The location of the new Turkish restaurant Turkuaz has its pluses and minuses. It replaces the former Turkish restaurant, Hizir Baba, next to the aquarium on the river side. It’s a delightful spot, especially if you’re eating outdoors in summer. But, it might take some time to get noticed as it’s not visible from Main Street. In many ways it’s quite a few steps up from the paper-plate-and-plastic fork restaurant that was Hizir Baba. The décor is stylish and tasteful and the food is much more authentically Turkish.
Turkuaz is open daily for lunch and dinner and offers take-out and catering as well. It also accepts credit cards. The table service is very pleasant and helpful, especially for those who are not familiar with Turkish food. The prices range from $3 for a Turkish-style pizza called lahmacun to $16.95 for a huge dish of karisik kebab that includes kofte (Turkish meatballs), lamb shish kebab, chicken shish kebab and lamb chop served with rice or bulgur and a choice of soup or side salad. Be hungry.
The Dish: Although the kebab dishes are likely to be the favorites – and for good reason, their grill chef is excellent — the cold appetizers are not to be missed. It’s a good idea to go with a group so you can order lots of varieties to share. The best deal is the mixed cold appetizers (karisik soguz meze). This arrives on a silver platter and includes your choice of four different appetizers – there are 12 to choose from. Each appetizer is completely homemade by the owners, whose dishes are the most authentic Turkish food I’ve had outside of Turkey. There are stuffed grape leaves, hummus (the best ever), babaganoush, eggplant in tomato sauce, green lentil salad and more.
What’s in it?: Turkish food may seem exotic, but the ingredients are mostly familiar. Lamb, chicken, eggplant, tomatoes, rice, beans, lemon juice and olive oil are staples. Think Mediterranean.
How’s the taste?: A palate of distinct flavors, herbs and mild spices predominate. Turkish food is flavorful but not rich (except for desserts). No heavy gravies or cream sauces. Herbs such as dill and mint are used with lemon and olive oil to to dress the fresh vegetables and lightly grilled meats. Falafel was added to the menu because the owners wanted to include a few dishes that would be popular with Americans. They also threw in hamburgers or cheeseburgers for the same reason.
Sides: The soup choices are red lentil and a warm or cold yogurt soup with rice and mint for $3.50. The salads are $5.95 for small (substantial) or $8.95 for large (huge). They’re extra fresh and served with lemon and olive oil dressing.
Note: Beverages include soft drinks, tea and Turkish coffee which goes great with the desserts. BYOB is fine.