By Steve Mosco
There is no shortage of international cuisine in Queens — the city’s mecca for diverse eats, expertly prepared by chefs who grew up surrounded by deliciously unique fare.
Astute eaters in the borough know exactly where to go to satisfy specific gastro-cravings and anyone desiring Israeli and Moroccan Bucharian fusion now have a destination restaurant.
Grill Palace, at 64-19 108th St., opened in Forest Hills in September and ever since has welcomed the neighborhood into its homelike surroundings for intensely flavorful, succulent dishes.
Walking into Grill Palace, eyes are instantly drawn to the left, where two shawarmas — meat cylinders on vertical spits — of chicken and lamb enticingly rotate while basting in their own luscious fat. With Middle Eastern spices filling the air, the aroma of these two pillars of delicious wonder is enough to make visitors eager for the roasted meats on a platter or stuffed into a homemade pita.
Owner Ilya Zavolunov, 32, of Forest Hills, is originally from Tajikistan, which was formerly a part of the Soviet Union. His knowledge of food and expertise comes from Vienna, Austria, where he operated a Dona Shawarma restaurant starting at age 15.
The restaurateur said freshly prepared fusion food blending the finest Middle Eastern ingredients imported from Turkey, Israel and Uzbekistan best describe what is served at Grill Palace.
“The aroma of meats and fish being grilled to perfection fill the air and blend with the fragrance of cilantro, parsley, garlic and chickpeas from Turkey,” said Zavolunov.
Grill Palace’s mantra neatly sums up its philosophy: You enter as a stranger and you leave as part of their extended family. The restaurant boasts modern decor and a private party room that can accommodate up to 50 people.
The restaurant’s manager, Alex Aminov, said the restaurant caters to a broad swath of customers — from Russians and Persians to Americans and a large neighborhood Jewish population.
“It is important to treat customers like family,” said Aminov. “We want families in here because we are a family.”
And both families and single eaters looking for a quick bite or an extended meal have plenty to choose from at Grill Palace. The restaurant offers 15 different types of grilled shish kabobs, all priced between $3.99 and $4.50. The pita sandwiches are offered in many different varieties, including chicken, lamb, beef and falafel, among many others. Fresh fish is also available, as is a savory assortment of grilled meat options.
The pita sandwiches are fast food the way it should be done, and Grill Palace does not need a goofy mascot to attract business.
Aminov said offering true Glatt Kosher food to the community is something owners take very seriously. A rabbi is on hand from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m., inspecting the food and giving his seal of approval.
“If he does not approve of the food, we do not serve it,” said Aminov. “It is very strict and the community can trust that we are truly Glatt Kosher.”
One unexpected surprise lies on the restaurant’s back wall. While the sizzle of meat rules the front, the masterful chop of a sushi savant provides an unpredictable addition to the restaurant’s menu.
“We wanted to offer sushi because it is different. You don’t expect sushi coming from a place like this,” said Aminov, adding the sushi is also Glatt Kosher. “Our sushi chef is a professional.”
Grill Palace is open Sunday through Tuesday from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. until two hours before the Sabbath; and Saturday from 11 a.m. until one hour after Shabbat. All major credit cards are accepted and Grill Palace has a full liquor license.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.