On the Peconic River, right behind Main Street in Riverhead, is Turkuaz Grill, a Turkish restaurant that opened recently. This quaint little place is not easy to find, but if you walk behind the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center (previously known as Atlantis Marine World), you can’t miss it.
This lovely restaurant has picnic tables set right on the bank of the river, as well as six tables inside. The interior is brightly decorated with whites and blues, accented by paintings done by the proprietor and her sister—but the food is what really brings this place to life.
After I was seated, I was given a sample plate of different dips served with homemade bread, which was warm and crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. To start off, I tried the hummus, which was very creamy and had a kick from the paprika sprinkled on top, as well as a crunch from pine nuts. The baba ganoush was smooth and had a distinct eggplant and tahini flavor. If you’re looking for a more acidic-tasting eggplant dip, try the eggplant salad with roasted tomatoes and peppers. Finally, there was a single grape leaf that had a pleasantly surprising tomato punch to its rice filling. [expand]
When I completed my appetizer, I was brought another sampler, this one with meats and grains. I first went for the juicy Turkish meatball, made of lamb and herbs. It was tender, flavorful, and not at all dry. There were also a few pieces of chicken and beef shish kabob that had a lovely marinade. To go along with this tasty selection of meats, I was given a buttery rice pilaf and tomato bulgur, which appeared gummy but was actually quite tasty and did not stick to the roof of my mouth. Just when I thought I was finished with my main course, an entire spinach pizza was brought to my table. The “pizza” was made on a flat bread-type crust with a Spanakopita-like filling. I had two pieces, it was so good, and it definitely reminded me of Spanakopita.
At last, dessert came out. Truthfully, when I first entered Turkuaz I saw the display of baklava and couldn’t wait to try it, so when it was served, I was in heaven. The pistachio baklava came in two little cigar rolls, drizzled with chocolate sauce. As soon as I cut into it the honey oozed out and that was exactly the taste that filled my mouth—pure, sweet honey. The phyllo was flaky and the chocolate sauce was light but decadent. A strong Turkish tea accompanied my sweets, which was not bitter, just more powerful than the teas I am accustomed to.
When most people hear the term “Turkish cuisine” they are scared because they don’t know what it really means. But it is simply healthy Mediterranean food, not too different from what one might get at a Greek restaurant. So have an adventure and discover the hidden wonders Turkuaz Grill has to offer—you won’t be disappointed.
Turkuaz Grill, 40 McDermott Avenue, Riverhead. For more information, call 631-591-1757. [/expand]