On a recent visit to the new Istanbul Cafe II in St. James, the offshoot of Istanbul Cafe in Centereach, I found significant kitchen panache.
Our party went through more than one basketful of bread to do justice to a mixed array of dips and spreads ($13.50), among them a first-rate hummus and babaganoush. Every component of chef-owner Sinan Yagci’s mixed grill ($19.95) — which included, among other items, a lamb chop, spiced ground chicken Adana kebab and house-made gyro — turned out moist, juicy, savory. As for Yagci’s kazandibi ($4), the burnt sugar-topped custard was trembly, airy, irresistible.
Note that if you're hankering for pide, the distinctly Turkish version of pizza, you can find it at the original Istanbul Cafe, located at 2139 Middle Country Rd., Centereach, 631-738-6704. That restaurant alone is equipped with a brick oven, which also turns out the breads and pastries served at the St. James locale.
Istanbul Cafe II is at 412 N. Country Rd., St. James, 631-250-9009, istanbulcafe2.com