Feel as if you’re in Ankara at this Mamaroneck eatery
Turkish Meze’s parking lot is an unfortunate crumbling rock-strewn space that might quash your expectations for what’s inside. Don’t let it. It may be one of the most authentic—and little known—ethnic restaurants in the county.
The earth-colored wall rugs, sensuous Turkish music, earnest servers and your first bite of warm olive oil-dipped pita should make you forget about any annoying pebble that may have gotten stuck in your boot.
Turkish cuisine uses many of the same ingredients as Greek cuisine: pita, honey, olives and olive oil, warm and cold yogurt dressings, feta cheese, hummus (mashed chickpea dip) and lamb, lamb, lamb. (Turkish Meze offers nine lamb entrÃ©es and frequent lamb specials.)
A restaurant with “meze” (small plates of hot and cold starters) in its name had better have a lengthy list of quality nibbles, and Turkish Meze doesn’t disappoint. The meze list is interesting and varied. We decided on the cold appetizer plate, the best way to sample numerous items—and sample we did. The signature hummus almost made us forget the other selections on the plate; the creamy, freshly mashed chickpea mixture, mildly tart with a hint of lemon, was a quick casualty to repeated swipes of our toasted pitas. Runners up included char-grilled baby eggplant salad and chopped eggplant in a sauce of fresh tomatoes, green peppers and garlic. The only dud was the too-dense lebni, yogurt mixed with roasted walnuts, fresh garlic and olive oil.
Of the hot meze, the cheese sticks, lightly fried fingers of thin phyllo dough filled with a feta-parsley mix, were crunchy delights. Not all was well with the hot meze, though. The fried calamari was rubbery, and the shredded zucchini pancakes were a tad soggy.
Turkish Meze offers soups and salad starters as well, and the Jerusalem salad—finely chopped tomatoes, juicy cucumbers and peppers and fresh dill in a tahini (ground sesame seed) dressing—was the best selection we tried.
With the numerous lamb entrÃ©es offered came just as many results. Baby lamb chops on a meat platter filled with several choices were moist and delicious, but the same plate featured flat-tasting ground lamb patties and overcooked doner kebabs (vertically grilled lamb in a tomato sauce). On another evening, an individual plate of doner kebabs served with a delectable, velvety eggplant purÃ©e, was respectable, but a lamb shish kebab (grilled on skewers) was dry and could have used more spice.
If lamb is king in Turkish cooking, eggplant, the key ingredient in moussaka, is queen, and Turkish Meze serves one of the best moussakas you’ll taste in the county.
Dolma is a Middle Eastern term for stuffed vegetables, and the stuffed cabbage rolls we ordered were disappointing. The flavors were fine but the texture was all wrong—soft on the outside and softer still on the inside. Add to that a warm yogurt sauce, an accompaniment repeated too often on too many dishes, and the dish rapidly deteriorated into a mush festival.
Turkey is surrounded by four seas, so it’s not surprising that its cuisine includes lots of fish dishes, often simply grilled or baked. The brook trout was fresh and flavorful and needed only a squeeze of lemon to make it a standout.
The country is the world’s largest producer of hard-shell nuts, figs and apricots, ingredients well showcased in Turkish Meze’s short list of scrumptious desserts. Aside from the silky, creamy rice pudding, not overburdened with rice, the sweets were rather unique. The kadayif, shredded whole wheat rolled in pistachios and sweetened with honey, baklava and fig and apricot tarts were all stellar. The only end-of-meal spoiler was the excessively grainy Turkish tea.
Most entrÃ©es don’t touch the $20 mark, so dinner at this little gem is a genuine deal. And your car parked askew in the rocky slope of a parking lot? Well, just remember to put on the emergency brake.
409 Mt. Pleasant Ave., Mamaroneck
Lunch, Mon. to Sat. 11:30 am-3 pm, Sunday 12-3 pm
Dinner, Mon. to Thurs. and Sun. 3-10 pm, Fri. and Sat. 3-10 pm
Sunday brunch, 12-2:30 pm
Appetizers: $3.25-$7 ($19.95 for combo plate)