explore instead of holding back.  I'm probably damning the place with faint praise, but this is an excellent addition to the area (not quite Family Meal good, but better than any of the Market St options close to Carroll Creek) and I can't wait to get back and dine on the outdoor patio as the weather warms up.

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It can be beaten.  I am a huge fan of the Wine Kitchen in Leesburg but not in Purcellville.  I have not been to their Frederick location.  However, I sincerely believe the best eastern Mediterranean restaurant in the greater Washington, D. C. area is in Frederick: Ayse Meze Lounge (website). This is TurkishLebanese/Greek, etc.  At this point we have eaten through much of the menu including a visit with a Lebanese friend who is a serious cook in her own home and cannot rave about this enough.  With all due respect to anywhere else even in downtown D. C. or Tysons Corner the Frederick restaurant is the best.  Perhaps, remarkably, the best.

There was a time when we would deadhead from Reston to Frederick for Volt.  Now our deadhead is for Ayse Mezze Lounge.  For the Wine Kitchen we will not return to Purcellville.  For Leesburg we are almost regulars-they are that different.

This restaurant has been in Italic for a long time.

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I feel like I've spent a lot of time talking about how good this place is but I don't have any posts in this thread somehow? Not sure if Don spun this thread off something else or I'm just crazy.

Anyway, just want to reaffirm that this place deserves all the praise it gets. Tons of great things on the menu, I have a difficult time deciding what to get every time I go. Personal favorites tend to be: Muhammara or Pasha Ezmesi spreads, Adana (delicious ground lamb skewer), Sucuk, Spiced Chicken, and the Tavuk Pide. But there's probably a dozen other things I might order just depending on how I feel.

Another big advantage of this place is that it's big. Really big. If I somehow get roped into going out for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night, this is usually the place I'll try first.

Their specials rotate pretty constantly by the way, I've seen some pretty unique things on there and had a few that I wish were on the regular menu. Last time I was in they had a hummus made with Ghost Pepper, yikes.

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I feel like I've spent a lot of time talking about how good this place is but I don't have any posts in this thread somehow? Not sure if Don spun this thread off something else or I'm just crazy.

Anyway, just want to reaffirm that this place deserves all the praise it gets. Tons of great things on the menu, I have a difficult time deciding what to get every time I go. Personal favorites tend to be: Muhammara or Pasha Ezmesi spreads, Adana (delicious ground lamb skewer), Sucuk, Spiced Chicken, and the Tavuk Pide. But there's probably a dozen other things I might order just depending on how I feel.

Another big advantage of this place is that it's big. Really big. If I somehow get roped into going out for dinner on a Friday or Saturday night, this is usually the place I'll try first.

Their specials rotate pretty constantly by the way, I've seen some pretty unique things on there and had a few that I wish were on the regular menu. Last time I was in they had a hummus made with Ghost Pepper, yikes.

They grow their own Ghost Peppers.  Ghost Pepper hummus was worth the burn. Also garides Saganaki (totally different from their excellent cheese saganaki.  Sheesh Tawouk is basically a chicken thigh kebob with an incredible mayonnaisey textured like side called toum which is loaded with fresh garlic and is intensely delicious.

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I am a fan of this place, it's well-made food and it's very efficiently run like all of Phil's places. I would add as a caveat to the general praise that I had a very rubbery grilled octopus several months ago, so much so that I complained (I am generally the type of guy who if I have a mild compliait will bite my tongue and say everything is fine) and they took it off the bill without fuss. I have returned since then and had fine meals, so I am still a fan.

Has anyone tried that Turkish anise liqueur (I forget what it's called) that turns cloudy over ice? I should have heeded their warning--it was like drinking Dr. Bronner's shampoo.

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I would definitely recommend the Turkish manti, beef-stuffed ravioli with a yogurt sauce.  Blew me away on my first visit and it's hard to restrain myself from ordering when there are plenty of other things to try.  If you enjoy the mantwo at Afghan restaurants like Helmand in Baltimore, it's very much worth seeing the Turkish twist on the dish here. (Note to self: I really ought to look into where the dish actually originated.  It's fun to spot cross-cultural culinary exchanges like this.)

A while back I had a dish which cosnsited of slices of sucuk, balls of pimiento(?) goat cheese drizzled with a tiny bit of a light honey-based reduction, and microgreens with a splash of herbed vinegar, and it was glorious.  My only complaint was that the balance was by far in favor of the cheese, which had an overpowering flavor so it was better to just enjoy the meat separately (or with a bit of the greens).  But that was a quibble because otherwise it was easy to see how well the flavors contrasted and complemented.  There is a very skilled chef and staff in that kitchen.

Easily in my top 3 for Frederick.

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Awww. We ate at Ayse a few years ago when in the area. Was a positive experience but never got back since it's way out of the way for us. Here is what I wrote on Yelp:

"Had an excellent meal at Ayse with the family yesterday. This is probably a 4.5 star review but I'm rounding it up to five since we went at the off-hour of 2 pm and often service and/or food can fall off when you eat at a weird time. On the contrary, we got great service and food that for the most part was really good.

Highlights included the dip sampler (6 for $12, a really good deal), the cheese sampler, the shrimp, the meatballs, the mushrooms, and the carrot fritters. The menu is extensive so it's good to see you can probably throw darts and wind up with good food.

We don't live close enough to make this a regular stop but would definitely revisit when we are back in the Frederick area."

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