By Laura Shunk
By James A. Foley
By Billy Lyons
By Laura Shunk
By Eve Turow
By Scarlett Lindeman
By Robert Sietsema
By Lauren Mowery
Second-floor spaces are considered slow death by restaurateurs, who prefer a street-level place with plenty of windows. Inspired by an Istanbul neighborhood of the same name, Beyoglu turns undesirable real estate to its advantage, making an upstairs warren feel like a private club. The goofball proprietor works the room like a tummler in a Catskills resort, joking with patrons, turning a meal into a party. To further entice patrons, a beacon shines onto the sidewalk like the Bat Signal, searing the restaurant's name into the concrete. Next to the entrance, a video screen alternates menus, enthusiastic reviews, and glossy color pix of food. Adding to the arsenal of techniques, a tout even hovers outside.
1431 Third Avenue,
Open daily 4 p.m. to midnight.
Not wheelchair accessible.
How many times have you eaten in a Turkish restaurant and loved the appetizers, but found the main courses, mainly kebabs, too dry or too boring? Beyoglu remedies this by eliminating the entrées, resulting in a menu of two dozen meze, priced mostly between $3.50 and $6.50 and mainly vegetarian. Many of these are already familiar, like a particularly good hummus laced with cumin and topped off with a dribble of olive oil, and a Greek salad that features bonus artichokes and stuffed grape leaves. Less appealing is kisir, a tabbouleh emphasizing damp cracked wheat that can't cut the mustard, flavorwise, and a variation on steak tartare called cig kofteblood-red boxcars of ground filet mignon that exhibit an unpleasant squishy texture. "Don't miss" selections include boreks (crunchy pastry flutes oozing feta), uskumru lakerda (smoked and pickled mackerel served like sashimi), and ahtapot salatasi (octopus tentacles bathed in olive oil and wine vinegar).
I lied about there being no entrées. Contrary to concept, a single main course is offereddoner kebab ($12.50). More properly called Iskender kebab, this glorious gut-bomb overlays cubes of toasted bread with slices of mystery meat, doubly drenching them in yogurt and tomato sauce. It's so filling, you might want to skip the appetizers.
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