When you walk into TRKYC, the audacious new restaurant concept by owner/proprietor C. Turk Yee, you are greeted, surprisingly, by your own reflection in a full-length mirror. It’s a jarring, shocking, disorienting, and ultimately perfect detail in the newest and boldest entry into our city’s experiential dining scene.
I must however begin with a mea culpa, I have often been accused of overusing the word “challenging” in my restaurant critiques. And after my experience at TRKYC, I am willing to admit that such accusations may have merit. Perhaps my contention that the addition of Avocado Foam to a bowl of Cheese Grits at the hip bistro Topiary fell short of “challenging,” culinarily speaking. And I may have overstated when I described the Tacos Sans Salsa at the new eatery sIn as “A revolution, a challenge to humanity.” I admit this fault because when I describe TRKYC, a reverse concept restaurant in which prior to the meal, turkey’s walk around the dining floor and choose which diners will get to eat them… Well, “challenging” hardly even begins the conversation.
The last thing a diner wants to address before an eating experience is their own physical shape. And yet, at TRKYC, this reckoning is unavoidable. The reason for the mirror, says Turk Yee, is to force the diner to confront their own worth: Who do you think you are? How dare you? Why do you deserve this meal? The mirror, Turk Yee says, is an opportunity to use your reflection for reflection.
The existential assault does not stop there. When you enter the large cathedral-like dining room your insignificance is palpable. The tables are completely bare, no utensils, no glassware, no hint of the fact that a meal is about to take place. You feel small, less a guest than a burden. The only decoration of any kind is a burned image into the wooden dining surfaces. An image equally innocent and grotesque. An image of a child’s hand. Five small fingers fully spread out. A small beak extending from the thumb. Two little stick legs extending from the palm…
You sit in this room with no activity for what seems an eternity. Quiet. Tense. Expectant. Unsettled. Then, without fanfare and seemingly out of nowhere, turkeys begin to appear. Everywhere. An actual assault. All around you. An invasion of turkeys. A turkey D-Day. And given how many of these very turkeys will offer themselves for sacrifice before the night is over, the analogy is grim.
One turkey jumped onto my table. It jerkily tilted it’s head to the right – confused, contemplating, judging. Judging. Those big, black, blank, eyes set against stark red skulls… Piercing. I suddenly became aware of the thirty extra pounds I carried. I felt every extra hair on my body. The zit that appeared on my forehead just this morning was a flashing light… Why would this turkey ever choose me?
It’s a strange mating ritual. It becomes performative. You are aware that the turkey is evaluating your worth and as a result, many patrons were seen attempting to negotiate with the turkeys, or demonstrate their value in other ways. I overheard one man tell a turkey an outrageously off-color joke. The turkey seemed to politely listen before leaving, without laughing. The man, clearly embarrassed, was chastised by his wife for telling “That joke again,” the man retorted defiantly but under his breath, “That’s a funny joke!”
I however only smiled at the turkey on my table and offered my open hand for a handshake, a sign of respect. The turkey did not take my hand. Instead, the turkey jerked his head upright and began to stroke its gizzard. He then turned, flapped his wings, and jumped off the table. He walked off.
I felt bullied.
Does that mean, you may ask, that some diners are not chosen by the turkeys? Yes. Once the turkeys have cleared out, servers come and arrange the table settings. Silverware, wine glasses, water, and even a hot towel is brought out to refresh and recenter you. For those who have not been chosen, no such settings arrive. They are left unattended, to take the hint that they’ve been judged unworthy, and to then leave on their own. The off-color husband and wife team were one of these casualties. As they passed us, looking at our table envious, the man turned to his wife, “I don’t care what these turkeys think, that joke is funny…”
Turkeys take a long time to cook. As you wait for the the meal to be prepared the servers provide you with information about your turkey’s life. Our turkey was four and he was well educated, including some college, though he didn’t finish. He had no children and no name. His favorite food was grain and his favorite activity was looking.
Then we waited. Morose silence.
When the meal arrived it was the grand culmination of an experience unlike any other. The sides were flavorful, traditional, with a twist. The Persimmon Mashed Potatoes were adventurous and complex. Collared Beets, a play on Collard Greens was inventive and surprising. The Baby Corn and Green Bean Vape Pens added an unexpected element of theatricality to the affair. And a trio of pie sliders of Turbined Sweet Wheat, Mackerel Roe, and a challenge in the form of simplicity, a Sweet Potato Pie, rounded out the meal and in my estimation, are among the best new entries for a dessert program in the city.
The turkey itself was slightly dry but the Maple Bark Gravy solved this problem with grace.
The connection you feel to your meal at TRKYC is beyond anything that can be duplicated in my mind. It’s beyond local, beyond organic, beyond farm to table. This is challenge. This is choice. This is judgement. This, is a revolution.
TRKYC is open Wednesday – Sunday 5:00PM – 11:00PM. Reservations recommended. Dress: Smart Casual
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