Chef Orhan Yegen has opened nearly 20 Turkish restaurants over the past two years, and now, he’s brought a two-star stunner to Astoria, Times critic Pete Wells writes.
The chef’s Turkish cuisine shines at Lokanta, a newly opened restaurant in Astoria, from the simple starter salad to the final dessert, Wells says.
The critic says it’s the soups, braises, and stews that set the restaurant apart from its Turkish counterparts, whose menus tend to focus on grilled meats. At Lokanta, the go-to order is a stew like the kelle paca, in which the boiled sheep’s head has given way to several textures of meat, from chewy to lean.
Diners in Lokanta’s custody have signed on for a more nuanced view of the Turkish kitchen. Take, for instance, the shadings that lamb takes on. In hunkar begendi, chunks of it are stewed in tomatoes and peppers and ladled over an eggplant mash beaten to a memorable richness with cheese and milk. Ali nazik is, in schematic form, the same thing, built on the same foundation of milky eggplant, but in Lokanta’s version the lamb is ground and simmered with onions and red and green peppers; somehow it achieves a rich, unctuous consistency that is amplified by the eggplant and the scoop of strained yogurt dropped on top.
As for desserts, those are a treat, too: Go for the butternut squash, he writes, baked in its own juices with nothing but sugar. Two stars.