While there are several translations of the name Hizir Baba, my favorite is "godsend." It pretty much sums up what this Riverhead newcomer represents - at least to those who appreciate skilled Turkish cooking. The challenge is in finding the little cottage, situated off a municipal lot facing the river. Since the address isn't exactly accurate, you'd do best navigating toAtlantis Marine World
, whose parking area abuts the place. Hizir Baba has few amenities. Tableware and utensils are plastic and there's no liquor license. All this should change soon, I'm told. Outdoor seating is also planned for warmer weather.
Four of us share a platter of assorted appetizers (or meze), served with superior house-baked bread. The tabbouleh salad of cracked bulgur wheat is sprightly, as is the piyaz, firm white beans with onions and parsley. I like both the smooth garlic and sesame-accented hummus and the smoky chargrilled eggplant salad, as well as the ezme, a fiery mÃÂ©lange of chopped vegetables. What really wows me is the savory "mixed pie" (pide), puffy-crusted baked dough topped with Turkish sausage, cheese, tomatoes, green pepper and an egg. So good - and ideal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. House-made gyro (marinated sliced beef stacked, rotisseried and sliced) may make you forget the commercial variety. And it's hard to decide which of the juicy grilled ground meat kebabs is best - Adana kebab (minced lamb and herbs), tavuk Adana (highly seasoned minced chicken), beyti kebab (skewered spiced chopped lamb) or sebzeli tavuk kofte (chicken and vegetable balls, well-seasoned and grilled). A real surprise is how moist the well-marinated chicken kebab and lamb shish kebab consistently comes out. Dinner ends with voluptuous rice pudding (sutlac), airy kazandibi (baked pudding) and sweet baklava.
I have but two gripes. One is that an otherwise fine coban salata (tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions and parsley) is undermined by rock-hard pale pink tomatoes. The other is that a too-small plastic plate is pressed into service containing the main course and accompaniments of pilaf and chopped salad. Invariably, something slides off.
The costliest dish on Hizir Baba's menu is $12.95. You would have trouble finding fare this deftly prepared and deeply satisfying at twice the price.