Former Lewes Pizza owner Mustafa Murat Tan's (aka, “Mike”) new Aroma restaurant is located in the old 208 Social spot at the corner of 2nd St. and Wilmington Avenue. The location was previously home of Stoney Lonen Irish Pub and also Ann Marie's Italian restaurant that eventually moved onto the highway where Saketumi restaurant is now located. Mike and his newly imported head chef from Turkey, Lütfi Kaçmaz, feature many of his favorite Turkish recipes in an informal setting complete with a bar. Aroma makes for the second great Turkish restaurant we are lucky to have in Rehoboth Beach. And it looks like he is currently batting a thousand, in spite of the continuing difficulties involved in simply staying open and doing business.
The menu contains middle-eastern dishes including what became an instant Rehoboth Foodie pick hit, the Piyaz, a cool and refreshingly acidic salad of cannellini beans, tomatoes, parsley, peppers, feta and a house vinaigrette. Another soon-to-be Rehoboth Foodie Pick Hit is the Muhammara (a walnut dip!). On a return visit I had the Aroma Kebab – donor meat (the same slices that make up a gyro) in a casserole with pita, grilled peppers and tomatoes. Their combination beef/lamb donor is nicely spiced and quite good.
One of the unusual appetizers on the menu is their exclusive preparation of halloumi cheese. This firm and unmeltable cheese is very popular in Greek and Middle-Eastern dishes and can be grilled and even fried. It is simply delicious served with little spiced tomatoes. Another repeat dish we enjoyed is the branzino. They prepare it similarly to their sadly gone next-door neighbor, Azzurro, grilled and crispy. It is quite a presentation Scroll through the gallery to see it, the halloumi and more.
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On our first visit we got the Borak (spanakopita with a Turkish twist). It is simply delicious and the feta cheese is bright and salty enough to stand out over the spinach. Another slam dunk is the babaghanouj – think hummus but with roasted/smoked eggplant. It is also bright and lemony and stands up to any similar dish I had back in Washington, D.C. You can actually get a combination of all 4 of their dips (the Lebanese call that a mezze) by ordering the Aroma Platter which also includes a little ramekin of tabbouleh. We shared the mixed grill which offers tastes of most of the proteins offered in the restaurant. The Kefta burger (lamb burger) is delicious and loved it when we slathered it with Aroma's bright and garlicky tzatziki. All dishes were very well prepared. And wait 'til you taste their bread!
We have returned several times since they opened, and the quality remains consistently good, in spite of the staffing difficulties brought on by this prolonged list of restrictions imposed on our restaurants. Certainly a value-added is the delightful Yuri, who at this point wears many hats , including bartender, good-will ambassador, joke-teller, food runner and server. This guy and Mike's daughter Yasemin are the glue holding this place together as Mike and crew keep the kitchen up and running. If these people (and all the other local eateries, in fact) can survive these continuing hardships, they can survive anything.