Isot chef/owner Fatih Kekec moved to the U.S. in 2001 from his native Turkey to bring his culinary heritage and passion to Philadelphia.
His profession came as no surprise; he is descended from three generations of restaurateurs and worked in his family’s restaurant from childhood. After studying tourism and hospitality at Akdeniz University and working in a number of five-star establishments in Turkey, Kekec moved to the states and began preparing to open his own place.
That place, Isot, is a wonderful addition to the BYO dining scene in Philadelphia. Isot is warm and welcoming, with an understated charm. We dined there early one Saturday evening to accommodate the 76ers’ tipoff time, and by the time we were heading home, the dining room was buzzing.
We started with the mixed meze, a cold combination platter as an appetizer; it was an ideal choice for the table because it was generous and offered a sampling of the menu highlights — hummus, baba ganouj, Russian salad, Haydari (strained yogurt with fresh dill and garlic) and acili ezme, a spicy salsa-esqe dip of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and parsley accompanied by fresh pita.
We also tried a borek, which is rolled phyllo dough stuffed with spinach and feta. There were several other borek options, but our server recommended the spinach. His advice was good.
Our main course was all about kebabs. I chose the chicken, my husband the adana (a mixture of seasoned ground beef and lamb); our friends had the vegetarian and the lamb. We swapped and shared, all enjoying the selections and variety. The kebabs came with bulgur rice, onion and parsley salad, sautéed vegetables and a tossed green salad. I am still dreaming about the garlic sauce that accompanied the dishes.
Portions were generous and the prices were moderate, with appetizers starting at $4 for a cup of soup, ranging up to $29 for the lamb chop or bronzino main course. BYO helped to keep costs down. The restaurant also serves weekday lunch and weekend brunch.
Chef Kekec circulated through the dining room, greeting customers, asking if everyone was enjoying themselves, whether they needed anything. He was hospitable without being intrusive, and his commitment to quality and service was evident.
If you go:
622 S. Sixth St.
Philadelphia, Pa. 19147
Open Monday-Thurs noon-10:30 p.m.
Friday noon-11 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.