Much has been made of the fact that in the last few years the Upper West Side has grown a crop of very good high-end restaurants,
but the enduring strength of the area has always been its myriad ethnic eateries and storefronts like Zeytin, which is possibly the best Turkish restaurant in Manhattan.
Owners Orhan Yuzen and his cousin Ozan Yuzen, both Istanbulians, one from the waterproofing and the other from the construction industry, believed that authentic Turkish food should be displayed in New York (where so many ethnic cuisines get watered down), and three years ago hired Chef Seyfi Urtas to bring that dream to earth on Columbus Avenue.
Zeytin sits on a busy corner and has large windows overlooking the street, which itself provides a colorful show. Inside the lighting is warm, tables are well set, and the service staff, from hostess to busboy, couldn't be nicer or more helpful. In warmer weather this should be an enchanting cosmopolitan place to dine.
The menu is just large enough to be well handled by the small kitchen, and the winelist has about a dozen Turkish wines worth trying in addition to more international bottlings whose names you're probably familiar with, but you can easily order many selections for under $35.
In Turkish restaurants it's always advisable to share, especially with the mezes, and there is a mixed appetizer plate that is an outright steal for $15 ($12 at lunch), containing the chickpea hummus puree of tahini mixed with a judicious amount of garlic and olive oil; cacik, a refreshing blend of diced cucumber and homemade garlic-yogurt with mint; stuffed grapeleaves with rice, pine nuts, and black currants; and patlican salatasi, eggplant salad with sautÃ©ed tomatoes.
The hot appetizers are wonderful, from very crisp, greaseless calamari to crispy phyllo-wrapped cheese rolls called sigara bÃ¶reÄŸi, filled with GruyÃ¨re and absolutely addictive. Best of all are the manti, the classic Turkish pasta dumplings filled with ground lamb lavished with garlic-yogurt and butter and dressed with mint--as good as any I've had in Turkey.524U83
The spices and seasonings of the Middle East are rife throughout the main courses too, which include the vertically roasted sliced lamb called doner seen in every window of every Turkish eatery everywhere, along with a superbly juicy tavuk adana--skewers of ground chicken with herbs and peppers grilled and served with rice and vegetables. There is also a mixed grill of meats. Seafood comes off well, succulent, and flavorful, and hÃ¼nkar beÄŸendi is an eggplant puree topped with morsels of lamb cooked in a light tomato sauce.
Do not skip the desserts--baklava and gullac--uniquely delicious at Zeytin, the flakiness of the pastry with the baklava impeccable, the honey sweetness not too sweet, and the thin wafers of gullac with rosewater and fresh pomegranate just exotic and comforting enough to make it a favorite.
I do not mean to overpraise Zeytin except to say that I've rarely had such an enjoyable time on the Upper West Side and for a lot less money than I've gotten accustomed to paying. This is true Turkish cuisine, well cooked, well served, and done with obviously care.
Hours of Operation
Brunch: Saturday & Sunday 11:00am-4:00pm
Lunch: Monday - Friday 11:00am-4:00pm
Dinner: Monday - Sunday 4:00pm-10:30pm