>> Friday, November 22, 2013
102-07 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
One of the newest additions to Forest Hills is Taci's, a Turkish restaurant on Metropolitan Avenue just around the corner from 71st in the old Metro Cafe space. It's one of the newest additions, but sadly also one of the weakest additions. This is more lamentable because Taci's, with a location in Brooklyn and New Jersey, is no newcomer to the restaurant biz. The growing pains should have ended years ago. The lessons should have been learned.
First, the positives. It's Turkish food. I like Turkish food a lot and I was thrilled that what chose to open in the old Metro Cafe spot wasn't a bank, a nail salon, or a sushi place. I've been saying for years that the neighborhood could use some variety and this was exactly the kind of variety I was talking about. I would have preferred a wine bar to exploit the rear patio space, but... oh well. Taci's is BYOB. Not only is it BYOB, it has no corking fee. They just give you some empty glasses. Great! I love BYOB joints. They literally cut the bill in half. We need way way way more BYOB spots, in my book. Finally, the waiter was a very nice guy and I was very happy with our service. The interior is pleasant and warm and clean.
Nevertheless, as promised, there were some negatives. (1) Myna and I went for dinner midweek around 7:30pm and visions of Old Vienna Cafe flashed through my head. Taci's was comparably packed. (2) Table layout is very poor and the tables themselves are massive. (3) We were given a table all the way in the back, which was nice because it meant that, if we kept our voices to a whisper, no one would hear our conversation. Unlike just about anywhere else, some sort of music would play to add a modicum of privacy to having an otherwise public discussion. But at Taci's, music was kept to a bare minimum - "bare minimum" being defined as so low that you could only hear it at the front door. (4) You'll note that for the first time in a long time, my dinner pics require no flash. This is because Taci's is the brightest restaurant in the borough. Rows of inset lamps blast light down upon the patrons like the ceiling is heaven preparing to rapture them. (5) A fruit fly buzzed around our table most of the time. (6) The food was meh.
When I see Stuffed Grape Leaves on a menu, it's very hard for me to order a different appetizer and I didn't make an exception this time. But I wish I had. These are on the running to get the worst-stuffed-grape-leaves-I've-ever-paid-for award. They were room temperature on the outside and just this side of frozen on the inside... frozen tasteless filling (what little there was of it). Wherever that recipe came from, it should never be used again. Take it, crumple it up, throw it away, pretend it never existed. The second thing we got was the Pan Fried Calf's Liver Cubes. In the same way that it's hard for me to take a pass if I see stuffed grape leaves, it's hard for me to take a pass if I see something totally different. You don't see liver cubes every day. Still, if the grape leaves were bad, then I almost expected this dish to send me to the hospital. Still, pleasant surprises do happen. I wouldn't have it every day and they gave us a far-too-large portion, but it had potential. It certainly did not taste like any liver I've every had. That grainy, chalkiness was fried away. Myna compared it to fried tofu and she wasn't far off. Fried beef with the texture of fried tofu. The onions were a nice balance and I think that if it was made into a sandwich with some more veggies and on a ciabbatta roll with some spicy mayo, it could be quite a dish. On it's own it's worth a try nevertheless. Of course, with all that onion, you won't be making out with anyone anytime soon.
For an entree, Myna tried the Findik Lahmacun, a set of five lamb, tomato, onion and spice flatbreads that were actually pretty good. You get a huge portion and if Taci's can improve the overall dining experience (see below), I can see myself returning to maybe try out one of their other varieties. They have about a half dozen. Taci's also has quite a few kebabs in either beef or lamb or chicken. I chose the Diced Lamb Kebab plate. It was okay, but forgettable. You get a decent portion of meat and onion, plus a half of a tomato and a large pepper, but it's a somewhat dry dish and not served with yogurt. We decided not to order dessert. I kinda wanted to, but we were stuffed to the gills.
So here are my overall thoughts. Half of the experience of dining out is the experience of dining out. The food can often be forgettable if everything else clicks into place. Taci's can start by dimming the lighting, putting some tea lights on the tables, hanging those lamps that they have on the table for color, and turning on and upping the volume of some traditional music. Don't make each customer stand out like they're on stage or in a window display. Don't force us all to whisper because we don't want to have the table twenty feet away hearing us like we're right next to them. Move the big glass display fridge somewhere else. This is a restaurant, not a diner or a deli. I don't need to see half empty bowls of hummus under a saran wrap lid. Sign up for OpenTable so I can get points when I eat there. Make people want to linger and they'll bring two bottles of wine with them instead of leaving halfway through the first one.
While there's plenty of potential here, until Taci's makes some real changes, I don't plan to go back. The food didn't wow me enough to get me to return and the atmosphere is just a hair above eating at Boston Market.
We spent $45 with tax and tip for two appetizers and two entrees.