VILNIUS - The recently opened Turkish restaurant Ephesus provides a rare but welcome opportunity for Vilniusites to try Mediterranean-cum-Arabic cuisine in the center of town.
Named after the ancient city, Ephesus tempts passers-by into its lair with an eye-catching display of exotic water pipes resting on colorful carpets in its window.
Although nothing out of the ordinary, the interior of the restaurant is nonetheless pleasant. The first thing that strikes you as you enter the place is the brightly colored tablecloths and the vivid images of Turkey hanging on the wall.
Whether or not the owners realize it, Ephesus serves as a good advert for Turkey. Confronted with a typically gray Lithuanian day outside, people will probably be tempted to bolt into a place that seems to glow with warmth and vicarious sunshine – even if it is a total mirage.
Although Ephesus is a restaurant, it's a great place to get a snack as well. The menu has a fine selection of salads, soups, kebabs and sandwiches. There are also the usual specialties such as Turkish coffee, with its ridiculously rich taste, and almost criminally sweet Turkish deserts.
And considering that the place is located smack dab in the center of town, the prices are pleasantly down to earth.
Ephesus already attracts a fair amount of foreigners, quite probably for the excellent and authentic-tasting kebabs, which are a real rarity in Vilnius. Indeed, when this reviewer paid the restaurant a visit, there were all sorts of languages going on around me - all, that is, except for Lithuanian.
Another added attraction to the place is that it is relatively quiet, at least during the daytime. It's perfect for a quiet meal between friends. Somehow the Turkish passion for food rubs off on you, and you just want to sit back and leisurely pass the time.
The service is also definitely worth noting. It's amazing how the Turks can be incredibly friendly and welcoming without ever quite being sycophantic. The result is that you are really made to feel welcome and as a result want to come again. It may not be the most professional service you'll ever experience, but the sincere smiles more than make up for it.
But just a word of warning. The staff seems rather keen to gauge the customers' reaction to the food and once in a while a Turkish chef peeks out through the kitchen door to check on the facial feedback of customers. Don't let him catch you with a hot pepper in your mouth.
It's also good to know that Ephesus is open until the wee hours. It is sometimes a struggle to find edible food in Vilnius after midnight, so this is definitely a welcome addition to the city's culinary nightlife.
5 Traku, Vilnius
Open: Seven days,
10 a.m. – 6 a.m.