There's a newly opened restaurant in Richardson featuring one of the area's best Turkish chefs. Tantuni Mediterranean Grill is a family-owned spot that opened on August 14 at 925 Abrams Rd., near the intersection of US-75 and 635, with some signature items including a chicken dish no one else in town is serving.
The chef is Ahmet Kara, who owned a restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey before moving to the United States in 1998. He was executive chef at Sultan restaurant in New York before coming to Dallas in 2002, where he was executive chef of Istanbul Café on Lovers Lane and Turkish Café in Plano.
At Tantuni, he's joined by family members such as his daughter Cansu, who manages the front of the house.
"People who know Mediterranean food know that Turkish cuisine uses a distinctive, flavorful blend of spices and herbs," she says. "And then one thing that we do that's special is our use of organic produce. We work with a gentleman who has a garden here in Richardson. Yesterday he brought us fresh basil and peppers, all organic; a lot of our customers really like that."
Their signature dish is Hatay-style chicken, named for Turkey's southernmost province, which they serve as a half chicken with two sides.
"I don't think anyone else in the area is doing it," she says. "The chicken is marinated for two days and then roasted on charcoal for two hours. The tenderness is amazing. And we add a glaze of barbecue sauce we make ourselves."
In addition to food from scratch, they also transformed the location itself, a former liquor store where they built a kitchen that took more than a year to complete.
"It's always been a dream of my father's to open his own restaurant," Cansu says. "He's been in the industry for 30 years. He loves to cook and he's a workaholic."
Other menu items include their Turkish variation on pizza, an oval flatbread called lahmacun, topped with minced lamb and beef, vegetables, and spices. It gets baked, then topped with onion salad, pickles, and lemon juice, which you roll up and eat on the go.
They do a weektime lunch buffet from Monday-Friday from 11 am-2:30 pm, with an all-day menu on Saturdays and on Sundays, a Turkish-tinged brunch.
"Last Sunday, we had a fresh omelet station where our chef was making omelets to order," Cansu says. "And we served our 'Tantuni wraps' — tantuni is a southern Turkey street food item; it's sort of like a street taco, with a little onion, tomato, and lettuce, and choice of chicken or beef. That's where we got our name."