By Jane Knoerle
'We wanted to do what we know best," says Ibrahim Ulas regarding the transformation of Mataro restaurant on Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park into Galata Bistro Mediterranean Grill. "Also, there were too many Italian restaurants in Menlo Park."
The bistro opened with the new year. In the meantime, three Italian restaurants in Menlo Park — Gambardella's and Cedro, along with Mataro — recently closed.
Mr. Ulas and his partner and cousin, Cumhur Ulas, are Turkish and the new menu reflects their homeland. For the diner, this means appetizers such as hummus, baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip), dolma (stuffed grape leaves), and kisir (Turkish tabbouleh).
The extensive lunch menu includes chicken or kofte pita sandwiches served with French fries ($7.99), wraps (chicken kebab wrapped in lavash, $8.99), salads, and entrees featuring kebabs or moussaka, rice, salad and hummus.
Vegetarian options include a veggie plate of hummus, baba ghanoush, dolma, kizartma (fried eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, with tomato sauce, $9.99), and a falafel pita with fried garbanzo bean patties ($6.99).
Dinner is more elaborate. The menu includes chicken beyti (ground chicken kebab wrapped in lavash with homemade tomato sauce, $14.95), coban kavurma (sauteed lamb cubes with bell peppers, tomato and fresh dill served with garlic yogurt and rice, $15.95), ali nazik (ground beef and lamb kebab over roasted eggplant, with yogurt and rice, $16.95), and charbroiled marinated lamb chops served with rice and salad ($19.95).
Charbroiled salmon, grilled trout and a seafood kebab are also available at dinner.
"Everything here is made from scratch," says Ibrahim Ulas. That includes a tasty pistachio baklava and rice pudding.
Born in Istanbul, Mr. Ulas grew up in the restaurant business. His father has owned Sultan's Kebab in Pleasanton for many years. Bistro Galata is the son's first business venture featuring his native dishes.
Along with Turkish cuisine, the bistro hopes to appeal to local diners with a 4 to 6 p.m. happy hour, a kids' menu, an extensive take-out menu, and free delivery.
The restaurant is named for Galata Tower, a medieval stone landmark in Istanbul, and features a mural of the tower painted by Mr. Ulas himself. The bistro's decor is in sophisticated gray and black, with red accents including table linens and hanging lamps.
Galata Bistro, located at 827 Santa Cruz Ave. in Menlo Park, is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The phone number is 325-7900.