[all photos by Conor Rose]
Summer is typically quiet in the city, but we recently spotted some buzz going on over near Madison Square Park. This past July, Turntable Cafe and Lounge opened just above the Flatiron District, bringing its a hip Korean vibe to a neighborhood that, though busy, could stand for something fresh. There are other Turntables in the city – this one is inspired by rock n’ roll, with tunes by Queen, Eric Clapton, and Led Zeppelin softly emanating through the eatery, and shelves of records adorning the walls. The space emits an elevated casual vibe, with a sleek, modern, and trendy setting paired with a serve yourself situation, and disposable plated Korean (and Korean-inspired) dishes. Turntable Cafe and Lounge makes for the he ideal post-work drinks and bites spot, exactly the kind of place you’d go with coworkers or a group of friends and order plates to share (plus maybe a couple extra orders of Kimchi Fries and Popcorn Chicken).
I would say order anything on the menu, but in a big group, just go for everything on the menu. Turntable is generally known for its fried foods, but there are some lighter options – the watermelon and pineapple salad is arranged artfully into cubes, laid upon a bed of arugula and sprinkled with feta, almonds, and a light dressing. Along those lines, the Smoke Salmon Power Salad, with tender pink slices of salmon draped over mixed greens, orange slices, radishes, avocado, fennel, sesame seeds, and drizzled with chipotle lime vinaigrette is another summery option, and honestly is enough for one person’s light meal. On the other hand, the Mad Calamari Salad is best to share with the masses – fried calamari tossed with greens in an incredibly spicy sauce and called “mad” for a reason, distinguished by two chili peppers on the menu.
Don’t pass up the Shishito Peppers, prepared as they should be (simply), Fried Oysters (breaded and topped with bonito flakes and tonkatsu sauce), or the Kimchi Fries,(nacho-esque and topped with sauteed kimchi, bacon, jalapeno, cilantro, and honey sour cream).
Chicken is so much the focus here that the menu is divided into three main categories: Drinks, Food, and Chicken. Crispy Popcorn Chicken was our standout dish, boneless with a light crispy batter and doused in a housemade sweet chili glaze, orange zest, sesame seeds, and chives, so addictive that we’d be happy to gobble up a theatre box full of it as if it were actual popcorn. Wings are available as well, served plain, or with a choice of spicy or soy garlic sauce, the latter of which tasted pleasantly of waffles, with a tinge of maple sweetness.
There’s one dessert option that’s worth giving a try – Crispy Injeolmi (which I Googled for you and it’s a type of Korean rice cake), rolled up into what the menu refers to as “sticky sticks,” which is exactly what they are. With a crispy outside and fluffy inside, the sticky sticks are paired with a scoop of gelato and sprinkled with soybean powder, giving the dish a round, complex flavor that is hard for me to put my finger on – but that sets it apart from your typical pastry plus ice cream dessert that most places easily churn out.
For a quick bite (by yourself or with friends), or a casual get-together where you’ll want to linger over food and drinks, Turntable’s got you covered.
You can visit Turntable Cafe and Lounge at 290 5th Avenue in Manhattan. This meal was provided by Turntable Cafe and Lounge, however all opinions are our own.