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Monday
Apr062009

Dardanel

During the recession, practically every new restaurant serves French–American bistro comfort food. And those that didn’t before seem to be rapidly evolving towards that model. It’s a cuisine we love as much as anyone, but we’re getting a bit tired of it.

So on Saturday we visited Dardanel, in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge on Manhattan’s far east side. It was a bit out of the way for us, but well worth it. The specialty here is Turkish seafood. The décor is full of nautical bric à brac, and the servers look like ships’ pursors, but there’s plenty for landlubbers too.

Dardanel hasn’t received much critical attention since it opened in November 2008, aside from the dependable Bob Lape of Crain’s, who awarded two stars. But it’s well worth a visit, especially if you’re dining out on less money these days (as we are).

Appetizers and entrées are just $5–12, entrées $16–24. The wine list has a lot of offbeat selections (Israel anyone? Georgian Republic?), along with more standard fare. Most bottles below $40. We chose a bottle of Rock Rabbit Sauvignon Blanc for just $25.

An appetizer of Octopus Salad ($12; above left) was the only disappointing item we had. It tasted flat and under-seasoned; the octopus could as well have been chicken The kitchen redeemed itself with one of the daily specials, a Red Caviar Spread ($8; above center), which came with addictive home-made bread (above right).

There are a good dozen meat and vegetarian entrées, but we continued with the seafood theme. Grilled Whole Bronzini ($21; above left) was as good a preparation of that fish as we’ve had anywhere. Mahi Mahi ($24; above right) had a beefy texture. I would have preferred it a bit more tender, but I loved the cream sauce underneath it.

After dinner, the belly dancer arrived. We won’t deceive you: she’s not there every night. Actually, the owner said it was a first. As the photo shows (above right), we got a first-hand look. We know you expect hard-nosed investigative reporting from New York Journal, and we’re determined to let you have it—raw and unvarnished.

Dardanel is a fun little place that hasn’t quite caught on yet. It was only about half full on a Saturday evening. Service was friendly, if a bit on the slow side, but we were in no hurry. Dinner for two, including tax but before tip, was just $101.

Dardanel (1071 First Avenue between 58th & 59th Streets, Sutton Place)

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

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