By Suzanne Parker
Some restaurant locations, for no discernable reason, seem to be doomed. Perfectly acceptable eateries come and go with predictably depressing regularity. Others, equally accessible, inexplicably appear to be blessed.
The corner of Metropolitan Avenue and 72nd Drive in Forest Hills is a happy exemplar of the latter. It entered our radar around 20 years ago, as Dee’s, an early purveyor of designer pizza. Dee’s was so successful that the staff started giving beepers to hungry diners so they could stroll the neighborhood while waiting to be seated (cell phones were a thing of the future back then).
Eventually Dee’s moved across Metropolitan Avenue to larger quarters where they continue to thrive. They were soon replaced by Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen, another success story. Danny Brown’s was, for several years, the only Queens restaurant to receive a coveted Michelin star. Danny Brown has since moved on to open a new restaurant, X Bar, on the Upper East Side.
Enter Rimtin, this location’s latest occupant. It is the recent endeavor of Annette Dulger, formerly the owner of Roka, our favorite Kew Gardens Turkish restaurant. Dulger is an Armenian Christian and Istanbul native. With Rimtim, she hopes to broaden her offerings to more inclusive Mediterranean fare rather than strictly Turkish.
To this end she has added some beef dishes to her menu, mussels, and an eclectic black bean salad. A collateral benefit to Dulger’s Armenian heritage is that wine will be served here as soon as the establishment’s license is approved. In the meantime, it’s BYOB.
We were relieved to find all our faves from Roka on Rimtin’s new menu, especially all their dips. Their mixed meze platter saves you from having to choose. Across the board, their dips are robustly seasoned pleasers — no bland mush here. Perhaps for their relative rarity, we favor the Lebni/Hadayri, a yogurt-based spread made with garlic, chopped walnuts, and dill, and ezme, a chunky, spicy, tomato-based concoction with a hint of pomegranate molasses. There is no wrong choice when it comes to the dips, and the fragrant pide (Turkish flatbread), hot from the oven, would elevate even lesser dips to a treat.
Delving into one of the new, uncommon dishes, we tried the Midye Tava/Fried Mussels. The batter-fried mussels came on skewers. Their crowning glory was a dipping sauce, described on the menu simply as garlic sauce, but whose not-so-secret ingredient is pine nuts. This is a dip that would enhance so many dishes that we’d love to see it included with other menu items.
The Coban Salatsi/Shepherd’s salad is a reliable mainstay of Turkish cuisine. It’s a blend of cubed tomatoes, onions and cukes. Rimtim turns out a great one here. Definitely get it with the optional feta cheese.
We went from shepherd to sultan with Sultan’s delight. This is a dish of tender chunks of lean lamb in a tomato and pepper sauce served over eggplant puree. The red sauce had the right amount of zip. The eggplant puree was unexpectedly cheesy.
Stuffed cabbage, also in a red sauce, had good flavor, but the ratio of rice to meat turned it into a borderline vegetarian dish.
Irmik Helva is a traditional Turkish dessert not often seen in this country. It is a syrup-drenched pudding of farina, paired here with an equal amount of vanilla ice cream. It’s not as refined as baklava, but it’s always fun to try something different.
The Bottom Line
Rimtin is a great option for an affordably priced, deliciously exotic meal. In addition to dinner, they are an excellent lunch spot, serving Lahmacun, the Turkish version of pizza. We’re certain that Rimtim will be embraced by the Forest Hills community, giving the corner of Metropolitan Avenue and 72nd Drive another success story.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at qnsfo
Rimtim Mediterranean Restaurant
10402 Metropolitan Ave
Forest Hills, New York
Call (718) 674-6503
If You Go
Price Range: Apps: $5—13.95; Mains: $15—27; Pide (Turkish pizza) $12—18.00
Setting: Small, modern decor
Service: Friendly, professional
Hours: Lunch & Dinner Tues.—Sun. Closed Mon.
Alcohol: Wine & Beer license pending
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes