The city’s best Turkish restaurants offer dishes straight from the motherland. Our five favorite restaurants for manti (similar to ravioli) and doner kebabs, octopus and hummus, borek and baklava, among other deliciousness, follow. By Jessica Allen.
Named for a hip neighborhood in Istanbul, Beyoglu stands out among the frat bars and chi-chi houses of the Upper East Side. It serves outstanding small plates, including an octopus salad (pictured), heavy coins of beef cured with cumin and garlic, eggplant puree, yogurt, chopped spinach, stuffed grape leaves, and hummus. Do yourself a great big favor and order the large meze platter. Then systematically tear off hunks of pita bread, dip them into the various salads and spreads, and repeat and repeat and repeat.
Born in Turkey, Yusuf Basusta, the chef and owner of Liman Restaurant, really knows his way around the kitchen. He focuses on seafood, and the restaurant’s location on the water in Sheepshead Bay means you can stroll around the shore after filling yourself with branzino and dorado, both char grilled, both with light white flesh flaking off the bone. Basusta particularly prides himself on his hamsi, a fish found in the Black Sea. It’s served seasonally, so you might want to call ahead before making the trek.
We love two things about Sip Sak: the food, and the Midtown restaurant’s proximity to Güllüoglu, an outpost of a long-standing, utterly beloved bakery specializing in baklava in Turkey. The ambiance at Sip Sak is pretty great too, with wrought iron, mirrors, and a pressed tin ceiling. But back to the food: we love the tomato salad known as ezme (pictured), the fried balls of ground beef and bulgur shaped like miniature footballs known as kibbe, and the feta cheese stuffed in phyllo dough known as gozleme.
Even as its stretch of Third Avenue becomes increasingly the play area of the recently graduated looking to mingle while doing shots and screaming about sports, Turkish Kitchen remains stalwart and steadfast in its elegance. Take a seat in its lovely sunken red dining room, and feast on kidney beans tossed with olive oil and lemon, pan-fried zucchini pancakes, grilled lamb (pictured) and chicken, whole brook trout, and grape leaves bursting with ground beef, in addition to the many other delightful delicacies of the house.
Of all the restaurants on this list, Turkuaz, on the Upper West Side, is the most transporting. To let you enter the dining area, the host will pull back heavy drapes, revealing a huge room with tables lit by candles and draped in white. You’ll sit on chairs covered in thick red fabric. Some nights, as you eat such dishes as fish kebabs cooked in vine leaves, grilled lamb nestled atop eggplant puree, and lamb dumplings topped with yogurt and tomato sauce, you’ll be regaled with live belly dancing. Make a reservation for the best view.