We refer, of course, to the curse of Der Wienerschnitzel, the national hotdog chain that long occupied the northeastern corner of Castro and California streets. After the fast food joint pulled up stakes a few years ago, the original structure underwent a series of renovations by a succession of owners who tried in vain to redefine the location as a sports bar, California cuisine bistro and oyster bar.
Maybe Mountain View residents just couldn't avoid associating the place with chili dogs and fries; whatever the case, it was only a matter of time before the right restaurateur was able to put the past behind them — and Bodrum Cafe appears to have done it.
The restaurant's ace in the hole is proprietor Mehmet Degerli, who brings with him a hefty pedigree. As one of the original owners of the highly rated and much loved Zucca Ristorante — the Italian/Mediterranean restaurant that enlivened the 100 block of Castro in 2001 — Degerli understands the allure of high quality food and attentive service, both of which we found aplenty at his new establishment.
Bodrum's square dining room is small, though Degerli managed to arrange the tables to make it feel intimate rather than cramped. The space is tidy, with an attractive tile floor and walls freshly painted in muted tans, browns and rusts accented by white trim. Each table is meticulously set with crisp white tablecloths, plum-colored linen napkins and a rectangle of wine glasses at the ready. During the day, light streams in from windows spanning three walls.
Upon closer inspection, the decor reveals one too many facelifts. Our table blocked a side door that opened onto a wall. Faux pillars and dividers sprout up with little function or fashion. But any such shortcomings are negated by Bodrum's spacious patio. With its large umbrellas and gurgling fountain, I can think of no more pleasant place to sip wine and while away a lazy afternoon in downtown Mountain View.
Our meal opened with a selection of appetizers, including the crispy sigara boregi ($5.95), four deep-fried taquito-sized pastry rolls stuffed with a smooth and rich blend of feta cheese, dill and parsley. We used Bodrum's warm and eggy bread to sop up every last molecule of the smoky-flavored patican salatasi ($5.95), a grilled eggplant dip featuring diced bell peppers, parsley, tomato and garlic infused with olive oil and lemon juice.
Okay, so we went a little overboard by ordering the falafel plate ($9.95), an entree-sized appetizer with four large garbanzo bean patties resting on scoops of humus, tahini and tzatziki yoghurt and cucumber sauce. These were accompanied by a large side salad featuring lettuce, cucumber and quartered cherry tomatoes in a vinaigrette.
Our entrees, while uniformly delicious, were served mildly seasoned (Degerli assured us that they will gladly punch up any recipe for diners who enjoy spicy food). The highlight was kilic shish kebab ($14.50), which featured moist and flavorful skewered swordfish chunks alongside sliced tomato, onion, carrot, green beans and bell pepper. Accompanied by a mound of pilaf rice, the grilled ingredients married perfectly with a sauce made of white wine, butter, parsley and lemon.
We tried a special, paticlan karniyarik ($12.95), a casserole featuring an eggplant stuffed with ground beef and lamb, chunks of tomato, slivers of green pepper, green beans, and carrot slices baked in a savory brown tomato and mushroom sauce. Accompanied by a mound of rice, this was a generously portioned and satisfying plate.
Surprisingly, I was less enthused about the yogurtlu Adana kebab ($13.95). Normally my first choice at any Turkish restaurant, the Adana kebab (more commonly known as iskender kebab) layers slices of lamb atop cubes of fried bread with melted butter and tomato sauce slathered over the top and yogurt on the side. While the ingredients blended into a familiar meaty and slightly sour flavor, the lamb was a bit too gristly.
That hardly mattered once the baklava ($6.50) arrived. Served with a scoop of vanilla gelato, sliced strawberry and mint leaves, our three slices were moist, nicely nutty and not overly sweet.
While dwelling over the final drops of Turkish Kavaklidere Yakut wine ($30 per bottle), a dry red that particularly complemented our lamb dishes, our party agreed that Bodrum was a restaurant and menu worth further exploration. And chili dogs were the last thing from our minds.
383 Castro Street, Mountain View
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday