“Where Midtown Meets the Mediterranean”
ADDRESS: 303 Madison Avenue (bet.41st & 4nd Streets)
New York, NY 10017
LOCATION: Situated in the epicenter of midtown, a pleasant stroll from Times Square, the Theater District and Rockefeller Center, while just steps from Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park.
WEB SITE: www.peranyc.com
TELEPHONE: (212) 878-6301
PROPRIETOR: Burak Karacam
MANAGER: Daryl Swetz
CHEF: Jason Avery
CO-EXECUTIVE Sezai Celikbas
DÉCOR: Cosmopolitan with a fashionably modern edge, which adroitly avoids any ethnic clichés with elements such as the massive wine rack dominating the northern perimeter. Walnut trimming envelopes the sienna, burnt orange, brown and gold hued palette, showcased on the dramatically striped banquette lining one wall and reflected by eye-catching convex mirrors. A casually swank vibe pervades, enlivened by the always-active open kitchen with its ten-foot long grill framed by a proscenium of hand-made ceramic, green and honey onyx panels. Anchoring the rear of the restaurant, it is balanced by the distinctive zebrawood bar accented with backlit honey onyx. In turn, the bar is paired with an inviting communal table composed of a single slab of exotic enterolobium, a tropical tree that stands 100 feet tall with trunk 10 feet in circumference. A draw at lunch and dinner, the sculpture-like table echoes the restaurant’s genial ambiance.
CUISINE: Drawing inspiration from the entire Eastern Mediterranean region, there is a focus on Turkish cuisine, considered, one of the world’s three foremost examples of culinary art, along with French and Chinese. The menu showcases regional dishes, particularly those of Adana, one of Turkey’s most vibrant cities celebrated for its special meat and meze preparations. While authenticity is the guiding principle, some Western culinary concepts are integrated. This amalgamation is in the spirit of Turkish food itself, which evolved as a reflection of its origins in a country that served for centuries as the graphical junction of East and West.
Adana Style: An ancient technique practiced in its purist form at few restaurants outside of Turkey, Sezai Celikbas is one its internationally acclaimed masters. It starts with a surgically precise cleaning of a menu of meat cuts, leaving no bone sinew, muscle or organ residue whatsoever. The fat is likewise removed; then it and the meat are hand chopped with a “Pala” – a large, half-moon shaped mincing knife. The two are combined to re-marble the meat at a specific ratio to assure maximum flavor and massaged with a spice mixture.
After marinating for six hours the meat is hand pressed onto two-foot long skewers and grilled. The majority of the fat burns off having imparted its distinct taste characteristics, resulting in kebabs with a sensual, almost velvety mouth feel and a seductively spiced flavor.
DISHES: (Lamb Adana Above)
Appetizers: “Meze” in the Eastern Mediterranean, these savory small plate dishes are typically served in groups – Pera offers 27 different choices:
Beef and Bulghur Tartar “Cig Kofte” – ground beef and spices hand massaged and served on bib lettuce cups
Soujouk Lollipops – spicy Turkish sausage slices on a stick
Eggplant & Tomato Timbale
Fried Artichoke Hearts – with smoked paprika yogurt sauce
Chicken Livers – in pomegranate sauce
Pastirma (air dried beef) Wrapped Feta-Stuffed Dates
Pidettes – fresh baked mini flatbreads – Turkish “pizzas” – with a choice of toppings including spinach & pine nuts and soujouk & kasseri (a sheep’s milk cheese popular in Greece and Turkey)
Salads: Traditionally the concept of salad as entrée or even a side is not embraced in the Eastern Mediterranean. Rather salads are meze. Presenting them on the menu as their own category is an example of Pera’s integration of Western culinary customs.
Pera-Style Tomato & Onion – cubed tomatoes, finely chopped onions and parsley, peeled walnuts in pomegranate-lemon dressing
Grilled Vegetable & Halloumi Cheese (a goat’s and sheep’s milk cheese originally produced in Cyprus) – eggplant, zucchini, tomato and peppers with oregano olive oil and grilled halloumi
Entrees: Lamb Adana – hand-chopped and marinated select cuts of lamb served with house made lavash flatbread and garnishes
Oven Roasted Monkfish – grilled calamari, black olives and sea beans
Chicken Brochette – spice fire-roasted tender cubes of marinated chicken
Filet Mignon Medallions – center cut Angus wrapped in pastirma
Sizzling Lamb Minute Steak – a cut innovated by Pera, marinated, served with wild arugula, roasted peppers and Bulgarian feta
Desserts: Shredded Kadaifi “Kunefe” – molten cheese center, honey syrup and kaymak
Baklava – peeled Turkish pistachios and light syrup
Warm Semolina Dome – cinnamon, pine nuts and hidden ice cream
PRODUCTS: Mediterranean Meats-To-Go – a selection of signature meat preparations seasoned and vacuum packed, including lamb and chicken Adana and the feta stuffed lamburger.
AT THE BAR: Classic cocktails with Mediterranean inflection courtesy of fresh fruit purees of apricot, pomegranate and blood oranges. Imaginative signature cocktails such as the Blood Orange Gimlet – Tanqueray Rangpur Gin, Fresh Blood Orange Puree and Lime – and Apricot Margarita – Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Apricot Puree, Agave Nectar and Lime Juice take tasty riffs timeless favorites. The exceptional range of Scotch, including J&B Jet (seldom seen in the U.S.) is complemented by four rakis and two other rare libations, Patxaran – a Spanish sloe berry liqueur and Ursus – a sloe berry vodka particularly popular in the Greek isles during summertime.
Physically the bar area is conducive to gatherings as is the Wine & Meze Afternoons program – choice of three meze and a bottle of wine – for $39, available Monday thru Saturday until 7 p.m.
PROGRAM: Walls upholstered with wine racks is indicative of its significance. Offering more than 80 selections, including 11 half bottles (another 15 by the glass), the
internationally sourced list is a thoughtful balance of new and old world viniculture, while showcasing a number Greek, Israeli, Lebanese and Turkish wines. The presence of varietals, such as Malbec, Grenache and Sangiovese are testimony to the list’s worldly sensibility, as are high end offerings including: 2004 Arista, Ferrington Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley and 2005 Michel Torino “Chichos,” Malbec / Merlot, Salta, Argentina.
AWARDS: OpenTable Diners’ Choice, Mediterranean
Among Top 5 Newcomers for 2008 Zagat Survey
TimeOut New York Eat Out Awards 2007 – “Best Steak Tartare” for the beef and bulghur meze and “Best Midtown East Restaurant”
HOURS: Lunch: Monday – Friday 11:30 am to 3:30 pm
Bar: Monday – Friday 11:30 am to 10:30 pm
Saturday 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm
Dinner: Monday – Saturday 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm
PRICING: Lunch salads and sandwiches start at $11, with meze from $4 to $11 and entrees $19 to $31.
The Bar Menu offers meze from $4 xxx, entrees and sides $6 to $27, including Pera’s lamburger stuffed with feta, olive and roasted tomato, served on house baked roll with Mediterranean fries and house make pickles shish.
On the Dinner Menu, mezes range from up to $20 ($22 for chef’s sampler for two), salads are $11 to $15, entrees $19 to $45 for The Pera Tradition, chef’s multi-course tasting menu.
Sides are $6 to $11, desserts $8 to $14 for the Mediterranean Cheese Plate – eggplant jam, truffle honey.
Pre-Theater Dinner Menu – three courses at $35, for diners wishing to leave by 7:30.
FUNCTIONS: A private dining room accommodates up to 28 and is equipped with LCD TV, wireless Internet, conference call capability and dedicated audio system.
The entire restaurant is available for gatherings of as many as 150 seated or 300 standing.
CAPACITY: BAR: 14
COMMUNAL TABLE: 12
DINING ROOM: 90
PRIVATE DINING ROOM: 28
MUSIC: Live classic, world and Latin jazz Saturday evenings from 7:30pm to 10:30pm.
Pera’s custom-mixed CDs of contemporary, vintage and folk stylings from throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.
CATERING: Available throughout the tri-state area, casual barbeques to sumptuous wedding feasts.
