It’s very, very rare that I finish a restaurant meal and have a strong desire to immediately book a table for a return visit.
There’s plenty of eating-out choice and variety in our part of the world and out towards and in York without going back to the same place too often.
But our experience at Az one Saturday recently was so good that I knew we would be back very soon.
Plenty of others must agree – the (fairly small) Turkish restaurant was packed. A nice touch was a table outside, where smokers could dine with the comfort of heaters making the temperature bearable.
Inside, Az is bedecked with pictures of Istanbul and Ankara, Turkish rugs on the walls and appropriate music wafting in and out of the chatty hubbub. It was the ideal atmosphere.
The service was impeccable. Our waiter, on bringing the drinks, including some very welcome Efes beers, talked passionately and eloquently of the venue, the cuisine and his homeland.
The menu has 14 starters and 22 (including four vegetarian) mains choices, all handily numbered.
Our party of four opted for two starters. I went for the Sigara Boregi (£4.95), Turkish cigar-shaped pastry filled with feta cheese and parsley, the crunchy pastry giving way, on biting, to the tangy inside.
The other three had a (literal) smorgasbord of choice with the hot and cold messe, which was accompanied by a basket of pitta bread. It seemed pricey at £12.95, but then there was enough for three.
Disappointingly, the lamb meatballs main course that I had my eye on was unavailable, as were two other mains, including the Az Special (my second choice!)
But my eventual selection of Az Sarma (pictured, £12.50) more than made up for it. It’s lightly spiced minced lamb skewers wrapped in tortilla bread and the portion size, while at first glance quite small, was spot on. The crumbly meat was delightfully accompanied by creamy yoghurt.
The other mains choices met with similar approval.
The Lamb Iskender (£15.95) and Chicken Iskender (£12.95) had the respective marinated and charcoal-grilled meat cut into cubes, sitting atop toasted bread amidst herbs, tomatoes and yoghurt.
The Tavuk Sultan (£13.50) consisted of diced chicken breast, honey, pine nuts, blackcurrants and apricots, and, although a little dry, certainly packed a fruity kick and pleasant aftertaste.
The desserts – not on the menu – are meagre in number, but of the three on offer the two we chose were outstanding. The rich, creamy orange and ginger cheesecake (pictured) was delectable. Less heady than its Italian counterpart due to the absence of alcohol, the Turkish tiramisu was a sweet, crunchy cornucopia of taste.
To round it all off, cubes of Turkish Delight came in a silver container, alongside a lovely Turkish wooden box containing ... the bill!
On that evening, Az had everything we could have asked for in a dining experience – intimate yet lively atmosphere, superb service, delicious fresh food cooked to perfection ... even the loo was faultless! It’s not cheap – but well worth the expense. In fact, Az was a veritable A-Z of dining excellence.
OVERALL RATING: 9