Tag Archives: Mediterranean cuisine

Sofra opens in Sunnyside


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

BRADLEY HAWKS

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.

Sofra Mediterranean
43-02 43rd Ave., Sunnyside
718-706-0600

 

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Cavo: A little bit of something for everyone


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

It is a juicy hamburger stuffed with decadent, velvety foie gras—like a gigantic beef ravioli nestled on fluffy brioche.  It sits on a bed of crumbled feta and is topped with a ribbon of kefteri cheese and pickled onions.  It is the filet mignon of burgers, and it is just the tip of the iceberg at CavoAstoria’s premiere restaurant, complete with garden, lounge and club.

For years, Cavo has been serving elevated Mediterranean cuisine in one of the most sophisticated dining rooms this side of the Hudson—and the current menu is certainly no exception.  A front bar splits off to additional seating areas on the side, before opening up to a vaulted dining room with giant cloth-covered chandeliers.  Beyond that, steps descend into a sunken garden with waterfalls and foliage cascading down two-story walls.

Cavo showcases a lovely blend of favorite dishes primarily from Greece and Italy intermixed with accents from all over the world—under the direction and expertise of Omari Dacosta, most recently of Danny Meyer’s barbecue hot spot, Blue Smoke.  Dacosta has also worked in the kitchens of Trestle on Tenth, Pera Mediterranean Brasserie, and Red Rooster in Harlem.

At Cavo, the Greek influences are certainly the most pronounced.  Ravioli is stuffed with Greek cheese and arrives under a blanket of creamy feta with white truffle essence. Exceptionally tender octopus is charcoal grilled with lemon and extra virgin olive oil, presented simply, yet still an outstanding dish.  Jumbo lump crabmeat is forked into hearty cakes, and stacked with fennel shavings and celery root puree.

A watermelon salad sings with tomato and feta, and jumbo shrimp arrive wrapped in phyllo dough.  Entrees range from plates of pasta loaded with fresh seafood, to an artichoke feta risotto, Chilean sea bass, and even a filet mignon with lemon potato gratin.

Desserts are equally sublime.  A granita of strawberries sits on a Greek yogurt panna cotta, dressed with shavings of lime zest. Nutella crepes are stuffed with walnut banana compote.

Cocktails range from Cavo’s famous sangria, to a cucumber basil Collins or lychee martini.  Sweeter spirits range from a chocolate martini to a sparkling raspberry watermelon diva martini.

From start to finish, dining at Cavo will leave you wanting to return.  Perfect for an intimate weekday dinner or a weekend evening of dancing, there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Cavo
42-18 31st Avenue, Astoria
718-721-1001
Closed Mondays
Open daily at 5 p.m.

BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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