Pera’s staff will also deliver and set-up for serviced meals for eight or more.
TAKE-OUT: Pera Direct offers favorites from the lunch and dinner menus for pick-up or delivery, packaged in environmentally responsible recycled materials.
CREDIT CARDS: American Express, MasterCard and Visa.
RESERVATIONS: Available. Please call (212) 878-6301 or make reservations through www.opentable.com
By Nancy Walman
Raising the bar for New York’s growing crop of Eastern Mediterranean-centric restaurants, Pera resonates with a singular panache in terms of setting and food. While the former is stylishly contemporary, the latter is steeped in the historic ingredients, traditions and techniques (primarily) of Turkey, infused with New York gustatory flair. With its special focus on grilled meat and seafood, Pera’s can be characterized – again, ambiance and menu – as being akin to the city’s top steakhouses, albeit one with an Eastern Mediterranean sensibility and more moderate pricing.
Rated a “Top 5 Newcomer” by Zagat Survey 2008, Pera Mediterranean Brasserie presents authentic Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, interwoven with some New York gustatory flair, by co-executive chefs, Sezai Celikbas of Istanbul’s internationally renowned Kosebasi and Jason Avery, previously at the former Regent Wall Street hotel. As such, Pera is New York’s first restaurant to offer cuisine firmly rooted in ancient – primarily Turkish – traditions and techniques, which incorporates some Western contemporary culinary trends without compromising the integrity of the food and to do so with panache in a cosmopolitan setting.
Designed by Melissa Brown, Pera’s interior balances warm earth tones and natural materials with the vibrant colors of Mediterranean cuisine. Burnt orange, golden brown and deep green accents, a variety of rich woods – walnut for the walls and exotic zebrawood for the bar – onyx and alabaster panels and ceramic tiles are among the standout design elements. A long communal table sets the stage for larger parties and gatherings. The furniture, also designed by Brown, is similar in spirit to the restaurant’s cuisine – inspired by the East but adapted for New York. Each piece is handcrafted and sits low to the floor, creating a relaxed Eastern aesthetic. Brown effectively lowered the ceiling to make the large, elegant space more intimate by hanging two palas (traditional curved knives, unique to Turkey) made of sheetrock and covered with duchess satin.
The first venture from Burak Karaçam of BK Restaurant Partners, LLC, whose family has owned and operated successful restaurants in Turkey, Pera derives its name from an elegant Istanbul neighborhood that has been a melting pot for many cultures and cuisines since the 17th century. The executive chefs lead a team of specialty cooks from Turkey, collaboratively introducing lesser-known regional dishes and meat preparations to the New York audience. Their menu features more than 25 mezes (small plate appetizers) fashioned to encourage sharing and grilled meats, chicken and seafood, complemented by traditional and modern Mediterranean side dishes, as well as provincial breads baked on-site daily, some à la minute. Vegetarian preferences are addressed by some 24 meze, salad, main course and side dish options.
Signatures mezes include: roasted whipped eggplant dip, soujouk (spiced Turkish beef sausage) lollipops; fabulous fried artichoke hearts and baby sweet peppers; beef and bulghur tartar, lemon-dill marinated sea bass, pastirma (air dried cured beef) wrapped feta-stuffed dates and wonderful pidettes (mini Turkish flatbreads) topped with a choice of traditional options such as fire-roasted eggplant, ground seasoned lamb or kasseri, the sheep’s milk cheese that is a Greek and Turkish culinary favorite.
The main courses focus on various cuts of delicately marbled meats cooked on a 10-foot open flame grill. Pera’s hand ground lamb and chicken dishes seasoned with proprietary blends of Mediterranean spices are a restaurant hallmark, reflecting Chef Celikbas’s roots in Adana, Turkey known for this singular approach to such preparations.
The Best Artichokes
Karaçam believes Pera adds another dimension to New York’s culinary landscape by offering a new level of authenticity for Mediterranean cuisine served in a warm, stylish setting. Pera, with its excellent service, distinguished wine list and exception food, is New York’s most inventive Turkish restaurant and rates A Major on The Walman Report.
Copyright 2009 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved