Mavi Grill & Deli in Mount Sinai looks like no deli most of you know. Situated within a charming white house on a residential corner, the place appears to have jumped out of the pages of a glossy decorating magazine: white wainscoted walls, contemporary glass-topped tables, each with a shelf to display an art glass bowl from Turkey. Some seating in an indoor porch, too.
The decorator, host and manager is co-owner Lauren Iaria-Kola, who, with her husband, chef Tuncay "T.J." Kola, offers Turkish fare to stay or to go. The couple met in California; she's from Long Island, he's from Turkey.
One meal kicks off with an appetizer assortment comprising very good hummus, crisp falafel, baba ghanoush (smoky eggplant salad), stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese, Kalamata olives and pita. Red lentil-carrot soup proves robust, comforting; lemon chicken orzo soup, velvety and rich.
The restaurant offers a sprightly lettuce-based Greek salad and, according to the chef, will soon feature a Turkish shepherd's salad. You'll want to have some spinach pie, each little phyllo turnover stuffed with a savory spinach-feta-onion-herb mixture.
A forte at Mavi is grilled skewered meat, or kebabs, all served with rice and bulgur wheat pilaf as well as lovely grilled vegetables. White meat chicken kebabs come out moist and juicy, lamb kebabs very tender. Highly spiced minced lamb is pressed onto metal skewers and grilled to form the flat, narrow Adana kebabs. They're terrific, as is Kola's beyti kebab -- the same lamb mixture differently spiced, grilled, wrapped in thin bread, cut into pieces and arranged in circular formation around a bulgur pilaf and then drizzled with yogurt and tomato sauce. It's a visually striking presentation.
On another evening, sandwiches are in order. The house-made gyro, or doner, sandwich features a rotisserie-roasted mix of lamb and beef sliced off a spit and stuffed into a pita with lettuce, tomato and yogurt sauce. It's a treat, as is a shrimp pita, the spiced chargrilled shellfish given a similar treatment.
Finish with the fine house-made baklava or creamy rice pudding. To do these desserts justice, relax over a cup of intense Turkish coffee.