Tucked away in a modest Centereach strip mall, its exterior sign reading merely “Gyro,” Istanbul Cafe gives little hint of the culinary trip within.
A recent dinner began with an assortment of meze ($12.50), all resonantly flavorful: three kinds of eggplant salads, hummus, ezme (a spicy vegetable dip), served with warm, crusty, house-made bread. “Everything, we make here,” the waitress said proudly. A spinach pide (like a Turkish stuffed pizza) proved irresistible. So, too, an entree of vegetable moussaka ($13.95), thinly sliced eggplant and other vegetables topped with a light, custardy béchamel. Every component of a mixed grill ($17.95) — a lamb chop, chicken Adana kebab, chicken shish kebab, house-made gyro and lamb shish kebab — was juicy and hyper-savory.
It continued through dessert. A banana cream roulade looked mundane but wasn’t. The kazandibi — an airy custard with burned sugar topping — was a genre standout. But the surprise hit was a deep, dark, opulently fudgy chocolate pudding with a layer of sponge cake at its center.
Service was both friendly and obliging.
Istanbul Cafe is at 2139 Middle Country Rd., Centereach, 631-738-6704.