The genius of Turkish cuisine meets Tribeca in a tastefully-apportioned yet relatively noisy dining room, replete with sedate furnishings and the requisite framed artwork of, for example, a romantic view of the Hagia Sophia. Service is enchanting at Turks & Frogs Tribeca, and the Mediterranean charm can be seductive. Start with the formidable selection of cold mezze appetizers brought tableside on a large platter for your perusal and selection. But definitely add a number of hot appetizers that stand out: Mucver, zucchini pancakes drizzled with homemade yogurt sauce have a distinctive flavor and appeal, though could be somewhat crisper. Sigara Boregi, wonderful phyllo scrolls filled with Feta, have the requisite crispness and a delightful taste, neither greasy nor overwhelmed by the pastry. Kalamar Izgara char-grilled calamari really stands out, a fine preparation of generous proportions with a kiss of mint, nothing like the generally bland, overcooked, spongy stuff you get breaded in so many New York establishments. Speaking of salads, we're quite enamored of the Ahtapot Salatasi, tender grilled octopus. Even for those apprehensive of octopus in this big city, Turks & Frogs' preparation results in succulent bite-size morsels served atop a generous bed of mixed greens.
But the show stoppers come with the entrees, in particular that beloved fish served aflame, five of which we observed served forth on a recent evening. Wrapped in grape leaves, the whole fish is baked en croute, then presented with great gusto on a metal platter to oohing guests. The waiter deftly extinguishes the flames, then prods at the crust with various tools while the patrons watch agape as the fish is transferred to a serving platter strewn with colorful accompaniments. While restaurants and table service have become so much more casual in the new millennium, this sort of spectacle is exactly what New York diners relish, for it unleashes our Promethean desire to harness fire. Well more exactly, to have the waiter quench the flames, break open the hidden surprise to reveal a succulent fruit de mer. This is a whirling dervish moment, not to be missed. Meanwhile, roasted lamb called Tandir is also impressive, thinly sliced and served with oregano along with a traditional pilaf of rice. Barbunya Tava, red mullets, appear with gusto and are quite flavorful, as are other fish dishes such as the grilled Levrek (sea bass). Desserts are also served tableside for inspection, and the usual suspects include Baklava and a few others. We were also thrilled to see a perfect espresso, the preparatory art of which still eludes many finer restaurants. However, we did miss the traditional Turk chai (Turkish-style red tea, usually served in glasses.) Alas, this is not Istanbul.
We were most impressed with the service, not least since we were served two bottles of red wine that had somehow been rendered into vinegar. Usually when this happens with a bottle of red wine, a waiter demurs and suggests a second bottle, not infrequently pricier than the first. We accepted his suggestion, and then were startled when bottle number two was equally undrinkable, for even the most jaded Manhattan diner is almost never confronted with such a situation. What to do? We waited for our tardy taste-tester to arrive (who subsequently pronounced it undrinkable), and all stuck with Belgian and Turkish beers for the rest of the evening. In such New York moments, service can frequently become hostile, but if anything our experience was the reverse: we were treated with diligent and attentive service, and continued a wonderful nearly three-hour meal unhurried and unworried that a bizarre gaffe had occurred.
As tables in the center of the restaurant are rather cramped, we would recommend reserving a table along the walls, but for true Mediterranean hospitality, Turks & Frogs Tribeca can't be beat. In particular, you might choose to hold your next event in the subterranean private dining room / wine cellar, which offers particular tranquility. Just imagine a few of those flaming fish and you'll already feel like the next Aga.