A Trip to Turkey Via Sahara’s

Rarely do I stumble upon a place in the city (and in Kips Bay, no less) that offers a meal that is delicious from beginning to end, but that's what this place does. Sahara's, a turkish/middle-eastern restaurant located just a few blocks from the Kips Bay movie theater and NYU hospital, is a real find. I've been here three times in the past few months and the food has always been spot on. If you think Turkish food is something you wouldn't want to try, you need to reconsider.

Saharas Hummus

I like to start off my meal at Sahara's with the hummus appetizer, which is basically the only thing I can pronounce correctly on this menu. And if I need to tell you what hummus consists of you should just kick your own ass right now. Hummus is amazing and that's all you need to know. We also got the Patlican Salatasi (char-grilled eggplant mixed with chopped red pepper, garlic, parsley, olive oil and lemon juice) and the Pilaki (red kidney beans tossed with chopped carrots, olive oil and lemon). I'm half Greek, so I happen to love this type of food where olive oil, lemon and garlic are usually key components of any dish, and this place makes everything exceptionally well. The hummus is a perfect creamy consistency (still not telling you what it's made of) with the dusting of paprika on top, and the eggplant salad was lemony and delicious. They serve it to you with warm crusty bread sprinkled with sesame seeds. I normally don't eat the bread in restaurants unless it's THAT good (or if I'm just THAT hungry), but in this case, you need to. You can't eat hummus or the eggplant salad without spreading it on some bread. Carbs, you own me.

Saharas Eggplant 
Saharas Bean Salad 
Eggplant salad and red kidney beans

The other thing I can pronounce on this menu is Chicken Kebab, which is what I ordered. Marinated chunks of chicken are char grilled and served with rice and vegetables – so good. The chicken is so flavorful and juicy, you don't need a dipping sauce of any kind. I always welcome a little tzatziki with my chicken kebabs, but it is completely unnecessary here. Not to mention they don't have tzatziki here because that's a Greek thing. But they do have Cacik, which is similar: chopped cucumbers mixed with garlic yogurt, dill and mint. Raise your hand if you love garlic!

Saharas Chicken
I felt like chicken that night.

My dad and his girlfriend were also dining with me yesterday, as was my mom and brother. A lovely family outing if you will: the Jews and the Greeks bonding at a Turkish restaurant. You don't see that every day. Anyway, they ordered the Adana Kebab, which is hand chopped ground lamb seasoned with red bell peppers and char grilled, and then my mom and brother got the falafel. Both were amazing. The lamb was not something that jumped out at me on the menu, but this is why you dine with others: so they order different things and then you eat their food. The lamb was probably the best dish of the night. I have no complaints about the chicken or the falafel, but that lamb was so flavorful and tender. The falafel was great too – little deep fried balls of ground chickpeas and parsley with a little drizzle of tahini on top. Mmmmm reminds me of being a kid at Safta's house. Yes, that's my Jewish grandmother and she makes a mean falafel pita. The presentation of the falafel was really nice; so many colors and textures going on, you have to admire that plate for a few seconds before you devour it.

Saharas Lamb
Saharas Falafel
From top to bottom: lamb and falafel. As if you can't tell the difference.

For dessert, I mentioned that their baked rice pudding nearly rivals my Yia Yia's (Greek grandmother), so naturally, everyone wanted to try and see if it was true. Rice puddings all around. Everyone thought it was excellent; good consistency (not too stiff but not too loose), sweet, smooth and the (what I like to call) "cinnamon skin" on top from the baking. It's baked but then refrigerated, so I guess the only weird thing is that you expect it to be hot when you hear "baked", but it's served cold. Hot rice pudding would be even weirder. While it was really good, the vote was still unanimous on the rice pudding: Yia Yia's is better. But it was a close race. I also tried the Turkish Apple Tea with my dessert. Loved it. It smells like something you would drink in the Fall…and maybe when you're sick too. It has that soothing apple/lemon taste that makes you go "ahhh" after you take a sip.

Saharas Rice Pudding
mmmm rice pudding

Like I said, few places in the city come through on every course, but Sahara's does. I'm surprised there weren't more people in there because the food is awesome, for lack of a better word. Or maybe there is no better word. I am going to assume that it's because no one would think to go in there – it's not on a very busy block and it doesn't really stand out. They should definitely do something about that though. Stand outside and throw marinated olives at people. Or hummus face-painting. There is room for creativity there. AND another plus about Sahara's: they deliver via seamlessweb!

Sahara's Turkish Cuisine
513 2nd Avenue (between 28th and 29th)

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