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New York

LOKANTA

BEST NEW BISTRO

LOKANTA

SHORTLISTED BY BISTRONAUT #2

WHO
Serial chef-restaurant Orhan Yegen, a Turkish-born, America based chef who will tell you with all the charm in the world that he is a proven genius and that Turkey has the absolute best soil in the entire world.
After having opened 20 restaurants in 20 years and having made a name for himself with Sip Sak, a traditional Turkish restaurant in Turtle Bay, Manhattan, Yegen, now in his 60s, decided to leave the City to open Lokanta in Astoria, Queens, without any partner or anyone to tell him what to do. The move pays off; the place is unfussy, the service is passionate and the food is so delicious that we’re ok to tell Yegen he might, in deed, be a true artist.

FOOD
A diverse repertoire of Anatolian food, celebrating the culinary diversity of Turkey with traditional recipes and high quality products.Everything is meant to be shared, and nothing disappoints. In the small plates section, we ordered a combination of classic dishes and lesser known ones. When everyone is suddenly opening “Middle-Eastern” restaurants all around town, it is easy to forget the cuisine’s nuances from a region to another, and how precise and exceptional this food can be.
The eggplant salad ($5) for instance is incredibly fresh, with the right balance between lemon acidity and virgin olive oil greenness. The labneh ($4) is unctuous and deliciously sour, topped with spicy Aleppo and a fragrant but not overpowering hot pepper mint oil. They’re both served with a rustic, warm Turkish bread that’s somewhere between a brioche and a pita, gold on the outside and topped with sesame seeds.
The cheese bourekas ($5) are the best we’ve ever had, rolled like cigars stuffed with feta, delicately crispy and not greasy in any way. The mashed fava ($5) are a refreshing discovery after years of eating fava beans salads in every hip NY restaurants; in this iteration, it’s actually the shells that are presented, mashed and combined with a profusion of olive oil, lemon and dil. So are the braised baby okras ($8), stewed in a sweet sauce of tomato, slow-cooked shallots and a hint of mint.
Save appetite for the mains, which are very generous. While we would skip the manti ($21 -the homemade beed dumplings are tasty but alas served in an overly liquid yogurt), we would order again the cabbage ($19), finely stuffed with a mixture of beef, rice and mint, as well as one of the house specialties, the hunkar begendi ($23) , an imposing piece of slowly braised lamb meat served over mashed eggplant.
Chances are you won’t be hungry at the end of this meal but you must take it on the chin as, for once, the desserts are as excellent as the rest of the menu. The baklavas are, like everything, and perfect and delicate rendering of the classic, filled with hundreds of pistachios and covered – but not sinking – in honey. The almond pudding is sort of like a Turkish pot de crème, with a cloudy almond cream mixed with fresh, raw almonds.

DRINKS
No alcohol yet! Bring your favorite wine.
When ordering dessert, get an order of mint tea or Turkish coffee.

DECOR
The place is contemporary and welcoming yet not particularly Turkish looking (the rooms almost feels Cuban with walls covered in palm tree wallpaper and checkered floors).

NOISE
Bustling with people coming from all boroughs to try the food, but not particularly loud – I don’t recall any music at all for that matter.

SEATING & VIBE
The room is filled with bistro tables and chairs, leaving barely enough space for the wait staff to circulate. It certainly feels intimate yet not 100% comfortable, but the seating discomfort is 100% compensated by the generosity of the food, the passion of the staff and the owner’s one man show

SERVICE
Very reactive, smiley and of good advice. We read in the press that the charismatic chef-owner briefed them all with the following “don’t be a furniture”. Yegen is so knowledgeable and proud about Turkish food that he wants to make sure waiters represent his vision well.

WOULD RECOMMEND
Ideal for a killer birthday dinner or any group dining! There’s so much to try, the more the merrier. 

WHO
Serial chef-restaurant Orhan Yegen, a Turkish-born, America based chef who will tell you with all the charm in the world that he is a proven genius and that Turkey has the absolute best soil in the entire world.
After having opened 20 restaurants in 20 years and having made a name for himself with Sip Sak, a traditional Turkish restaurant in Turtle Bay, Manhattan, Yegen, now in his 60s, decided to leave the City to open Lokanta in Astoria, Queens, without any partner or anyone to tell him what to do. The move pays off; the place is unfussy, the service is passionate and the food is so delicious that we’re ok to tell Yegen he might, in deed, be a true artist.

FOOD
A diverse repertoire of Anatolian food, celebrating the culinary diversity of Turkey with traditional recipes and high quality products.Everything is meant to be shared, and nothing disappoints. In the small plates section, we ordered a combination of classic dishes and lesser known ones. When everyone is suddenly opening “Middle-Eastern” restaurants all around town, it is easy to forget the cuisine’s nuances from a region to another, and how precise and exceptional this food can be.
The eggplant salad ($5) for instance is incredibly fresh, with the right balance between lemon acidity and virgin olive oil greenness. The labneh ($4) is unctuous and deliciously sour, topped with spicy Aleppo and a fragrant but not overpowering hot pepper mint oil. They’re both served with a rustic, warm Turkish bread that’s somewhere between a brioche and a pita, gold on the outside and topped with sesame seeds.
The cheese bourekas ($5) are the best we’ve ever had, rolled like cigars stuffed with feta, delicately crispy and not greasy in any way. The mashed fava ($5) are a refreshing discovery after years of eating fava beans salads in every hip NY restaurants; in this iteration, it’s actually the shells that are presented, mashed and combined with a profusion of olive oil, lemon and dil. So are the braised baby okras ($8), stewed in a sweet sauce of tomato, slow-cooked shallots and a hint of mint.
Save appetite for the mains, which are very generous. While we would skip the manti ($21 -the homemade beed dumplings are tasty but alas served in an overly liquid yogurt), we would order again the cabbage ($19), finely stuffed with a mixture of beef, rice and mint, as well as one of the house specialties, the hunkar begendi ($23) , an imposing piece of slowly braised lamb meat served over mashed eggplant.
Chances are you won’t be hungry at the end of this meal but you must take it on the chin as, for once, the desserts are as excellent as the rest of the menu. The baklavas are, like everything, and perfect and delicate rendering of the classic, filled with hundreds of pistachios and covered – but not sinking – in honey. The almond pudding is sort of like a Turkish pot de crème, with a cloudy almond cream mixed with fresh, raw almonds.

DRINKS
No alcohol yet! Bring your favorite wine.
When ordering dessert, get an order of mint tea or Turkish coffee.

DECOR
The place is contemporary and welcoming yet not particularly Turkish looking (the rooms almost feels Cuban with walls covered in palm tree wallpaper and checkered floors).

NOISE
Bustling with people coming from all boroughs to try the food, but not particularly loud – I don’t recall any music at all for that matter.

SEATING & VIBE
The room is filled with bistro tables and chairs, leaving barely enough space for the wait staff to circulate. It certainly feels intimate yet not 100% comfortable, but the seating discomfort is 100% compensated by the generosity of the food, the passion of the staff and the owner’s one man show

SERVICE
Very reactive, smiley and of good advice. We read in the press that the charismatic chef-owner briefed them all with the following “don’t be a furniture”. Yegen is so knowledgeable and proud about Turkish food that he wants to make sure waiters represent his vision well.

WOULD RECOMMEND
Ideal for a killer birthday dinner or any group dining! There’s so much to try, the more the merrier. 

CHEF

Orhan Yegen

OPENING HOURS

From 4pm (12 saturday and sunday) to 11pm. Closed Monday.

RESERVATIONS

No!

WEBSITE

thelokanta.com

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