by Carrie Gross on uppereast.com
A welcomed new neighbor in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood, Peri Ela offers Upper East Siders tasty Turkish cuisine in a sophisticated speakeasy-like environment. Located on Lexington Avenue between 90th and 91st street, this petite restaurant offers a large packed menu of Turkish delicacies in a soothing and sophisticated environment.
With seating for only 40 patrons, people can expect long lines once this 2-month old restaurant’s reputation starts to circulate among the locals. Rich cherry wood paneled walls, a tin ceiling and a décor that is reminiscent of a bygone era are modernized by the interesting artwork which adorns the walls. Huge portraits of sexy women (oddly some are smoking cigarettes which seems to go against the Bloomberg-era chic) with a 1980s feel, stare down at diners while they select Turkish wines thanks to the newly acquired liquor license.
A majestic wood bar wraps around providing a counter bar area with seating for 8, allows single diners to enjoy from the menu or settle back after a long day with a drink from the fully-stocked glass shelf bar which hangs on the wall behind. Peri Ela’s intimate setting makes this spot a wonderful date place on the Upper East Side. With reasonable prices (most entrees are under $20, appetizers are between $7-9), a romantic flare and exotic worldly cuisine, Peri Ela is sure to be the first date capital of the Upper East Side.
To start, we ordered the vegetarian platter which was listed under main courses for $18, but was an assortment of mezes from the appetizer column: hummus, patlican salatasi (smoked eggplant), fasulye pilaki (red beans, potatoes, carrots in tomato sauce), ezme (spicy chopped vegetables), stuffed grape leaves and soslu patlican (eggplant in tomato sauce). We used the Turkish bread which seemed like a hybrid of pita and foccacia to dip into each. We received only 4 small pieces to start and had to request more from our waitress who gladly brought us a second helping. I sampled the Tarama (carp roe caviar spread) which is one of my favorite Turkish dishes. It stacked up well to Sip Sak’s, another Turkish restaurant I frequent. Creamy in texture, the portion size of the tarama was smaller than I expected, but adequate for both my dining companion and I to enjoy.
The entrée column offers a variety of items, nothing far astray from the typical Turkish restaurant menu. Lots of kabobs, lamb, chicken and a few fresh fishes, the menu did not offer much in the way for red meat/steak lovers. Food service was very prompt and our entrees arrived before our appetizer plates were cleared. I ordered the Yogurtlu Tavuk Adana (spicy char-grilled ground chicken, over garlic-yogurt sauce and pita bread). The chicken was extremely tender and moist with a rich yet not overly spicy flavor. Beneath a layer of sliced chicken, the yogurt sauce was slightly enveloping and heavy. My companion ordered a dinner size portion of the Ahtapot Salatasi (octopus salad). He found the dish fresh and not heavily-laden with grease or oils, a healthy dinner option for the calorie conscious among us.
Peri Ela is the place to go to satiate your craving for adana kebap yogurtlu (spicy grilled lamb over garlic-yogurt sauce and pita bread) or simply for a good piece of grilled fish. But leave your American Express card at home, Peri Ela is cash only. What would be more embarrassing on a first date than to reach for your empty billfold and end up in the kitchen washing hummus from dishes?
1361 Lexington Avenue (90th & 91st)
New York, NY 10128