What to say about Turquoise, a Mediterranean style fish restaurant located in Queens?
If I had to summarize our dinner at Turquoise in just a few words, they would be “fresh”, “delicious” and “amazing.” But I would be doing Turquoise an injustice if I didn’t take the time to give an in-depth description of our wonderful meal, the beautiful decor and the warm friendly service we experienced when we dined at Turquoise.
The adjective “fresh” can be applied not just to the food at Turquoise but to the entire dining experience and Turquoise is nothing like the typical Israeli style restaurants that dot so many streets in predominantly Jewish areas. Tastefully adorned with all things nautical and hanging clusters of bubble lights scattered throughout the room, giving patrons an ethereal under-the-sea feel, the dining area at Turquoise is well thought out and has the feel of an upscale, yet friendly restaurant. And while many of the items on the menu are served straight off the grill, it was a wonderful experience to enjoy grilled fish and cheese, instead of the usual meat.
Our meal began with a basket of fresh, crusty bread and a small crock of herbed butter, delivered with a smile by our helpful waitress Thelma. Just moments later, a selection of nishnoshim, small bowls of dips and vegetables, materialized as well. The green dip, which Thelma warned us was hot, had quite a kick and both the techina and the tzatziki were so good that I abandoned the herbed butter and slathered both of those spreads on my bread instead. The purple cabbage was pleasantly pickled and lemony and both the beets and the pickled mixed vegetables were quite good.
Two plates of salad arrived next at our table, and owner Sammy Marelli, who has been operating fish restaurants for 23 years, joined us, informing us that every salad at Turquoise is freshly prepared once it is ordered for maximum crunch and flavor. The hand cut Israeli salad was impressively diced, the uniformly small pieces of tomato, cucumber and onion seasoned with dill, parsley, olive oil and fresh lemon. The green salad, shredded romaine lettuce with finely crumbled feta cheese, scallions and dill in a red wine vinaigrette was outstanding, with the crunchy romaine the perfect foil for the salty feta. Both salads were judiciously seasoned, with the fresh herbs and spices really enhancing the wonderful flavors of the vegetables.
Next up were the appetizers. The haloumi flambee, a three-inch square of haloumi cheese, cooked in brandy and lemon, was still sizzling when it arrived at our table and was truly unique, it’s mellow flavor echoing a firmer rendition of a really good cheese blintz filling, albeit without the sugar. The whole fire roasted eggplant, topped with techina, lemon, garlic, parsley and chickpeas, was as perfect as an eggplant could ever hope to be. The outside skin was crusty with just a hint of smoky flavor and the inside flesh was creamy and delicious, perfectly accented by the techina and spices.
While the menu warned us of a 30-minute wait for whole fish, our entrees arrived much faster than that. We ordered the whole red St. Peter’s Fish done half and half, with one side fried and the other side grilled. The fish, imported from Costa Rica, was nothing short of stunning, both from the visual and gastronomic standpoints. Both sides were perfectly cooked, appropriately seasoned and calling it delicious would be an understatement of massive proportions.
Equally impressive were the salmon and Chilean sea bass fillets, which we enjoyed on a combination plate. Both mains were clearly prepared with an expert hand and could only be described as heavenly. Small bowls of tartar sauce and a garlic, lemon and olive oil sauce came with our mains and were perfect foils to the fish, although to be honest, the fish was so good that the sauces were completely superfluous. The side dishes we shared, a grilled tomato half, steamed vegetables, buttery mashed potatoes and basmati rice were simply prepared, allowing the star of the show, the absolutely fabulous fish, to take center stage.