Efendy, Balmain: “Meze Journey to Istanbul” (A Food Blogger Dinner Event)

5 April 2010
by Phuoc

Efendy's interior upstairs

I had no knowledge of Turkish food other than Pide, Gozleme and Turkish Delights; so when Simon from Simon Food Favourites offered invitations for food bloggers to dine at Efendy Restaurant to sample authentic Turkish food I placed my hand up straight away, hoping that he’d choose me to dine with him and other food bloggers. When I arrived at the restaurant, I was greeted warmly by a waitress who took me up to the balcony for pre-drinks with my other guests. My first impression of the restaurant was that it was nice and cosy.

We were seated at our table and Somer Sivrioglu; owner and head chef of Efendy, briefly talked to us about the Turkish culture and cuisine. To transport us to Istanbul we sampled 3 cold mezes (soguk mezeler), 3 hot mezes (sicak mezeler), a main meal (ana yemek) and a dessert platter (tatli tabagi) which were slightly altered for this event so we could sample a lot of food. The hospitality of this restaurant was wonderful; each dish was explained to us and the food was simply amazing. The highlight dishes for me would have to be Kadayifli Karides, Braised lamb neck soup and Keskul.

At the end of the night we all were given a goodies bag which contained Turkish Apple Tea, Isot sun-dried capsicum, Pomegranate molasses and a box of Turkish delights from the Real Turkish Delight company. I would like to thank Simon for providing me the opportunity to dine at Efendy and Asli and Somer Sivrioglu for providing a fantastic Turkish experience.

Somer Sivrioglu; head chef and owner of Efendy.

Isot (sundried capsicum), Sumac, Nut mix (walnuts, sesame seeds, pistachio crowns), Nar Eksisi (Pomegranate molasses) and olive oil to be had with Turkish bread (not pictured)

We started the night off with some Turkish bread and various spices. Of these spices the two most interesting ones were Isot and Nar Eksisi; Isot had a smoky and spicy taste to it whilst the Nar Eksisi was tangy and sweet.

The first of the cold meze was Fava; cubes of broad bean paste with onion, dill and artichoke. This is one of the dishes Somer’s mum prepares in her little meze restaurant in Bodrum (Turkey). For someone who isn’t a big fan of legumes this was pleasantly nice. It was firm but silky smooth and the dill was not overpowering. A nice simple dish to start the night off.

Next on the list was Hamsi; Black sea sardines olive oil confit style. These sardines are used in a wide range of Turkish dishes. I thought that they would be salty but when I first bit into them they weren’t at all. Instead they were firm and slightly (but not unpleasantly) oily (similar to mackerel) and were served with a tomato emze which is kind of like a cooked salsa; it would have been nice if it had a little kick to it as I found it quite plain.

This popular meze transports us to the streets of Istanbul where it is sold in large trays by street hawkers. Midye Dolma; Tasmanian black mussels with aromatic rice, pine nuts, currant and spices, is eaten by opening the shell, scooping all the contents in one shell half and squeezing lemon on top of it. This dish reminds me of the Spanish dish Paella. I think I squeezed too much lemon on it as it was very tangy but still nice regardless, I wish there was more of the rice on the side.

The first dish of our hot mezes was Pachanga Boregi; triangles of pastry containing pastirma and kashar cheese. Pastirma is a Turkish cold cut delicacy of spiced-cured, sun-dried beef backstrap. It was deliciously crispy.

Now this was the moment everyone was waiting for; the moment we all get to try LAMB TESTICLES. When I learnt that it was going to be served to us for this dinner I was a bit hesitant about trying it; should I try it for the sake of research purposes or not? (look at the things I do for my readers)  Koc Yumurtasi; Pan-fried lamb testicles with garlic almond tarator served on a cracker, is a popular meze offered in offal restaurants called Iskembeci as they are often served late at night to those who are out and about having drinks because apparently offals contain high protein (which is supposedly a hangover cure).

I managed to work up the courage to eat it and it was surprisingly good. As you can see it looks like chicken but the texture was like a soft chicken sausage. There was a mild lamb taste to it (as said by Denea from Gourmet RabbitIt is made up of a lot of baby lambs..” Great!) and at times the garlic tarator was slightly overpowering (which could be a good thing). Now would I try it again? Probably!

Kadayifli Karides; Kadayif wrapped Hervey Bay king prawns served with walnut, capsicum and roasted garlic muhammara, is said to be their signature and most-requested meze. These prawns were a major hit with me; they were cooked perfectly and the kadayif (a vermicelli-like pastry) added a beautiful crispiness to the dish. The accompanying sauce was wonderful; it had a subtle spicy/smokey kick to it.

Kuzu Kuzu (A trio of lamb dishes) served with Ahirdagi salata

When Simon held this competition he asked us to choose two dishes we’d like to try; my response was Kuzu Kuzu and Keskul. The most common meat used in the Turkish kitchen is lamb so this dish, Kuzu Kuzu, was their ode to this beloved meat. There was three parts to this dish which utilise different part of the lamb; lamb neck, shoulder and backstrap. I love lamb so this dish was a hit with me. Ahirdagi salata; a salad of finely chopped tomato, cucumber, red onion, walnuts, pomegranate and pomegranate molasses. The salad was nice and crunchy but I didn’t have too much of it.

Part 1 of the lamb trio dish is Mini Iskender of Dorper lamb backstrap with jus soaked Turkish bread crouton, Iskender sauce of tomato, capsicum and paprika and garlic yoghurt. I guess this dish is the fancier version of the regular doner kebab (which I didn’t realise originated from Turkey – silly me). The lamb backstrap was tender, I would have preferred an added dimension to the tomato sauce and more garlic yoghurt but that’s just personal preference.

The second part of this lamb dish was Tandir style Bultarra saltbush lamb shoulder served over dried eggplant skin filled with smokey eggplant puree. Earlier in the day I had lunch at Ant’s aunt’s place and she made a marvellous baked eggplant dish with tomato and cheese. So why am I talking about lunch when I should be writing about what I had for dinner? Although this dish was nice, Ant’s aunt ruined it for me. The lamb was cooked to perfection because it simply melted in my mouth but when I was eating the eggplant all I could think of was the delicious eggplant dish I had for lunch! It seemed that everyone else loved this dish though.

Part 3 was Braised lamb neck in a traditional wedding soup of yoghurt, rice and chickpeas. This was a new experience for me. The soup was deliciously creamy with a slight tangy taste that we couldn’t put a finger on it until we learnt it was lemon. I overheard Asli (Somer’s wife) say that this soup was a remedy for colds and I could see why; everyone knows lemon is good for sore throats so the creamy yoghurt would be perfect to soothe the throat. The lamb in this dish was nicely braised and shredded. I wanted more!

We all were given a try of Raki; an anise-flavoured spirit which is very similar to the Greek Ouzo. It is either served straight or with chilled water (which turns the spirit cloudy). We were told that raki had a high alcohol content of 45% but when Denea and I had it we didn’t get much of an alcoholic kick out of it; it pretty much lasted like liquorice water. I think this was mainly due to the waiter diluting it with a lot of water for us.

Tatli Tabagi (dessert platter) with hot Turkish apple tea and Authentic Turkish delights

We were all spoilt with a delectable array of desserts. The Tatli Tabagi consisted of three desserts; Kazandibi, Baklava and Keskul. The Turkish Delights are from the Real Turkish Delight company (their factory is located in Auburn). I’ve had them before as they have been at the Good Food and Wine Show for several years now so they were no surprise to me that they were good. There were a few that never had the pleasure of experiencing these Turkish delights before so they were delighted to find that they actually taste of rose water rather than artificial flavouring that other companies may use (although I don’t recall other companies as I’ve only had these ones). The ones we had had crushed up pieces of almond in it. The Turkish apple tea was wonderfully spicy from the cinnamon.

Kazandibi

Kazandibi; burnt mastic and cinnamon pudding, reminded me of mochi. The slightly chewy dessert was placed off balance by the burnt cinnamon which was quite smokey. It was ok but its limelight was stolen completely by another dessert.

Walnut Baklava

And no it wasn’t this one… However, this Baklava is handmade by Somer with 42 LAYERS of hand opened thin pastry. It wasn’t sickeningly sweet and that is a good thing because I don’t really like ones that are heavily drenched in syrup which one bite would make you want to hide from your dentist.

Keskul

Keskul; a pistachio, almond and pomegranate pudding, was the other dish I wanted to try and loved immensely. It is serve with pismaniye (Turkish fairy floss) which added a lovely sweetness to it. The pudding itself was velvety and not too sweet and it had a lovely nutty flavour. You could hear just about everyone enjoying this dessert on the table; it’s a must try!

I had a lovely night learning about and sampling Turkish food and I can not wait for my next visit to Efendy.

Phuoc attended Meze Journey to Istanbul as guest of Efendy, thanks to Simon.

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28 Comments

  1. Simon Food Favourites

    hi phuoc, that’s a great read and recap of the night. was great meeting you. i liked how you talked about all the background information of the food. i could have a whole plate of those Kadayifli Karides! so yummy. i can see why it’s always on the meze menu. 🙂

  2. Anh

    Love your “recap” of the night! I particularly like Kazandibi (my friend made it sometimes)!! It’s such a great dish!

  3. Belle@OohLook

    Good to know that you can add Turkish to your wide range of cuisines you’ve tried. The food was fantastic, wasn’t it?

  4. Phuoc

    Simon: Thanks dude! Maybe I have to try wipe them up at home one day.. Seems easy enough 🙂

    Anh: I was saying with one of the other bloggers that it kinda reminds me of the Vietnamese Banh Cam (not the one that is drizzled in syrup but the one in the ball with the sweet mung bean paste in the middle).

