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Stick to Turkish at Alpharetta's Anatolia 

Anatolia Restaurant in north Fulton

Surrounded by neighboring "McBusinesses," Anatolia's exterior is designated only by a simple sign stating the business's name and nothing more. It's hard to be sure this is even a restaurant, much less one serving esoteric Turkish and more ordinary Italian food. If anything, the menu meanders by trying to please all palates. There are simply too many dishes for the small family staff to serve successfully.

One-woman show: Indeed, we were disappointed when the proprietor/hostess/cook explained she didn't have time to make the lahmacun we were so eager to sample. This homemade pizza is a hallmark of Turkish cuisine. Usually shaped into an oval disc, it's normally topped with minced meat, onions, parsley and mysterious, earthy spices that melt into the bubbling folds of dough. Alas, there was none to be had this day.

Instead, we ordered an eggplant salad where the vegetable, which I usually find too bitter or mushy to mesh with much, was surprisingly crisp with citrus and subtly smoked. The eggplant held its own among a mixture of perfectly paired herbs all drizzled with just the right blessing of dressing. Sadly this salad/dip was served with processed flat bread that tasted of freezer burn.

Turkish Delight: All was forgiven once we tried the sariyer borek. A steal at just $4.25, this generous triangle of fluffy phyllo dough artfully rolled around layers of minced meat, herbs and dried raisins was a meal in and of itself.

Even more skillfully rendered was the manti, a homemade Turkish dumpling resembling a ravioli or gnocchi stuffed with seasoned ground beef and topped with a garlic-yogurt sauce, melted hot butter and tomato sauce. Somehow, it all blends together better than the sum of its parts sound. For $7.95, this dish was also a bargain and, if paired with an appetizer, would provide plenty for two to share.

Other authentic Turkish dishes, such as the iskender kebab, the imam bayildi (stuffed eggplant) or the mixed dolma platter were all promising enough to make for a menu that could stand on its own without the addition of the superfluous plates that incorporated too many cultures.

Too much on your plate: While it might be appropriate to offer a few selections providing security for the scared suburbanite forced to go eat with those more adventurous, there hardly seems a reason to offer Cajun jambalaya, chicken strips or T-bone florentina (served with both potatoes and pasta?). These and countless Americanized-Italian menu motifs leave the restaurant at a loss for an identity of its own.

See hookahs pass from mate to mate as the dancing girls undulate: Customers should stay focused on the Turkish fare where one can also end the meal with viscous Turkish coffee and a puff on the hookah, a traditional water pipe. On weekends, belly dancers also offer something exotic to the atmosphere that one would never guess laid behind the walls of an anonymous strip store in suburbia.

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