I am grateful that when Murray met a Turkish diplomat at a reception hosted by another country, he thought, "Hmmm … Turkish food is good ... I’ll ask her which Turkish restaurant in New York is the most authentic." Even though the inquiry was completely unplanned, the question was asked and answered on the spot: Turkish Kitchen is the restaurant to visit for the most authentic Turkish food in New York City (and it's located in Manhattan; no Queens trip necessary).
A look at the history of Turkey gives us clues as to why its cuisine is considered by some to be one of the world's finest.
A look at the history of Turkey gives us clues as to why its cuisine is considered by some to be one of the world's finest.Turkey was the heart of the Ottoman Empire, which at one point encompassed most of the Mediterranean basin. The imperial capital, Istanbul, was situated literally at the crossroads of trade between Europe and Asia. Royal chefs in Istanbul over the centuries experimented with different ingredients, spices and techniques, eager to please the Emperor. So it's no surprise that today Turkish cuisine is highly regarded – quintessentially Mediterranean, with fresh ingredients and spice combinations that can be surprising.
We arrived at Turkish Kitchen at around 6:30 pm on a Saturday evening, accompanied by our friends Carole and Wayne, who have come with us on many of our diplomat dining expeditions. We had (as advised) made reservations, and were immediately seated.
Our first order of business was a review of the cocktails menu, which features a variety of martinis. In an attempt to keep with the theme of the evening, I decided to try the Bosphorus Martini, which is made with vodka, grapefruit juice, Cointreau, lemon juice, blue Curacao, and "lasting taste." I’m not sure about either the Turkish authenticity or the "lasting taste" of this drink, but it was delicious and did go straight to my head.
But we were there to eat, and so
we did … a lot.
- A platter of cold appetizers, which included humus, stuffed grape leaves, a bean salad, and a dip of puréed grilled, smoked eggplant
- Ispanak, spinach sautéed with olive oil and onions and topped with a yogurt dressing
- Midye dolma, mussels stuffed with rice, onions, pine nuts, black currants and herbs
- A sausage, which I now can't find on the restaurant's online menu, but which was spicy and superb
- Donerli Hunkar, vertically grilled lamb, thinly sliced and served over the same char-grilled smoked eggplant purée that was part of our appetizer platter – which presented a delightful combination of flavors
- Tilapia Bugulama, "St. Peter’s
Fish," served in a casserole and baked with butter, wine, onions, peppers,
mushrooms, tomatoes, and potatoes
- Pilic Topkapi, boneless Cornish hen stuffed with rice and served with zucchini pancakes and potatoes
Although our meal included much meat and seafood, it's worth noting that an adventurous vegetarian could also have a great meal here. There is one all-vegetable entrée, and numerous vegetarian appetizers.
For dessert, we selected three from the platter our waiter brought to us – baklava, a shredded-wheat cake with pistachios, and stuffed dried apricots. This photo shows one person’s serving, sitting next to Wayne's Turkish coffee.
The food was great. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that, of the diplomat dining experiences we have now accumulated, the food at Turkish Kitchen might be my favorite. However, I cannot say that this was my favorite restaurant.
A restaurant experience is, of course, affected by a combination of the foods and the atmosphere. With two floors of seating, Turkish Kitchen is the largest restaurant we’ve visited to date as diplomat diners. Almost every table was taken on the Saturday night we were there, and as a result the wait staff was extremely busy and rushed – not able to give us the attention that we have enjoyed elsewhere.
Still, because the food was so amazing, I'll go back and highly recommend that you try it as well.
Our bill, including food for the four of us, our drinks, a bottle of wine, and a tip, came to just over $200. All major credit cards are accepted.
Where and When
386 Third Avenue (between 27th and 28th)
New York, NY 10016
Monday – Thursday
12:00 noon – 3:00 pm; 5:30 pm – 11:00 pm
12:00 noon – 3:00 pm; 5:00 pm – 11:30 pm
5:00 pm – 11:30 pm
11:00 am – 3:00 pm