sofra and its oxford circus chef named branch ozer is somewhat of an institution with my pakistani friends. so much so that it is the inevitable starting point for most nights that i have made plans with b and co. in fact come to think of it i celebrated my twenty-sixth there too. so i finally decided to take fellow foodie i to give ozer a try. an eight thirty reservation on a friday night the weekend before christmas found i and i at ozer.
despite the credit crunch ozer was packed and perhaps one of the reasons for that is ozer/sofras menu aptly titled the ‘credit crunch’ menu to reflect the sentiment of the day. upon being seated a bowl of hummus and bread appeared. since i wanted to sample we ordered some hot and some cold mezze and an entree to spilt. there was beef kofte from the hot mezze menu and red lentil kofte and imam bayildi from the cold. for the entree we choose the chicken kulbasti which comes highly recommended from the restaurant itself.
the beef kofte were delicately spiced and was accompanied by a tangy slightly chilli dipping sauce. the meat itself was juicy and moist and the kofte disappeared almost instantaneously. the red lentil kofte were reminiscent of homemade dahl which had been mashed and then squeezed in the palm of the hand to create an uneven longish kofte. once again the seasonings brought out the flavour of the lentils. imam bayildi features stewed aubergine with red pepper and tomato, with the three vegetables being tossed in a generous glug of seasoned olive oil. the combination of flavours is common to middle eastern cuisine and never fails to deliver.
i have had the kulbasti on the number of occasions and love the basic seasonings and flavours. the fillet of chicken is grilled and served on a long strip of slightly toasted bread, a mild salsa-ish sauce, vegetables in a light sauce (a bit like a rue) and a mound of basmati rice that is steamed to perfection and tastes of salted butter.
to end the dinner we had mint tea, served in glass cups. it was fragrant and refreshing, basically a bunch of mint leaves on which boiling water had been poured to draw out the essence of the leaf. there was also dessert which despite having eaten so much i and i decided to order. in the words of i it was gluttony – and gluttony that paid well. dessert was an almond and coconut pudding which was served chilled and with a thick crust which gave way to a creamy rice pudding – there was a strong hint of coconut cream and the crunch of almond in every mouthful.
it was a pre-christmas treat with a lovely surprise – a foodie notebook constructed by i resembling our blog as i had printed and collaged the front cover. it allows me space for recipes and other notes. here is to the beginning of a new year and a new chapter of culinary adventures.
p.s. ozer/sofra’s menu’s are good value and especially helpful when dining in a group of friends all of whom have varied tastes and requirements.