The city of Gaziantep in Turkey is its 6th most populous, but that’s not important. What is however, is that it’s renowned for its food and culinary variety. Efendy, a Turkish restaurant in Balmain, for the Crave Sydney Food Festival (yeah this post is so delayed) encapsulates this spirit and serves up a chef’s menu of Turkey’s delights!
Now I have to say, I’m not very familiar with Turkish food – I know what is considered Turkish (especially Baklava), but I don’t really know how they make what they make, or what ingredients they use…but it’s all for an exotic experience, innit?
Date Visited: 28/10/2012
Address: 7l9 Elliott St, Balmain, NSW 2041
Go-to dish: Lahmacun – lamb, capsicum & wild rocket mini pides
Efendy is quite a big restaurant in that it has an outdoor area, and three levels of indoor seating, PLUS a mezze bar in the basement. It’s all pretty cool actually, and I don’t know why I didn’t take pictures. In any case, we chose to sit outside as it was a nice and warmish Sunday night.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were literally no other patrons at the restaurant – Sunday night and 6pm make for an unusual dinner time, that’s for sure. Thus, before long, we were served our first course
Which naturally, is pide! This pide is served at ambient temperature, which turns out quite nicely anyway as it was soft enough to eat without heat. It tastes quite nice by itself, but of course dipping it in the provided condiments is a must.
Actually, it goes even better with the below…
One of two condiments that stay with us through the entire meal, I quickly learn that yoghurt is a mainstay in Turkish cuisine. Seriously, most of the dishes tonight have it. This is essentially a yoghurt dip/spread of sorts, and it possesses an expectedly sour flavour which is complemented with the ever slightly-sweet and crunchy beetroot.
Overall, it’s still a bit too sour for my liking – you’d have to use a lot of bread to soak this up!
The second of the condiments, this one tastes very nice if you’re into walnuts. The crushed walnut and red capsicum paste is flavoursome enough that you can eat it by itself, yet doesn’t spread itself too thin if you take it with bread. It’s slightly tangy, and very nutty. Aromatically, it smells like when you break open a fresh capsicum – very nice. This is a good paste and I constantly found myself eating away at it through the course of the dinner. Nearly finished it in fact!
The first of the mezzes, this mini lamb pide can almost be thought of as a small thin pizza. Upon further inspection, you realise you treat it more like a pizza base. The lamb is where the flavour all is; minced up and braised, it’s quite delicious. As for the way it’s cooked, there doesn’t seem to be a huge deviation to how you’d ordinarily do it – braise it and bake it along with the pide.
I eventually settled on eating it like this, with a fair bit of rocket squeezed in between. You don’t really need the rocket, but I had a compulsion to finish off what was on the plate, and besides the rocket was also seasoned with black pepper and I figured ‘eh why the hell not’. Several quick bites later and it was gone with me wishing for more!
I haven’t had these before, eggplant shells with a rich filling of aromatic lamb seasoned with sumac, paired with rice that must’ve been baked for a length of time. The result is actually somewhat pedestrian; the shells were quite hard and rubbery, you could get through it with enough biting and chewing, but the effort seemed a bit too much for too little reward. There’s some flavour in the shells, but it’s mostly only the eggplant’s natural flavours (which isn’t much) that stand out.
The filling was a little better, but it felt like I was eating fried rice that was a bit too soggy. I actually don’t mind that, but I didn’t expect it here, and it just didn’t taste right. I didn’t want to finish this, but did so anyway due to my compulsive habits…
This dish is quite palatable, though the almonds had this unusual level of crunch and snap to it that didn’t seem right from all the almonds I’ve tried before. I didn’t really like that, so I avoided the almonds as much as I could.
The veal was quite good – it was a bit tough and that’s my biggest complaint, but other than that a solid effort, especially as it was in a delicious saffron yoghurt that tastes like an exotic mayonnaise. Man I wonder how fattening this dish was…
A typical legume-based salad, this was mostly filler. It tasted decent, but nothing particularly exciting – primary flavour was sour, but not really like a vinaigrette – just plain vinegar, with a hint of sweetness.
All I could think of regarding this dish is that it’s like fried rice served cold. This is apparently a staple of Turkish cuisine, but it wasn’t satisfying to my palate. It was too… boring, lacking, blandish. It’s easy to eat though, and we did get through all of it in the end, but it just didn’t taste like much.
This is my second favourite dish of the night. Why? Lamb strips char-broiled on an open charcoal BBQ (yes, it was there on the night), bathed in a creamy yoghurt which brings out the nuances of the lamb in every bite. I think I ate more than my fair share of my portion; I just can’t help myself when it’s good food
Some pieces of lamb were unfortunately quite tough and hard to chew, so there’s a consistency problem here, duly take note!
Ohhh, triple dessert! Always a fan of variety I am so I was pretty pleased when I saw this plated.
On the right we have candied pumpkin, which tastes the part. The crunch of the pumpkin as you bite through its sugar-infused flesh is satisfying, though I did wish it was a little bit sweeter and a little bit colder.
In the middle we have baklava (did you know Gaziantep is considered the origin-city of baklava?), which tasted amazing, though it’s probably too sweet for some – so much drizzled sugar syrup my arteries sure have a reason to worry.
And on the right we have a vanilla & rose cream-infused ice cream which delivered a refreshing dose of sweet palate cleansing, to round off the meal.
I have to say, Turkish cuisine is a bit of a hit and miss for me, my palate just doesn’t appreciate half of the dishes as well as it could, but such is the nature of food. Still, there should be more restaurants like Efendy out there – why aren’t there big-name Turkish restaurants? That’s a status quo that should definitely change.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: some new things and liberal embracing of traditional Turkish cooking make for some great dishes.
The Bad: many dishes just didn’t do it for me, I blame my own palate, not having enough experience with Turkish cuisine.
I give Efendy a grand total of six and a half Caesars out of ten – 6.5/10