Happy Lavash, Inspired Mediterranean, is a Turkish delight in Boynton BeachAlan Wax – Delray Dines
Happy Lavash exists because of the long-held passion for cooking of its Turkish-born owner, Aylin Lynn Tolu, who began learning to cook at the tender age of 6 at the side of her maternal grandmother. Tolu has been cooking for decades, but only began to cook commercially in the 1980s and 1990s while a residential real estate broker in California, catering open houses for brokers and their guests. Tolu picked up additional cooking skills in the early 2000s in Istanbul, where she coordinated monthly cooking demonstrations by chefs at the city’s top restaurants for a charity, International Women of Istanbul. “I got the chance to take many classes from world-known chefs, but experience is the ultimate teacher and I have been in the kitchen all my life,” she told me in an email following my dining experiences at Happy Lavash.
Tolu said she opened Happy Lavash to introduce South Floridians to the tastes of authentic Mediterranean cuisine, which she said had become Americanized. “I wanted to bring the best quality, fresh home cooking to our community,” she explained.
Turkish cuisine is a derivative of Ottoman cookery, itself a fusion and refinement of the cuisines of Central Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Armenia and the Balkans, all of which were ruled by the Ottomans. Traditional Turkish foods rely less on seasonings and more on tasty fresh ingredients.
One of those authentic dishes that Tolu offers at Happy Lavash is Hünkar Beyendi ($13.50), a classic Turkish dish also known as Sultan’s Delight. Offered only on Thursdays, it was, indeed, a delight with chunks of delicious, braised lamb ragout served over the creamiest eggplant puree I’ve ever had. Accompaniments included rice, shepherd’s salad, tiny yellow peppers. hummus and, of course, lavash. I reveled in this dish at one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables, which are spread around a large patio. Alas, the view was not of the Bosporus Straits, but of traffic zooming along Gateway Boulevard, which failed to distract me from the delicious food in front of me.
My sweet tooth was satisfied by homemade dessert puddings ($4.95) available in Happy Lavash’s refrigerator case: sutlach, a baked rice pudding was incredibly creamy; and an almond pudding called keshkul that for me recalled the Good Humor Toasted Almond Bar that I enjoyed as a kid.
On a recent Sunday, I relished Tolu’s recently-introduced Turkish breakfast ($15.95), a charcuterie-style serving of sweet and savory offerings, among them traditional Turkish cheeses (mild feta and Kasseri, a medium-hard pale-yellow cheese); olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and pepper slices, and greens. With this came lavash, a feta roll (a feta filled phyllo pastry); an açma, described as a Turkish bagel, but in reality closer to a soft, round croissant, both served with house-made plum and apricot jams (also available to go) and muhammara (a spread of roasted walnuts and red pepper). There was also unlimited Turkish tea or regular coffee. Turks typically drink dark tea, so I did. Eggs, sausages and potatoes were available at an additional cost, but I passed on these for a serving of su böreği, also known as water borek. Su böreği is considered one of the most difficult boreks or boregi to prepare. Sheets of phyllo dough are soaked in water, olive oil, milk, and eggs before baking. The end result: a tender and juicy, almost-pudding-like dish that reminded me of Jewish noodle kugel. There wasn’t a crumb left on my plate.
“I wanted to Introduce Turkish breakfast to the entire community while providing the local Turkish community with a taste of home,” Tolu explained of the menu addition, available only on Sundays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tolu’s baking skills also are evident in an array of savory and sweet pastries on the Happy Lavash menu, including boregi, baklava, kourabiedes (almond butter cookies dusted with confectioner’s sugar) and savory tea cookies.
Happy Lavash offers Turkish soft drinks, juices and beers as well as American beverages and wine. A Friday happy hour with live music recently was added.
Tolu’s best sellers are the traditional lamb dishes, doner and shawarma; ezo soup, made with red lentils, rice, bulgur, pepper paste, and spices; puddings, baklava and kourabiedes. With Happy Lavash’s reasonably priced, rotating daily specials, opportunities to try them all — and more — abound. I know, I’ll be back.Alan Wax – Delray Dines