A Taste of the Mediterranean

By Queens Courier Staff |

Piyaz opened it doors on September 24, 2008, during the period of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Since this opening, business has rapidly picked up, attracting not just Jewish residents but all sorts of diners who simply like good food.
Rafi Libelis owns this Glatt Kosher restaurant with his lifelong friend Ariel Peso. The two have worked together before in Israel before opening up this fine dining spot in Fresh Meadows. In Israel, Rafi was the cook and owner of a Shawarma shop, the equivalent of a fast food place here. His Shawarma shop pales in comparison to the size and menu of Piyaz, which is named after a type of salad available on the menu.
Glatt Kosher cuisine follows a strict series of laws that dictate the way an animal is killed, cleaned and how food is prepared. The word “Glatt” translates to “smooth.” That means that after an animal is killed the kosher way, it is inspected inside and out, checking for any imperfections in the beast. What “Glatt” should translate to the diner is absolutely the cleanest and freshest product one can have.
Piyaz has a relaxed vibe, from the salmon colored walls with brick inlay to the polite wait staff. With a tall ceiling and long tables, the restaurant was made for large groups to enjoy the food. “Jewish families here, they have lots of kids,” Rafi explained, “Some days we have to set up six high chairs for one family to eat.”
Rafi offered us a bottle of Prosecco to start, left over from the New Years Party the night before. Piyaz does not have a liquor license yet but you can bring your own liquor, preferably Kosher. Prosecco is a slightly dry and crisp sparkling white wine from Italy, less bubbly than champagne but equally delicious.
Kenan, their chef in charge of appetizers and plating, brought us a long tray of dips to enjoy before our entrees. This vibrant and colorful array included an exceptionally creamy hummus, Babaganouch, char grilled smoked eggplant spread with lemon and olive oil, chunky pan-fried eggplant cubes with tomato and onions, and a spicy ezme salad, made from chopped tomatoes, onions, parsley and walnuts. Served with this is a plate of warm hand-kneaded Turkish bread, baked three times daily from opening to closing. Rafi refuses to serve cold bread to his diners and says many customers come just for the bread.
Next out was the equally colorful lamb Doner, which is a type of kebab made by slowly roasting sliced lamb meat on a vertical rotating spit, was a savory treat. It was served with Turkish long grain rice, grilled yellow and red bell peppers, and “kebab onions,” a condiment typical in Israeli Shawarma stands, made from red onions, parsley and cilantro.
Other entrees included stuffed Turkish Borekas, succulent lamb chops, and fish such as Mediterranean sea bass, char grilled bass garnished with herbs.
Our next course was incredibly juicy chicken shish kebabs and baby chicken, one of Rafi’s favorites, which was made from the thigh meat of young chickens. As my fork penetrated the chicken shish kebab, juices began to trickle out. Once my knife started to cut, I saw just how moist this tender chicken was.
With little room to spare, we finished with fresh made rectangles of Baklava, saturated in honey but not overly sweet. A rich chocolate souffle ended our journey, paired with a cup of foamy Turkish coffee.
Even if you do not follow Glatt Kosher, give Piyaz a try. I am sure you will come back for more!

189-23 Union Turnpike
Fresh Meadows, NY 11366
Telephone: 718-776-7010
Fax: 718-776-7010
Take-out available