Sofra is the newest arrival on the scene in terms of restaurants that are serving a broad variety of authentic Mediterranean cuisine. And while the term “Mediterranean” may be used as a wider label for what this restaurant is about, deep at its heart, the restaurant is beautifully Turkish. This can be seen in the lahmacuns that are stuffed like little pastry boats filled with tender ground lamb crumbles, or the numerous varieties of grilled meats, served as meatballs on skewers, cubed, or available on fresh pita.
Any of the starters can easily combine to make a meal. Grape leaves are rolled carefully around a Greek salad that smells of a sweet perfume. Phyllo is rolled lengthwise around feta, parsley and tomato to create little cigars of bourek. Baba ganush sings of tahini and tender roasted eggplant and spicy peppers are carefully diced into a dip known as ezme. And the hummus — smooth as the purple velvet stripes lining the dining room chairs.
Seafood is satisfying as well. Shrimp arrives stewed in a tomato sauce with hearty chunks of freshly cubed vegetables. Trout is served with a wonderful lemon caper sauce, and salmon is served in a creamy blend of olives, mushrooms and tomatoes. These are some of the best Turkish recipes being served in New York City.
The Turks are a passionate people, and the owners here are no exception. Guests sit and sip coffee or tea long after their bronzini is carted away.
Owners Kaan Oralis and Yuvuz Gülü have been friends for more than 20 years, bringing together experience in restaurants and hotels such as the Ritz Carlton, Plaza Hotel and Waldorf Astoria, where Oralis is still a banquet server a couple of nights a week. So it came as no surprise that the two decided to take a stab at running their own restaurant. And man, did it payoff.
For a grand finale, nibble on homemade honey-soaked desserts and baked puddings with tea and a strong demitasse of Turkish coffee. When you finish, don’t be startled when you are expecting a check and the waitress asks if you have a moment before proceeding to turn over the coffee mug allowing the grinds to drip slowly onto the saucer. And don’t be surprised if she then reads your fortune in the shapes and patterns of those coffee grinds.
Eventually the two owners plan on serving tapas with abundant outdoor seating. But, for now, the flatbreads, grilled meats and baklava are far more than enough.
43-02 43rd Ave., Sunnyside
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