Creative Cooking – Turkish food with a Russian accent at BosphoRus
BosphoRus is the latest addition to Hartsdale’s “restaurant row.” Mostly Turkish food with a Russian accent is how its co-owners describe the fare. Partners Alexander Goldansky, of Russian descent, and Necdet Kasimoglu from Turkey, met at an English as a Second Language class, and as their friendship developed, they decided to open a restaurant together. Goldansky, who is experienced in real estate, believes “location is everything.”
When the space, steps away from the Hartsdale Train Station, became available, it seemed perfect. Kasimoglu worked at Turquoise in Larchmont for many years and was very experienced in the field of Turkish food. With chef Mustafa Eski, a Turquoise veteran, BosphoRus became a reality.
The large space has a bar in front and simply set tables throughout. A ceiling of multicolored tiles adds interest to the simple dining room. Goldansky and Kasimoglu said, “Everything is made to order and the food has a family homelike feeling. We believe that each customer is important and we encourage their comments, so we can improve. Our goal is to provide good healthy food in a relaxed atmosphere, perfect for a quiet lunch or a full course dinner.”
The cuisine of modern Turkey is rich and varied. Appetizers or mezze are a relaxed overture to a meal and at BosphoRus, the many selections become a miniature feast. A grouping of these treasures can constitute a meal. The cold and hot appetizers at BosphoRus range from the popular hummus, a puree of chickpeas with sesame paste (tahini); babaganush, a smoked eggplant puree with tahini; cacik, a homemade yogurt dip with cucumbers, fresh mint and dill; and ezme, a spicy mixture of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, walnuts, olive oil and parsley. Very enjoyable was the tabuleh, with just the right proportion of cracked wheat, parsley, mint and tomatoes to keep it light and fresh tasting. The stuffed grapevine leaves were filled with rice, pine nuts, onion, black currants and herbs, for a sweet and savory taste. Take note that many of these appetizers are suitable for the vegetarian at your table.
Hot appetizers range from spinach pie, fried calamari, fried liver cubes, grilled Turkish sausage and pastrami borek. Our favorites were mucver, crisp zucchini pancakes, Turkey’s answer to latkes. Pan-fried and served with a garlic-flavored yogurt sauce, they were hot from the kitchen and delicious. A special of grilled octopus was tender and charred and enhanced with fresh lemon and parsley and a garnish of peas, carrots and red cabbage. Feta-filled phyllo cigars and falafel were other familiar dishes. Of the several Russian dishes were Siberian pelmeni, beef dumplings in sour cream. If you crave herring, try the Baltic herring and potato salad with dill. Other salads are a traditional Jerusalem salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, dill and tahini with an olive oil and lemon dressing, shepherd salad and Mediterranean salad with feta cheese and olives.
Lamb is the most important meat on the Turkish table and the lamb dishes I sampled at BosphoRus were beautifully prepared. The popular Adana kebab arrived as two skewers of hand-chopped lamb mixed with a fine mince of red bell peppers, simply seasoned with paprika and herbs and grilled. Served atop a slice of charred bell pepper with fluffy rice and salad, it was most satisfying, simple cooking at its best. If I had to choose just one dish at BosphoRus. it would be a classic dish from the Ottoman Empire, hunker begendi. One taste, and you will know why its name translates as the sultan’s pleasure. Tender cubes of lamb from the leg are sauteed with onion and tomatoes until they’re very tender and served atop a smooth smoked eggplant puree enriched with cheese. BosphoRus boasts three vertical grills to prepare the traditional doner (gyro) and iskender (swarma), thinly sliced lamb, chicken and beef dishes. Baby lamb chops, grilled kofte and lamb shish kebab, Turkey’s most famous meat dishes, are prepared with care and nicely marinated for tenderness and intense flavor.
The bodies of water that surround Turkey provide the fish and shellfish that appear on Turkish menus in many simple and elaborate dishes. Here seafood dishes of char-grilled whole sea bass, brook trout salmon kebab and a sauteed seafood combination are offered. I enjoyed a special, of shrimp sarski. Jumbo tail-on shrimp were sauced with tomatoes, white wine, olive oil and garlic and served atop fresh spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. Salad and sliced green olives completed this Russian-inspired dish.
Chicken dishes are classic and several vegetarian entrees are offered, as well. A special of imam bayeldi, a splendid eggplant dish, was grilled eggplant, stuffed and layered with peppers, raisins, pine nuts and tomatoes. Tradition tells us that the priest fainted when served this dish. For us, it didn’t evoke fainting, but did invite compliments to the chef. A mu-sakka romano will be sampled on a future visit.
If you have a sweet tooth, Turkish desserts will satisfy your craving. At BosphoRus, the multilayered baklava with walnuts and pistachios and kadayif, the shredded wheat pastry with nuts, both soaked in syrup, are very sweet endings. Baked rice pudding, served in a crock, is very creamy and custardy. A tiny cup of Turkish coffee, a strong black brew, prepared with or without sugar, with lots of foam on top, rests until the coffee grinds settle to the bottom of the cup, a traditional ending to a Turkish meal.
On Saturdays and Sundays, a brunch buffet is offered, a fine way to familiarize yourself with this cuisine. On Friday evenings, a belly dancer adds to the enjoyment and on Sunday evenings violin music fills the air.