Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY | I just want to eat!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

image of Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Last Saturday, we were invited at Roka Turkish Cuisine restaurant in Kew Gardens. The restaurant, which opened almost a year ago, features a Mediterranean menu crafted by Chef Erol Firat. We got to meet with Annette Dulger, one of the owners and had a nice chat during this incredible tasting you will witness in this post, talking about her home country, Turkey (Annette was born and raised in Istanbul), but also about food! What sets apart Roka (that means arugula - salad rocket) is definitely the food: ingredients are purchased in local farms and you will not find any meat with hormones, canned or processed food! And you can definitely taste it! 
image of Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

The place is bright, with a simple decor; one of the colors that is prominent there is blue and there are large ovals of blue on the ceiling, to represent the sea.

When we arrived (early), the restaurant was empty, but as the time passed, it got very crowded with an heterogenous clientele: families, friends, couples, young, older...For sure, there were regular customers, welcomed by Annette with a kiss on the cheeks, very European. Annette spent a lot of time talking to us, but giving us some space so we could appreciate a dinner en tête-à-tête, but we quickly realized that most of the customers received the same treatment: she was talking to them, making sure that they were fine or did not need anything, sometimes sitting with them for a quick chat. It did not seem to be intrusive and in fact, contributed to the feeling that it is more than a neighborhood gem: more like going to a friend's home and catching up, regulars treated equal with newcomers. 
image of Turkish soda at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

It was time for us to start what would be a feast! Annette proposed to try some Turkish drinks (non-alcoholic as they do not have yet a liquor license). So we had a sour cherry juice as well as a sparkling soda that had a slight bubble gum taste! I usually do not like sour cherry juice because it is too sweet and too sour; this one was perfect.

Then, they brought us some Turkish olives and olive oil, also from Turkey:
image of olive oil and olives at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

As well as some Turkish bread, freshly made!
image of Turkish bread at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

The bread was light and airy, with sesame seeds on top, perfect with the olive oil, but also with the cold appetizers they brought us:
image of appetizer sampler at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

It was a sampler similar to the one on the menu, but with few more dishes. The one on the menu has Lebni, Babaganush, special spicy Ezme and hummus for $12. Proposing a sampler is a great idea because it allows patrons to try different appetizers and I am often frustrated when there are so many good things on a menu to try and no sampler is proposed. 

We had:

Hummus, made with mashed chickpeas, fresh garlic, tahini and herbs:

image of hummus at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Babaganush (smoked eggplant puree, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and tahini:
image of babaganush at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Acili Ezme (Special spicy Ezme) - walnut, tomato paste, garlic and spices (yes, this is spicy and a good way to neutralize the spices is by eating Lebni!).
image of acili ezme at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Lebni - strained yoghurt:
image of lebni at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Domates Soslu Patlican or Eggplant with tomato sauce peppers and garlic (reminded me in a way of shekshouka):
image of eggplant with tomato sauce at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY


Enginar or braised artichoke served with peas, carrots and olive oil:
image of braised artichokes at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Zeytin yagli yaprak dolma or stuffed grape leaves (stuffed with rice and the Chef's special blend of herbs):
image of grape leaves at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

This started well! My favorites were the eggplant, but also the stuffed grape leaves (there was a perfect amount of leaf and the stuffing was very tasty). 

Then, we got a sampler of hot appetizers:
image of hot appetizers at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Arnavut Cigeri or fried calf liver cubes:
image of calf liver cubes at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

This was a great dish, especially if you like liver like me! It was tender and not greasy, perfectly cooked, so still moist.

Kalamar or fried calamari:
image of fried calamari at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Perfect also, the calamari were not rubbery and the dish had a nice crunch.

Mucver or zucchini pancake served with a garlic yogurt sauce:
image of zucchini pancakes at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Nice appetizer, the taste of zucchini definitely came through.

This was already a lot of food and I did not expect what was coming!
image of mixed grill at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Yes, a full plate made of different meat grilled to perfection! And that smell when it came! I am still drooling!

We ate the following:

Adana Kebab or ground lamb flavored with red bell peppers, slightly seasoned and grilled on a skewer:
image of adana kebab at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Tavuk adana or chicken kebab, the chicken version of the previous dish!
image of tavuk adana at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

IzgaraKotte or Turkish meatballs - ground lamb meatballs seasoned with onions, parsley, 
image of Turkish meatball at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Shish Kebab or marinated cubes of baby lamb grilled on a skewer:
image of shish kebab at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Special Beyti or ground lamb flavored with garlic, hot peppers and rolled in lavash (soft and thin flatbread):
image of special Beyti at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Pirzola or lamb chops:
image of lamb chops at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Doner (gyro) or fresh ground lamb marinated with their own secret blend of seasoning, cooked on a rotating pit then thinly sliced:
image of doner gyro at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Tavuk Kebab or chicken kebab:
image of chicken kebab at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

All of this was served with basmati rice:
image of basmati rice at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

And onions, tomatoes and spices:
image of onions, tomatoes and spices at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

One of the spices was sumac:
image of sumac at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

At the exception of the special Beyti, I loved all the dishes and I was definitely in lamb paradise! The chicken was good too: tender and moist. What was great was that the meat was seasoned perfectly, had a nice char (especially the doner that was succulent) and not smothered in a sauce that would have overpowered it.

Then, as we were talking about cheese, Annette brought us some French feta!
image of French feta at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

It was less dry and salty than Greek feta and in fact, eating it with the Turkish olives gave that nice saltiness to it.

But wait: it was not over!!! We got desserts too!

Baklava of course!
image of Baklava at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

I was scared at first that it would be dry, but it was not the case at all! It was sweet for sure, but not overly and I could have eaten several of them!

Kazandibi, that is a sort of custard shaped as a roll:
image of Kazandibi at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Although beautifully presented, it was just ok for me.

Sutlac or rice pudding:
image of rice pudding sutlac at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

This looked fantastic, with a nice crust made with the milk and some cinnamon sugar on top!
image of rice pudding sutlac at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

The rice was soft and it was very creamy.

And then, the best one! Kunefe:
image of Kunefe at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

It was a dessert made of thin noodles (sehriye) and cheese, soaked in a sugar syrup.
image of Kunefe at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

The crust was crunchy and sweet, thanks to the syrup, and the cheese deliciously elastic. If you go to Roka, you cannot miss this!

With our desserts, Jodi ordered a Turkish tea (Cay):
image of tea Cay at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

And I ordered a Turkish coffee (Turk Kahvesi):
image of Turk Kahvesi coffee at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

Do not expect Turkish coffee to taste like your regular coffee, whether espresso or American. It is a totally different taste that I do not know how to describe. It is an unfiltered coffee and you need to let it settle in the bottom, where a thick layer will form.
image of Turk Kahvesi coffee at Roka Turkish Cuisine in Kew Gardens, NY

This was a fantastic dinner and we were happy to have a short (too short?) walk to the train after this feast! We had a great time and loved the vibe of the restaurant. The staff was very nice and Annette was definitely contributing to make it so welcoming. In fact, the way she handles the customers makes the difference between being welcome and true hospitality. And this was not just with us, who were invited by the restaurant: it was with each patron! I only have a regret: that it is in Kew Gardens and not in our neighborhood!!!

Enjoy (I did)!
Afiyet olsun!

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Please note that, in accordance with the FTC guidelines, I must disclose that I was contacted directly by the restaurant or a PR and that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!

1 comment:

  1. What an incredible meal! Just the first cold apps and bread and i would have been so happy. It sounds like such a great friendly owner who really loves what she does.
    Ttrockwood

    ReplyDelete