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East Setauket: Dinner at Pita House

Lamb kavurma is a specialty at Pita House

Lamb kavurma is a specialty at Pita House in East Setauket. (Sept. 28, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

It felt like no one was minding the store earlier this week at Pita House, the splendid-looking offshoot of owner Cafer Sahin’s original Patchogue restaurant.

Patlican salatasi, a spread made from charred eggplants, is one of my very favorite Turkish delights. Here it was pallid, tasting of neither char, nor lemon, nor garlic nor fruity olive oil. Pallid too was a dish I’d never had before, lamb kavurma, which the menu said was cooked in a wok with tomatoes and peppers. The small pieces of lamb, though, evinced no traces of having been enthusiastically seared or stir-fried; they tasted as if they’d been simmered, and not in a good way. They were topped with a nice-enough yogurt sauce, but the halved Roma tomatoes surrounding them had barely been grilled at all. Pallid. A side dish of bulgur had been cooked (or reheated) into mushiness.

Over the years I’ve found that I eat better in Long Island’s Turkish restaurants than in all but the most expensive Greek ones. I attribute this to the fact that many Turkish restaurants are still cooking for a largely Turkish clientele (including many Turkish-born customers) whereas Greek restaurants cater mostly to a non-Greek or assimilated Greek-American palate. I don’t know who’s eating at Pita House in East Patchogue, but on the night in question, I could not taste the presence of committed a Turkish chef in the kitchen.

Pita House is at 100-27 S. Jersey Ave., East Setauket; 631-675-9051.

Lamb kavurma at Pita House

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