The power of raki


I woke up at 4 a.m. last night with the thought, “Oh God, has the bulgogi been marinating too long?”

When I was an immigration lawyer, I had trouble sleeping all the time, but I thought it was because my clients had such sad stories. Beef marination is not a sad story.


Even before my sleepless night, I’d started to wonder if my all-consuming focus on Korean food was starting to get a little unhealthy. I’m not really sure what to do about it, given my natural proclivities towards anxiety. But regularly eating fabulous Turkish food at Taci’s Beyti, like I did a few weeks ago, would probably be good for me. Also, the national Turkish alcohol of raki is a powerful mind eraser.

Taci’s Beyti had been on my “To Eat” list for years. But it’s deep in the heart of Midwood, Brooklyn, not more than four or five stops before you get to Brighton Beach, and all of last year’s long subway trips had been to Flushing for, you guessed it, Korean food.


When we arrived, the restaurant was half full but still energized, especially for a Monday night. It was as brightly lit as the chowhounds had warned, which just meant that we could see the smiles on our waiters’ faces more clearly when I pulled out the bottle of raki I had bought at Astor Wine. (Taci’s Beyti is BYOB.) And I mean waiters, plural, because all three of them, the young one, the old one, and the middle-aged one, wanted to take a look at our “Club Raki” and advise us on how best to enjoy this powerful spirit.

It was the oldest one who was the first to mother us. When Mimi started pouring raki into a goblet like it was water, he rushed over with skinny glasses and a bucket of ice. He asked us if we were sure we didn’t want to order something, that raki was very strong and would be hard on our stomachs without some salad. (It is very interesting to me what different cultures consider essential food to eat with liquor.) We had barely absorbed the menu at this point, but his concern was so sincere, we ordered the shepherd’s salad immediately.

While we waited for it to arrive, the other waiters made sure we poured more reasonable amounts into the glasses with some ice and an ounce or two of water. The youngest one opened the bottle, waved it under his nose, and exhaled loudly. “Is it a good one?” I asked. “Yes! I drink raki everyday.” He exhorted us, “Do not, do not smell it! If you smell it, you will not be able to drink it.” Since our salad hadn’t appeared yet, we sat patiently with the milky white glasses in front of us, working very hard not to smell the strong, unmistakable scent of anise.

When we finally tasted it, it tasted just as I had expected—like Greek ouzo! (I’m sure the Greeks and the Turks would love that.) Intense with the flavors of fennel, aniseed, and licorice that I love, so when I saw Mimi trying to drink hers while holding her nose, I finished off her glass for her, too.


Given the state I was in when I got home, I enjoyed and remembered the rest of my meal very well. The shepherd’s salad was tastier than any out-of-season cucumber and tomato salad deserves to be, maybe because the kasseri cheese, shaved all over it, was so good. The tarator, described as “a very special mixture of tahini, yogurt, sour cream, fresh garlic and parsley,” was special like crack. The chewy, sesame-covered bread was unstoppable. The iskender kebab was an incredibly tasty mess of meat in a yogurt-tomato sauce, and the karsali pide a truly excellent “pizza,” the salty “turkish pastrami” topped only by the substance and strength of the crust. Was it the raki talking, or were even the French fries calling my name?


We finished with an order of kunefe, the Middle Eastern dessert that is simply and wonderfully melted, sweetened cheese covered in a crispy, crunchy bird’s nest of pastry soaked in honey. This was a dish I’d come to love working and eating with Middle Eastern clients, and the version at Taci’s Beyti made me love it even more.

We were happy. Our waiters were happy we were happy. We were happy our waiters were happy we were happy.

When I got home, I slept very well.


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4 Responses to “The power of raki”

  1. Erin Says:

    Ah, raki… I just had more than my fair share of it in Istanbul. It is indeed all about the accessories/accompaniments, including little miniature pitchers and ice buckets/tongs and fawning waiters who don’t want you to mess up the beauty of it all. Had so many good meals there, the best was probably at Ciya Sofrasi in Kadikoy (, there was a dish involving lamb braised in yogurt with green almond husks that tripped some kind of taste bud landmine for me.

  2. Grace Says:

    Yum, sounds so good! Must get to Turkey soon…

  3. Leslie Says:

    I love this entry! It’s hilarious!

  4. Grace Says:

    Thanks, though I think it’s funny because you know me 🙂

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