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Zara Forest Grill - A Turkish Delight

By Billa

This Staten Island restaurant opened in March in what used to be Perkins Pancake House on Forest Avenue. The large, renovated space still looks a bit like a diner, but now there are Turkish touches, such as seats covered in fabric reminiscent of Turkish rugs, a large photograph of Istanbul covering a whole wall, and a video presentation of Turkish scenes.

When you sit down, you are immediately served with a platter bearing balon bread (literally balloon bread in Turkish), a thin kind of pita that is dotted with black sesame seeds and appears to be blown-up with air, and a plate of marinated olives. It is fresh, light, and delicious.

There were four of us dining that evening and each of us chose a different entree from the extensive menu.

Kofte kebab - ground lamb patties made with breadcrumbs, parsley, onion, garlic, and Turkish spices and accompanied by rice pilaf and salad.

Salmon shish kebab - cubes of charred grilled, marinated salmon, served with a greens and carrot salad.

The Zara mixed grill - a mountain of lamb chicken, and beef dishes. There was adana kebab (ground lamb, red pepper, and paprika), beef shish kebab, mixed gyro (thinly sliced marinated lamb and beef grilled on a rotating spit), chicken shish kebab, and kofte kebab.

And my selection - salmon scallopini - salmon cooked in a flavorful garlic sauce with roasted and sun-dried tomatoes, a luscious mound of mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley. A forkful of the salmon, some mashed potatoes, and tomatoes dipped in garlic sauce provided a perfect bite and I devoured it all.

While we were enjoying our entrees, all of a sudden, there was loud Turkish music playing and a bunch of waiters came into the dining room singing loudly in Turkish and one was carrying a flaming entree atop his head on a tray, which he set down in front of some diners at another table. It was very theatrical and fun.

Our entrees were large and filling. There was no room for desserts.

Everyone agreed that we would want to come back. Perhaps next time we’ll try some of the exotic appetizers and desserts.


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