With his eye on Washington's emerging baseball stadium and news that Matchbox, among other restaurants, is coming to Capitol Hill, Turan Tombul is betting that "Eighth Street will become the next Georgetown."
Certainly the restaurateur is doing his part to create buzz in the area, first by financing the Italian-themed Locanda and then by opening Cafe 8 in November. A nod to Tombul's Turkish origins, the intimate Cafe 8 replaces Ellington's on Eighth and adds doner kebab, cigar borek and pide to the international flavor of the neighborhood.
If there's a single dish that would draw me back right now, it's that pide (pronounced PEA-day), or Turkish pizza. What distinguishes the pie from the crowd out there is its shape: Two sides of the dough are folded inward to create a crust that resembles a boat. There are several toppings to mull over; a combination of spinach, feta cheese and olives is among the crowd-pleasers. Created by Hamza Celik, a veteran of Cafe Divan in Georgetown, the food at Cafe 8 includes leaden cheese-stuffed phyllo rolls (cigar borek), overly smoky eggplant dip and very satisfying grilled lamb and veal, shaved over toasted pita and tangy with yogurt sauce: what the menu refers to as "Iskender kebab" and what the kitchen lights up with a wrinkled green pepper.
Ask for a seat in the back of the restaurant, whose warm hues, beaded curtains and sunburst designs help patrons forget they're in Washington. That's where a diner can warm up by a gas-burning fireplace and imagine eating outdoors; behind the glass doors is a garden just waiting to welcome us come spring.
--Tom Sietsema (Dec. 26, 2007)