Windsor Terrace

At Syko in Windsor Terrace, a fusion of family if not menus

Where Syria meets Korea

January 9, 2023 Andrew Cotto
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WINDSOR TERRACE — On a mild January afternoon, a couple enjoys lunch street-side in Windsor Terrace. They are seated at a table on Windsor Place in the front of a burgundy mural adorned with symbols of the Middle East and Far East. She enjoys a bowl of bibimbap; he has a chicken shawarma sandwich. Both meals came from Syko, (pronounced “See-ko”), prepared in the storefront next door, where the food of Syria and Korea, respectively and authentically, have been available since June of last year. This duality of cuisines is the result of an unique American dream that even the imaginative chef/owner had not envisioned.

Three plates from the Korean menu. Photo: Mireille Jaccard

Mazen Khoury fled war-torn Syria with his family in 2013. His goal in America was to recreate the beloved family restaurant left behind in his mountaintop village of Dahr Safra. Days after arriving in New York, he began working at various restaurants and purveyors specializing in Middle Eastern food. After bouncing professionally around the boroughs for five years, his sister, Rosette, gave him a birthday gift that would change his life. Attending culinary school was a dream of Khoury’s, so his sister secretly applied on his behalf to be part of one of the inaugural cohorts at Emma’s Torch, the Carroll Gardens based NFP that provides professional culinary training to refugees. 

The storefront of Syko at 126 Windsor Place. Photo: Mireille Jaccard

“Emma’s Torch was a great experience,” Khoury says. “They were so helpful in their training, and also with their finding me jobs after.” 

Said jobs included work at a prestigious Brooklyn caterer and as a head chef at a restaurant in Staten Island. After a visit to Syria to mourn the loss of his grandfather and a return to America on the dawn of the pandemic, Khoury decided to be a restaurateur again. And once again, his sister provided some serendipity. A long-standing Koreophile, she had met and married an American of Korean descent, James Kim, whose family owns Korean groceries around Windsor Terrace. 

Khoury embraced the food of his brother-in-law and sought to combine their two cuisines in his new eatery. 

“I was going to do fusion at first,” Khoury said. “I tried to combine Syrian and Korean, but it was too hard, so I decided to go with each separately, though I do some fusion specials on weekend mornings. Falafel with cucumber kimchi works good. Hummus with kimchi works good, too.”

Chef/Owner Mazen Khoury (center) with his brother-in-law, James Kim (left) and brother Michel Khoury (right). Photo: Mireille Jaccard

The local enthusiasts for the offerings of Syko, though, have found creative ways to curate the menu into something that resembles fusion. “The customers come in and say that today they will have this from the Syrian side and this from the Korean side,” Khoury says. “They are so happy having kimbap and hummus at the same time from the same store.”

The Windsor Terrace connection also proved to be fateful as Khoury, in his food odyssey around NYC, had worked at the local Key Foods making hummus, baba ghanoush, and other such delicacies. “I wanted to open my restaurant in this area because I love this area,” Khoury says. 

Khoury and his brother-in-law have plans for a “Little Syko” section of Windsor Terrace with the addition of a grocery and fine-dining restaurant. Meanwhile, appreciation for Khoury’s accomplishment is recognized back in Carroll Gardens at Emma’s Torch. “Mazen was one of the first graduates from our culinary training program. From day one he was clear on his goal of creating his own restaurant and bringing his own culinary perspective to a broader community,” says Founder and Executive Director Kerry Brodie. “Watching him realize his dream is a true joy, and we are so excited to have this incredible new restaurant in Brooklyn.”

 

Andrew Cotto has been eating his way through Brooklyn for 25 years. As an author, the food of our borough has been featured extensively in his novels and journalism. In his new column for the Daily Eagle, Andrew will tell the tales of Brooklyn eateries, from the people behind the food to the communities which they nourish.


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