Thursday, July 01, 2004

Turkish Delight 

So I don't know if you've noticed, but The City has become hip to Turkish food. I remember about 8 years ago, we had a good Turkish restaurant on the UWS around 79th and Amsterdam called Istanbul. It didn't last long. The one "high end" Turkish restaurant was over on 57th Street called Deniz a la Turk. It isn't there anymore either.

These days, The City is chock-a-block with Turkish restaurants. And I'm not complaining about it, because they are by and large very good.

Ali Baba
Thanks to my friend Tim, I found Ali Baba on East 34th between Lex & 3rd. (To confuse matters slightly, they've just moved about 15 yards east. So if you've been there, it's not exactly where you think it is.) Ali Baba is a classic Turkish restaurant. It used to be a dive, but the new digs are much more mid-range and provide a nicer overall ambiance. They focus a fair bit on Turkish grilled cuisine (kebabs), but provide some dishes beyond that. It's a great value and the food has been good both times I've been there.

Located at 81st and 3rd, Beyoglu focuses on meze - what we would tend to think of as appetizers. Lots of small dishes from which it's easy to make a diverse meal. If you like trying "lots of little things", Beyoglu will suit your fancy. The ambiance is good and they have outdoor seating available if you want some good people watching while you nibble.

Thanks to Dan, one of my favorite culture vultures and the "project manager" of my film festival explorations (a post on that some other time), we discovered Divane (Div AH nay). Apparently, the owner has founded other restaurants, including Beyoglu (although, I understand he sold his portion in that venture). Just as Beyoglu focuses on meze, Divane focuses on kebabs and they do a bang up job. At 8th Avenue and 52nd, this is a great pre-theatre spot, too.

Tucked away on 71st between Columbus and CPW is Pasha. Terrific ambiance, good food and a pretty diverse menu of classics including the lamb and smoked eggplant delight known as Hunkar Beyendi (translation: "The Imam Fainted") and manti (tiny lamb ravioli with yogurt sauce).

Turkish Cuisine
At 9th Avenue and 44th is Turkish Cuisine. It doesn't look like much, but you can find reasonable Turkish Food. Unfortunately, the music is usually a bizarre melange of Middle Eastern trance and it doesn't do much for the digestion.

Turkuaz's store front doesn't hint at what's inside. At 100th & Broadway is a very large Turkish restaurant. Completely hung with carpets and tapestries (has the fire warden ever seen the inside of this place?), Turkuaz is a cavernous cave of Turkish titillation. Sometimes literally, when the vigorous belly dancers appear. (I haven't figured out how to predict what nights they might be performing. Some nights, it's a festival of shake-sheik-shake, and other nights...nothing.) The food has been consistently quite good, the menu large and full of most of the Turkish standards.
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