Quick, whats the opening lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody? If you said “Mama”, you are in the majority, and wrong. If you said. “Is this the real life?”, you probably looked it up, after thinking Mama first. No matter how many times we listened to it, we are conditioned to think Mama first. It’s either somehow stuck, or the subconscious default answer as to many other things. How did you learn to cook? Mama. Why do you hate Mushrooms? Mama. Why do you rather not re-enter the house after forgetting something and instead ask me to bring it to you outside even if it means wasting precious minutes? Mama.
Mama was the reason why I didnt care so much for fish growing up. Then I realized I only knew her fish, and there’s other fish in the sea. My answer to how I learned to cook is actually Google. Both of our mom’s are typical eastern European “hold the flavor” cooks. When I go to my in-laws, they know to put certain dishes away from me, and the salt and pepper grinders as close as possible. I’m the only one using the grinders. They are so old they’ve become sticky, and although I continue to use them, I suspect most of the flavor is gone by now.
So instead, we live vicariously through restaurateurs that got their inspiration from moms that can flat out cook. Take Rana Fifteen, a newish joint on the border of Park Slope and Gowanus. Owner Ahmet Kiranbay’s mom Rana, as many moms in Western Turkey, would lay out a feast for the senses on every meal. Fifteen dishes approximately. Hence the number of plates you get if you choose the Rana’s Table option at Rana Fifteen. Just pick the main, one of the three sides, and you get everything but the kitchen sink.
They start you off with the appetizers. Like, all of them. And all of them have an ingredient or two that gives them the extra oomph. From the supremely flavorful garlic shrimp, to the perfectly creamy Labneh, to the as cool as the other side of the pillow Tarama fish roe. It will take a good amount of time to try all of them, and it will take an equal of amount figuring out your favorites. I crowned the Labneh, but there was no wrong answer.
As for the mains, so far, unconventionally we tried the chicken and Iskender steak as opposed to seafood. The steak was a nicely cooked strip topped with tangy tomato sauce (hence Iskender), sitting on top of bits of pita with yogurt on the side. I always hesitate to touch the yogurt when things work. The chicken is nicely spiced, albeit not easy to cut. While I enjoyed the two, seeing the octopus and branzino parade around the room, made me dream of coming back for a third feast. Note, this deal is for two people minimum, and you share a main for two. Its more than enough food.
The first meal was brunch, and the concept is similar. Just pick the egg dish and you get that to share plus a thoughtful array of a dozen or so savory and sweet homemade delights including outstanding pancakes and spreads. A symphony of flavors. There are only two egg dishes to choose from, which I kind of like. Less is more. I usually stop reading when I see a Menemen, one of my all time favorite eggy creations. You can have them scrambled, or Shakshuka style
Rana Fifteen is the latest from Ahmet Kiranbay and Armando Litiatco, the duo that brough us another EWZ darling, FOB Filipino. I tend to stalk the chefs I like. This duo is what NYC food is all about. A multinational homage to our ancestors. The Rana experience is closer to eating in someone’s home, rather than eating in a typical Manhattan resto. The friendly “Brooklyn casual” service, and exposed beams are the perfect fit. Meaning, dont expect your glass to be filled every 5 minutes, or even know the name of your waiter. Just go and enjoy mama’s cooking at its finest.
209 4th Ave (Park Slope)
Recommended Dishes: Rana’s Table (Brunch, Dinner)