40 McDermott Ave. Riverhead, NY 631-591-1757
This little restaurant serves traditional, affordable Turkish cuisine, and features pleasant outdoor seating that includes six tables with umbrellas (two on the veranda and four picnic tables on the lawn) -- all offering a prime view of the Peconic.Hours: Monday to Thursday and Sunday, noon to 9p.m., Friday and Saturday, noon to 10 p.m.; closed Tuesday. Ambience: Good Service: Good Credit cards: Accepted
As late summer mellows into early fall, the outdoor tables on the porch of Turkuaz Grill seem all the more ideal for lingering over dips and kebabs within view of the Peconic River. And even if you're forced indoors, there's much to recommend this airily pretty little place owned by sisters Deniz Gulsen and Demet Bozatli.
Vibrancy underscores the shepherd's salad, a toss of bright tomatoes, cucumbers and aromatics in a sunny lemon-olive oil dressing. Here meze (small plates) rule. A superstar is acli ezme, minced vegetables and walnuts and fiery hot spices. Patlican salatasi (smoked eggplant salad) is complex and smoky. There's sparkle in the cackik, house-made yogurt with chopped cucumber, garlic and mint. Other winners: a seductive white bean salad and mellow, olive oil-drizzled hummus. Also worth a try: vegetable-studded green lentil salad. Fluffy house-made bread accompanies all. Pide, pillowy and savory, gives pizza a run for its money -- especially when topped with the Turkish version of pepperoni. And lachmacun, a matzo-crisp baked disc, is topped with a thin layer of ground beef, tomatoes, multicolor peppers and onions. Really good stuff. Here, the gyro is made in house. Marinated lamb is stacked on a skewer, spit-roasted and sliced off. Fine on a sandwich or, alternatively, as Iskender kebab -- over bread and topped with tomato sauce, yogurt and hot butter sauce. From the roster of kebabs, a surprise hit is boneless white-meat chicken, which comes up juicy and full of flavor. Adana and beyti kebab -- different takes on ground spiced skewered lamb -- work well, too. Happiest of endings: creamy sutlac (rice pudding), baklava or kadayif.
Chicken chops -- a favorite -- are on the menu but not to be had. An order for lamb chops, requested medium-rare, produces, instead, lamb shish kebab, cooked to a near-cinder. When I finally get the lamb chops, they're nicely seasoned but paper-thin. Service is solicitous one time, erratic another.
The restaurant, hidden from street view, may not be easy to find but is surely worth seeking out.