"If you say the word ’customer,’ you
get fired," said Hakan Memis, co-owner of the two-month-old
Bay Ridge restaurant, Blue Breeze, explaining his wait-staff
"This is my home and everyone here is my guest."
The Turkish-Mediterranean restaurant is a dream come true for the Turkish-born owner, although he did stray from the decor of classical Turkish eateries.
The decor at Blue Breeze features antique pieces, like a wood-framed mirror, an old-fashioned dresser and a leather sofa that contrast with a contemporary-style bar with glass shelves and a television set. Small lamps lining the pale pink walls of the dining area project flattering, dim lighting onto tables covered with crisp white linens.
Although the decor might not be traditionally Turkish, aside from a protective glass eye hung on one of the walls, the food and the customs are. A meal is typically started with pan-fried calf liver served with onion and parsley.
If the word "liver" puts a damper on your appetite, opt for top-notch stuffed vine leaves with melt-in-your-mouth rice, pine nuts, currants, fresh dill and mint. Another great cold appetizer option is "lebni," a thick, homemade yogurt with walnuts, garlic and dill.
The "iskender," thinly sliced lamb grilled on a vertical spit and served with yogurt and fresh tomato sauce on pita bread, is Memis’ most highly recommended dish. You can also try chefs Sasha Ilter and Sadik Cicek’s own specialty, the chicken "sarma" (pictured), marinated chicken breast stuffed with rice and pistachios served on a bed of sauteed spinach with mashed potatoes and tarragon sauce.
Blue Breeze also offers rich, but light-tasting, desserts such as the "ayva," an Asian pear filled with vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream and served with mint and raspberry sauce, and the less extravagant, but just as delicious, almond pudding.
Each Turkish dining experience is sealed with a strong cup of Turkish coffee served black with only a bit of sugar. Ask Memis to tell your fortune from the grinds left in the bottom of your cup.
Since the coffee might keep you up for the rest of the night, you might as well move over to the full bar and ask the friendly owner for a glass of raki, the Turkish national drink also known as "lion’s milk." When mixed with half a glass of water, the anise-flavored liquid turns a cloudy white. Drink more than one serving of this licorice-flavored apertif and you just might have to spend the night. A less potent option is Efes Pilsner, an imported Turkish beer.
Blue Breeze [7204 Third Ave. at 72nd Street, (718) 567-8300] accepts American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner from 11 am to 11 pm; Sundays also offer brunch. Closed Mondays. Entrees: $10-$17.