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Ibo Turkish & Mediterranean Restaurant

Before I get started, I’ve got info for those who ask me about (increasingly rare) places that have live music during dinner: Ibo does, Tuesdays through Saturdays (which are the nights it serves dinner).

And, not to step on the toes of our eminently more qualified music critic Jason Bracelin and show critic Mike Weatherford, this is nice, pleasant (which is to say not headbanging) music, by a Spanish guitarist and a pianist/vocalist. They even seem to tailor the music to the crowd, moving from Old Vegas classics to the ’70s and ’80s when some Sun City-types left, and doing the theme from "Barney" when some kids came in (which some could argue makes you want to bang your head against a wall, but I digress).

And here’s something else that puts Ibo in a very small group: While restaurants in the blanket genre of Mediterranean — where Ibo, being Turkish, falls — tend to be no-frills mom-and-pop spots with bare tables and a row of hookahs in the back of the room, Ibo is a linen-tablecloths-with-satiny-underlayments kind of place. Look across the dining room and you’ll see sparkling crystal and flickering candlelight. Yes, they have hookah service, and video gaming as well, but it’s in the lounge that’s completely separated from the dining room, giving this poker bar a decidedly un-poker-bar feel.

Service is in the linen-tablecloth category, too. We were greeted promptly and warmly welcomed by a proprietor type, and our two waiters were polished and refined, as well as prompt and pleasant. And this, in the suburbs.

So by now you’re no doubt wondering about the prices. Yes, there are a few steaks that are up there, but stick to the Mediterranean specialties and you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck while you revel in an elegant atmosphere.

We truly were off with a bang with a basket of warm bread and an olive-oil-and-balsamic dipping sauce sprinkled with Turkish paprika. It was a flatbread, but thicker and softer than pita, and cut into sticks. And it was no wonder our waiter’s assistant cautioned against filling up on them.

Especially since they went so well with our starter, the cold mixed appetizer plate ($17.45), which was more than enough for two. Ibo’s plates are square in a little bit of design whimsy, and the corners of this one were anchored by scoops of hummus, baba ghanoush, eggplant salad and haydari, a thick homemade hung yogurt flavored with garlic, mint and dill, each topped with an olive. In the center: five large stuffed-grape-leaf rolls that were better than I’ve probably ever had, thanks to the presence of black currants and a generous amount of pine nuts. The hummus and baba ghanoush would have been stars of any other plate, but here they were overshadowed by the grape leaves, haydari and the salad, in which the charred eggplant had been mixed with roasted red peppers, garlic and olive oil.

Kasseri cheese kofte ($16.95) was an entree of seasoned, grilled ground-beef patties — those would be the kofte — that had been mixed with some kasseri cheese. The cheese wasn’t real detectable, except that it moistened and enriched the patties, which also carried a subtle but unmistakable blend of mellow spices. The big mound of bulgur pilaf on the side was a refreshing (and well-seasoned) departure from rice, but even the vegetables were a pleasant surprise here. Far from an afterthought, they were a carefully sauteed mix of chunks of fresh zucchini, onion, tomato, carrots and bell pepper.

Istanbul chicken ($14.95) was quite nice, a chicken breast stuffed with fresh spinach, feta cheese and garlic, and rolled for a nice presentation. This one was a tiny bit on the dry side, but not when we indulged in the accompanying lemony-buttery sauce. And again, the great melange of vegetables.

This was plenty of food, but we couldn’t pass up the homemade baklava ($6.95), which was just sweet enough.

Which, as it turns out, is a good way to describe our entire Ibo experience.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@reviewjournal.com.

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