Set in the former Cockscomb space, Taksim, an enticing new Turkish restaurant that debuted in February, is reviving SoMa, which stayed especially hushed during the pandemic. But the Giants are swinging again at the ballpark and the neighborhood is hungry—and Taksim is ready to meet that demand having just dropped a lush new spring menu that shows the kitchen is hitting its stride.
Taksim comes from the team behind Lokma, responsible for a buzzy Mediterranean brunch scene in Richmond, and is steered by owner Emre Kabayel, his wife Neslihan Demirtas, and business partners Serkan Sozen and Birkan Dogan. The kitchen is the realm of chef Daniel Gribble who did previous stints at the three MICHELIN-starred French Laundry and Atelier Crenn.
While Lokma is a casual neighborhood restaurant, Taksim stands for refined yet approachable elegance. “There is no Mediterranean- or Turkish-style fine-dining place in San Francisco,” says Kabayel, who was born and raised in a bayside town outside of Istanbul, Turkey, though he’s lived and cooked in the Bay Area since 2013. “So we wanted to create one.”
When Kabayel prototyped the menu, he began with small meze plates, fresh salads, wood-fired breads, and generous shareable proteins. Gribble infuses imaginative details into distinctly Mediterranean flavors. “I’m taking French classics and trying to highlight them with different Mediterranean and Turkish ingredients and giving them a fresh, modern twist,” Gribble says.
A meal here starts with a treasure trove of dips, from smoky baba ganoush to tomato marmalade and wood-fired breads such as pita sprinkled with fragrant za’atar, and a bazlama, or Turkish bread that’s as round and fluffy as a dinner roll. The king shrimp, first poached in butter then enveloped in crunchy kadaif, or finely shredded phyllo, rounds out the starters selection.
Gribble recommends the sweet pea salad, newly added for spring, with creamy blue cheese and pickled green strawberries. He’s swapped out winter’s standout lamb shank for juicy little lamb chops with grilled halloumi and herbed gnocchi. But the most colorful dishes are undoubtedly the seafood offerings: branzino filets sit on beds of silver anchovy pilaf, seared scallops are brightened with green pea puree, and octopus presides over deep purple cabbage sauerkraut, fermented in house.
Taksim’s drinks list pays homage to Turkey, teeming with spirits such as raki—the twice-distilled grape and anise liquor is usually sipped neat, but at Taksim, it lends a licorice-like flavor to a standout martini. Turkish influences also surface in a Scotch cocktail spiked with smoky Urfa peppers and an old fashioned that’s sweetened with carob molasses instead of the usual sugar cube, served in a glass rimmed with crushed pistachios.
The globe-trotting wine list spans France and Italy, with stops in unexpected locales such as Turkey, Romania, and the broader Mediterranean.
Kabayel and co. fell for this sprawling expanse, all high ceilings and soaring windows, when they envisioned their contemporary Turkish restaurant. In addition to the aforementioned Cockscomb, Fringale also closed after 28 years on this corner; Marlowe only just reopened around the block. But more than the specific SoMa location, Kabayel feels “the ambience, the food, [and] the service is the most important thing.”
Despite holding on to some of Cockscomb’s industrial accents, Taksim’s own touches, which include copper cookware that doubles as decor, bring an unmistakable warmth to the 3,000-square-foot space. Other striking additions include an open kitchen and woodfire oven. Get a slice of the action by booking a seat at the chef’s counter, and you’ll soon see why this homey-chic spot is both a restaurant and a destination.
Taksim is now open from Tuesday through Saturday from 5 pm to 9 pm.