Masal Cafe: Kumpir and Masal Special Toast – The Bite

Masal Cafe: Kumpir and Masal Special Toast – The Bite

Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

It was one of those weeks, followed by one of those weekends, topped off with the beginning of one of those weeks. As I trudged along the Sheepshead Bay waterfront, as the sun baked my bald head, a song played in my addled brain. It teased me…

Help me, help me, help me, sail away,
Well, give me two good reasons why I ougtha stay,

This wasn’t looking good. Two reasons? I needed two? One wasn’t enough?

So, feeling beaten, I sat down for lunch and much to my surprise, I found “two good reasons, why I ougtha stay.” Ladies and germs, for the first time ever on The Bite, we take on two dishes. Masal Cafe & Lounge’s (1901 Emmons Avenue) Kumpir and Masal Special Toast.

Masal Cafe will be one of the 21 delicious restaurants at The BITE, the new name for A Taste of Sheepshead Bay, taking place on Thursday, May 28, 2015. Get tickets now!

“Wait just a highfalutin minute here, cowboy. Two dishes? We don’t take kindly to The Bite eating two dishes around here.” Yes, Virginia, two dishes. As I explained in an earlier post, sometimes I need to take on more than one dish to find the perfect bite. Today, I got lucky.

Looking over the menu, I found Masal Special Toast. With a name like that, I knew I had to try it. But then, just as my mind was almost made up, I saw the Kumpir ($7.50) on the menu with the claim, “YOU SHOULD TASTE THIS, once in your life.” I knew I had to order that too. Oh, the sacrifices I make for you, my dear readers.

Kumpir, or a stuffed baked potato, was not something I expected to find on the menu at a Turkish restaurant. Little did I know that kumpir is a popular fast food in Turkey. It’s so popular that there is a fast food chain, Mr. Kumpir, that is taking on the world with the awkward slogan, “We are teaching how to cook kumpir to the world.” I bet it sounds better in Turkish.

In the late 1980’s, the stuffed baked potato was all the rage with dietitians. A baked potato stuffed with steamed broccoli was touted as a healthy alternative at lunch. As people tired of this bland diet, sour cream began to join the mix. Over time, the stuffed baked potato lost the broccoli and all claims to a healthful diet as American’s filled their spuds with Cheez, bacon and chili!

At Masal, the potato is stuffed with what Mr. Kumpir calls “rich antipasto fillings;” black olives, green olives, peas, corn, pickles and Russian salad, all topped with ketchup and mayonnaise. Antipasto? I don’t think so. Delicious? Hell yeah!

When this arrived, I couldn’t believe the size of it! This potato is the size of a small child’s head. I dove in with my fork and mixed the fillings together with the creamy potato just as I would eating a potato with sour cream and chives. There was some cheese in here that lent a slightly chewy counter-punch to the silkiness of the potato and the crunch of the olives. The corn and peas added some sweetness and bite while the pickles tingled my tongue with some welcome acid.  Oh, my Lord. If this is street food in Istanbul what do they categorize as gourmet? Turkey here I come! You SHOULD taste this at least once in your life!

Reluctantly leaving the kumpir, I turned to the Masal Special Toast ($7.00). Again, another surprise. Is toast just another word for panini? A panini is an Italian word for a pressed sandwich, which was a dining craze in New York City just a few years back. Did the Turks invent it or did the Italians?

Damned if I know, but this “special toast” was very good eating. A crusty bread was filled with sosis (a thinly-sliced, finely ground and lightly-smoked mild sausage), cheese, green peppers and pickles. The fillings are then topped with ketchup and mayonnaise. The sandwich is sealed and pressed in, for lack of a better term, a panini press.

After the kumpir, I didn’t know my lunch could get any better. But, boy did it ever. The crunchy, crusty bread barely held the fillings as each bite’s flavors exploded in my mouth. Luscious cheese, barely spicy sausage, snappy green peppers swimming in the mayo-ketchup bath made my taste buds sing. They turned the dirge that filled my head earlier into a celebration.

Cause I love to live so pleasantly,
Live this life of luxury,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon!
In the summer time.
In the summer time.
In the summer time.

Come join me, lazing on a sunny afternoon at Masal’s sidewalk cafe. In the summer time.

Masal Cafe and Lounge, 1901 Emmons Avenue (The Lundy’s Building), (718) 891-7090.

Lyrics to Sunny Afternoon by Ray Davies, © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.