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Zeytin, a Turkish restaurant on the Upper West Side, has largely escaped critical notice since it opened in 2004. Robert Sietsema of The Village Voice named it Best Trendy Turk restaurant of 2006, which is funny, because I don’t think there are many others.

zeytin_outside.jpgBut Zeytin is indeed a fun place to visit, and a welcome addition to a neighborhood not renowned for fine dining. The space is quiet and classy. The photo above, cribbed from the restaurant’s website, was shot during a Mother’s Day party. We visited at 5:30 p.m. on Monday night, in advance of an opera at Lincoln Center, finding the setting far more muted than the photo would suggest.

We both started with the appetizer that had the most unusual name: Pachanga Borek ($8), five lovely, thin, triangular pastries filled with sautéed tomatoes, cured veal, mushrooms, and kasseri cheese. For the main course, I had the whole boneless red snapper ($20), broiled in parchment paper with shitake mushrooms, asparagus, dill and tomatoes. I could find no fault with it at all: the snapper was tender and moist, and well paired with the accompanying vegetables.

Several of the entrées feature lamb. My friend had the roasted lamb ($19), which wasn’t as hearty a portion as the other items we tried. But perhaps it was just as well, as she reported it was “a bit oily,” although she liked the rice.

Service was generally okay, although the serving staff shouldn’t have had to be prompted to replace our silverware after the appetizer course. The warm, soft thick bread served with olive oil before the meal was wonderful.

Zeytin is gentle on the pocketbook. Most appetizers are $5–10, most entrées $14–22, side dishes just $3. To drink, we found a quite respectable Shiraz for just $30. Coffee after dinner was just $2. The whole bill for two before the tip was $95.45, including tax. It is well worth a visit, and Lincoln Center is only 10–15 minutes away by taxi.

Zeytin (519 Columbus Avenue at 85th Street, Upper West Side)

Food: *½
Service: *
Ambiance: *½
Overall: *½

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