Some days, nothing quite hits the spot like a juicy kebab straight off the spit, or pide, a Turkish take on pizza. These Turkish restaurants have a way with such regional specialties, from spreads through desserts. Selections by Joan Reminick.
M & M Grocery and Grill
Pide with lamb and cheese at the former M & M Grocery and Grill in Farmingdale.
Two solid dessert options at M&M are a Turkish-style chocolate pudding (pictured) that's more bittersweet than sweet, and a nut-studded almond pudding.
Istanbul Cafe, Centereach: At this strip mall Turkish spot, chef-owner Sinan Yagci makes the most of the restaurant's brick oven, which turns out delectable pides (stuffed Turkish pizzas). To spread onto freshly baked bread: a meze assortment featuring three different eggplant salads, hummus and ezme. From the grill come well-marinated lamb chops, chicken Adana kebab, chicken shish kebab, house-made gyro and lamb shish kebab. Yagci's profiteroles are a strong point, as is his kazandibi, a burnt sugar milk custard. (Pictured is a Turkish take on moussaka.)
Istanbul Cafe's trio of Turkish desserts includes sobiyet, baklava and kadayif.
Pita House, East Setauket: The dining room boasts a stone bas-relief sculpture of a Trojan horse by an artist from Turkey, but it's the well-crafted Turkish food and caring service that bring us back. Spinach pie juxtaposes crisp layers of phyllo with tangy feta and grassy spinach. Recommended: the assertively spiced red lentil soup and all manner of meze (cold appetizers), from garlicky hummus to the smoky patlican salatasi (charred eggplant and vegetable salad). Other attractions include house-made gyro, in both lamb and turkey versions, moist kebabs (pictured is the mixed kebab platter) and whole grilled sea bass. Finish with kadayif, shredded wheat pastry with honey and pistachios.
Bosphorus Cafe Grill
Bosphorus Cafe Grill, Port Washington: A highlight at the Turkish restaurant includes lavas, a seed-sprinkled, golden bread that's the ideal vehicle for the many dips. You also can't go wrong with the juicy chicken kebab platter (pictured), served with carrots, pickled cabbage, red onions, rice and grilled tomato. Also recommended: shepherd's salad, spinach-feta pide, lamb Adana kebabs, house-made gyro kebab, kofte kebab (grilled lamb and veal patties), char-grilled whole tilapia, kazandibi (caramelized milk pudding), rice pudding, flan.
A vibrant shepherd's salad, or coban salatasi, is served at Bosphorus Cafe Grill in Port Washington.
Ayhan's Fish Kebab
Ayhan’s Fish Kebab, Port Washington: Tops in restaurateur Ayhan Hassan's Long Island empire is this Mediterranean seafood-centric restaurant with a classic Greek portico out front and a fresh fish display inside. Here, you'll find fresh fish on ice and stellar options including salmon kebabs (pictured).
Ephesus, Massapequa Park: Chef-owner Funda Duygun's culinary skill catapults this simply appointed Turkish restaurant into elevated territory. There is so much comfort and clarity of flavor in her assortment of dips — hummus, ezme (a spicy vegetable salad) and baba ghanoush — to be spread on warm, house-baked bread. Find further gratification in pide, a well-crafted pastry that may be had with any number of fillings, among them cheese, potatoes and Turkish sausage, and manti (pictured), tiny beef-filled dumplings. Kebabs are savory and juicy, whole fish perfectly grilled. Finish with fragrant baked rice pudding.
Turkuaz Grill, Riverhead: Good looks and charm are only part of the allure of this Turkish restaurant near the Long Island Aquarium. Eat indoors or on the porch or at a lawn picnic table and you get a view of the Peconic River. But the real draw is the food: a vibrant shepherd's salad, an assortment of lively meze (small plates), as well as fine grilled marinated kebabs (including the beyti lamb kebab, pictured). The house-made gyro, done with marinated lamb, is another standout.
Grilled whole sea bass served with bulgur rice at Turkuaz Grill in Riverhead.
Mavi Grill & Deli
Mavi Grill & Deli, Mount Sinai: Located within a charming house, the place appears to have jumped out of the pages of a glossy decorating magazine: white wainscoted walls, contemporary glass-topped tables. Red lentil-carrot soup proves robust, comforting; lemon chicken orzo soup, velvety and rich. A forte here are the kebabs -- the adana, with minced meat (pictured), the most white meat chicken -- all served with rice and bulgur wheat pilaf and lovely grilled vegetables. The house-made gyro is a treat, as is the shrimp pita. Finish with the fine house-made baklava or creamy rice pudding.
A sampler of desserts at Mavi Grill & Deli in Mt. Sinai.
AlaTurca Mediterranean Restaurant
AlaTurca Mediterranean Restaurant, West Babylon: At this simply appointed spot, you should be won over by just one bite of chef Akin Ay's house-baked bread slathered with spicy eggplant salad or hummus. Also: pide, a savory boat-shaped pie filled with Turkish sausage and cheese (pictured); lahmacun, three delicate plate-size flatbreads, each folded in half, quesadilla-style, around a savory ground lamb mixture; red lentil soup; manti, delectable little meat-stuffed ravioli with garlic-yogurt sauce; whole sea bass, fresh, simple and nicely grilled; chicken kebab; adana yogurt kebab, spiced ground grilled lamb served over toasted bread topped with tomato sauce, yogurt and butter; and kunefe, a syrup-soaked baked cheese dessert.
Adana kebab, ground lamb flavored with red bell peppers, paprika and garlic and grilled on skewers, is an exemplary dish at AlaTurca Mediterranean Restaurant in West Babylon.