Food & Drink A rare Turkish gem

Turqouise Grill offers classics, baba ghanoush and hummus, with a Turkish twist.

From front: Patlican Kizartma, fried eggplant served with yogurt and garlic sauce; Adana Kebab, char-grilled beef and lamb served with grilled vegetables on a bed of rice. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

To many of us, the word turquoise conjures up Santa Fe-tourist types over-draped in silver and stone, but the term is also old French for someone, or something, Turkish. You should, therefore, not arrive at Turquoise Turkish Grill with concho belts a-clatter - unless you just feel like trotting them out. And don't expect pork tenderloin rubbed with achiote and dried pepper, or anything smacking of French cuisine: Though it exhibits many similarities to our general concept of Eastern Mediterranean food, Turkish cuisine applies its own, dervish-like spin.

The appetizers will seem familiar on the surface: Hummus is spelled the way it is on many Greek menus and baba ghanoush could be Egyptian or Syrian, but there's something about Turquoise's rendering of these dishes: The classic chickpea and sesame paste blend, with its undertones of cumin, seems especially flavorful spread on the puffy house pita, and the eggplant is toastier and smokier than usual. Grilled eggplant (patlican salata), chopped and served with garlic, peppers, and lemon juice, also has an appealing smoky taste, and chopped Italian parsley added a fresh note. Playing into the eggplant motif at Turquoise, we also had an appetizer of kizartma, fried slices of the vegetable with an especially creamy yogurt and garlic sauce. More garlic would have been appreciated by my voracious crowd, but the eggplant itself was impeccable.

Much of the above is offered on the combination Meze Platter; though the components may change, it's highly recommended. The cold bean salad with tomato sauce wasn't available, but well-cooked and marinated green beans made a respectable, though low-key, substitute. Kisir, an appetizer that looks similar to tabbouleh in print, is likely to be a part of the platter. It's appealingly coarse and lightly dressed with tomato sauce and flecked with parsley. We also tried the anomalous-sounding rus salata, described by our Turkish waiter - recently arrived from Georgia (ours, not the former Soviet Union's) with a Southern/Turkish accent - as a Russian/Turkish potato salad. It was the least distinctive of any of the items on the platter, but played a welcome background role to the more assertive flavors of its adopted compatriots.

Turquoise Turkish Grill
11220 Perrin Beitel
& 5-9pm Mon-Fri,
11am-9pm Sat- Sun
Price Range $9-13
Major cards accepted
Wheelchair accessible
In general, Turkish salads do not contain lettuce, although Turquoise offers a Greek-style salad. The shredded fresh vegetables, including onion sprinkled with sumac powder, which were substituted for grilled vegetables under an order of doner kebab, are more the norm - a clue to the ingredients of the coban salata, with its simple dressing of oil and vinegar.

The doner kebab appears to be the typical gyro blend of beef and lamb, but, freshly sliced from the slowly rotating rotisserie, it's more flavorful. The same meat blend pressed into skewerable strips makes up the adana kebab, and the taste is surprisingly different from the doner. We liked them both, but recommend the adana for its yogurt topping and luxurious bedding of cubed pita bread drizzled in butter. As good as these were, however, the slam-dunk winner was the islim kebab, consisting of a generous lamb shank wrapped in eggplant, baked, and served with a mellow tomato sauce. We devoured this one down to the bone and even attacked the marrow.

The kazandibi, a flan-like dessert, can probably be skipped, but I'll take the lushly creamy rice pudding - run under the broiler to give it a respectably dark top - any day; it was exquisite. The kadayif is also worth the caloric expenditure, looking for all the world like the shredded-wheat dessert common all over the Eastern Mediterranean but nuttier and less honey-drenched than most. I don't know how it would taste after one of the menu's residual Italian dishes (there, perhaps, to honor Soprano's, whose former space Turquoise now occupies - murals, neon sign, and all), but the baklava also gets good marks. A Turkish hot tea or coffee, on the other hand, should be just the ticket no matter what ethnicity your entrée.

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