Tiny Bistro Turkuaz brings elegance to Turkish home cooking
Bistro Turkuaz in Madrona serves solid Turkish home cooking with a stylish spin.
Special to The Seattle Times
|Pancar (beet) salad||$10|
|Karides (shrimp) guvec||$18|
1114 34th Ave., Seattle
Reservations: Accepted for parties greater than two.
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.
Prices: $$ (appetizers $6-$15; entrees $14-$20)
Drinks: Beer, wine, soft drinks.
Parking: On street.
Sound: Quiet as a drawing room.
Who should go: Those seeking an alternative to the Orient Express for average folks.
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard.
Access: Restroom not wheelchair-accessible.
At Madrona's Bistro Turkuaz, small details make a big impression. Roses blush in a crystal vase on a round table in the window. Lilies bloom in the bathroom. A mint sprig pokes from a frosty glass of lemonade. On the sideboard, cucumber slices float in a pitcher of ice water.
A young woman waits tables wearing a floor-length apron as if it were a Balenciaga ball gown. She crisscrosses the red carpet with the poise of a starlet. Customers impressed with her grasp of the Turkish menu are told, "I've been eating this food for 23 years. My mother is the cook."
Her name is Dila Bizel, her mother is Ugur Oskay, and this tiny Turkish boîte, which succeeded Bistro Mazarin last spring, is their dream come true.
Oskay, a caterer and former restaurateur, cooks with a great sense of proportion, wielding herbs and spices with intelligence and restraint. She puts a stylish spin on what is, at heart, solid Turkish home cooking. Her menu opens with assorted appetizers, or mezes, among them dolma, tabouli, hummus, baba ghanoush and cacik. Several of these small plates, each served with warm pita, might be shared as a prelude to entrees, which focus on kebabs and casseroles.
Notable among the mezes is pancar, an elegant beet salad. The sliced beets shelter divots of herbed goat cheese, looking like petals of a flower half-unfurled. On the plate, a trail of orange-Dijon vinaigrette crisscrosses a drizzle of reduced balsamic and the beets' own juices, creating waves of citrus, heat and sweet in every bite.
Crisp romaine leaves cradle the sparkling tabouli salad. Finely chopped parsley, scallions and tomato enliven the chewy grains of bulgur wheat dressed lightly in lemon and olive oil.
Oskay's stuffed grape leaves (dolma) are soft, fragile and subtly herbed. Her hummus and baba ghanoush are smoother and more lightly textured than many versions encountered elsewhere. The hummus is so creamy it seems impossible its base is garbanzo beans. The roasted eggplant in the baba ghanoush is saved from excessive smokiness by a deft blend of garlic, tahini and lemon.
Garlic is used liberally here, yet it never overwhelms; rather, it rounds out the flavors in a dish. This is particularly true of cacik, a tart, yogurt-based dip in which dill, mint and sumac are all equal partners with the garlic.
Entrees essentially fall into two categories: casseroles or kebabs. The casseroles, called guvec, are made with either large shrimp or chunks of chicken breast simmered with mushrooms in a light tomato sauce. Both are very similar, although the chicken included capers, which made the sauce a bit more interesting.
These pleasant, homey stews come in a small crock with pita on the side and a colorful, vinaigrette-dressed salad, but kebabs deliver a little more flash for the cash.
Nuggets of chicken, beef or lamb come to the table arrayed on footlong swords. Long marinating and quick grilling makes for moist, supple meat ripe for a dip in yogurt sauce spiked with garlic and mint. Or try dragging a bite through the intensely fruity pomegranate molasses that dots the herb-dusted rim of each pretty plate.
Kofte kebab, grilled patties of ground beef and lamb, are presented on rafts of pita. Pots of tangy yogurt sauce and sweet tomato sauce are provided for dunking, ready remedies for meat that, in this case, was slightly dry. Like all the kebabs, the kofte includes a salad and your choice of grains: a fluffy blend of rice and orzo, or tabouli.
The Turkuaz special, described as sliced, chargrilled lamb on the menu, looked very like the lamb kebab. But this hearty plate includes patlican sote, soft roasted eggplant mounded over pita, as well as generous doses of both yogurt and tomato sauce.
For dessert there's rice pudding, which I found heavy and dull. Far more beguiling was the fragile baklava, either plain or with a soft layer of chocolate ganache. Both are made with finely chopped pistachios and pastry as thin as tissue paper.
The long, scarlet-hued dining room is as narrow as a railroad car. Walls are chockablock with prints and photos that reach nearly to the edge of the embossed ceiling, giving it a cozy, cosmopolitan air. Through a doorway in the rear, up a short flight of steps, you can see Oskay in the kitchen. Occasionally she ventures out to greet guests, which one evening included a mix of couples, families and what appeared to be half a Turkish soccer team.
Though the evening was warm, we dallied over the last of a bottle of pinot gris, tucked into a chilled terra-cotta cooler. The wine list is gradually expanding to include more French, Italian and South American wines.
Beverages also include beer, fresh lemonade, Coke and Turkish coffee. That thick, sweetened brew, served in an ornate porcelain cup and saucer, was carried to the table on a brass tray that dangled from chains held in the server's hand — yet another of those small details that make Bistro Turkuaz so charming.
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
Furniture & home furnishings
POST A FREE LISTING