    Belle: Yeah I know! It’s good learning new things about different cuisines. The food was great indeed.. I would like to go back and try the other dishes.

  5. john@heneedsfood

    It was great meeting you the other night, as brief as it was. The food really was delicious. Might see you on Friday at The Glenmore?

  6. Angie

    Awww lovely recap done there Phuoc =)

    Haha I read about the lamb’s testicles and I can say you are one brave chick… I don’t know if I would be able to bring myself to try it!=D Love the description used though, “alot of baby lambs” hahahaha!

  7. Phuoc

    John: Food was indeed delicious; how does it compare to the food in Istanbul?

    Angie: Thanks! I was asked by my supervisor the other day if there was any fluid or so in it when I was eating it. I totally did NOT think of that, but luckily there wasn’t.. I think once you get over the shock factor, in the end it’s just “meat (of some sort)”…

  8. betty

    nice!! loving all the desserts im like u i only know of turkish bread and turkish delight? hehe 😛

    oh and pide and gozleme too yummy!

    EW @ LAMB TESTICLESSS!!!!

  9. Linda@eatshowandtell

    hahah phuoc, you’re one funny chick! SO dissappointed I wasn’t able to attend. Looks like you guys had a blast though, and everything on the menu looks so good. Holy crap! The Baklava looks awesome 42 layers!! I definitely want to try that soon.

  10. Phuoc

    Betty: It’s good stuff learning about different cultures; especially if food is involved! 🙂 You gotta give them (testicles) a go! 😛

    Linda: Yeah it was an enjoyable night by all. You should definately make your way down there one day 🙂

  11. Mark @ Cafe Campana

    Great post Phuoc. I like your writing style. That walnut baclava looks seriously mooreish. I could eat one right now 🙂 The kazandibi looks like a really interesting desert too. I have only heard of mastic from Masterchef and I have no idea what it tastes like.

  12. Trissa

    This place is a few minutes from mine! I love the reviews it’s gotten and I have had breakfast here but never dinner. I will have to go soon! Everything looks delicious.

  13. Phuoc

    Mark: Thanks dude! The baklava was great; not too sickening sweet and heavy. Not that many people liked the kazandibi but I thought it was ok. It’s slightly chewy (it is a natural chewing gum); I don’t think there was much flavour to it, it was purely a textural thing. It simply reminds me of mochi (Japanese rice cake). I think the burnt cinnamon had put people off as it tasted quite smoky.

    Trissa: Oh my! Commenting on my blog whilst you are in Paris. I feel honoured 🙂 SO what’s breaky like?

  14. Belle@OohLook

    It was a shame we didn’t get the chance to talk, but at least I now know what you look like 🙂 . Great post and photos – makes me want to go to Efendy again this weekend for brunch…

  15. Y

    Kazandibi looks like something I need to try asap!

  16. Phuoc

    Belle: Thanks! At least it’s easy for you to do that! It takes me an hour to get to Balmain!

    Y: You should definately give Efendy a go.

  17. Simon @ the heart of food

    I love pasturma! Dunno if I can say the same for lambs testicles. It certainly would have been hessitant, especially after Denea’s comment.

    Looks like you had a great time!

  18. Sarah

    Ohhh looks lovely!! And the desserts 🙂 🙂 🙂 Great photos 🙂

  19. Phuoc

    Simon: It was indeed a lovely night. They weren’t too bad.. You just have to not think of what it is I guess.. 😛 I would have liked to try the pasturma on its own though.

    Sarah: Thanks! They offer more delicious desserts so it’s definately worth checking out (they do $12 for 4 dessert mezes; $3 for each addition – sounds good to me)!

  20. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    I love the presentation of the food-the mussels especially. What a great cocktail party item! 🙂

  21. Thang

    OMG, everything looks so delicous

  22. Phuoc

    Lorraine: The good thing about the mussels was that it was a cold meze item so I can imagine them being prepared before guest arrive.

    Thang: Pretty much everything was delicious

  23. Trisha

    What a feast! Keskul.. OMG… I’ve never heard of this dish before but it looks soooo.. sultry!

  24. Phuoc

    Hi Trisha! Oh indeed, I want to go back and try more food. Keskul.. It is heavenly.

  25. Greece_Australia_Germany_Usa

    Goodness this is a great place-everything looks so yummy (apart from lamb).
    Guess what!!! I am making for the first time Greek bougatsa (custard-like desert with phylo).

  26. Phuoc

    Oh it is, I can’t wait to go back to try more things. The lamb testicles weren’t too bad..

  27. Liv

    Oooohhhhhh pastirma/basturma is my favourite! I’m predicting it’ll be bigger than prosciutto one day. I like to layer it between two slices of eggplant, with a thin piece of haloumi and a mint leaf, crumb like a schnitzel and fry until crispy.

  28. Phuoc

    Liv: That sounds amazing!

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