Recently I managed to win a free ticket to Taste of Sydney thanks to Efendy chef and owner, Somer Sivrioglu. At last year’s event, Efendy took out the inaugural Best in Taste award for their Ali Nazik, a traditionally-made kebab with veal backstrap, leg of lamb and lamb tail fat.
Being on a bit of an offal streak at the moment I was very excited to try this year’s signature dish of deboned roasted sheep’s head. Bits of creamy, custardy brains; incredibly tender, fall-apart cheek meat; slightly acidic yet sweet small tomatoes to cut through the richness. Every aspect was perfection.
A little later on I headed over to the Dilmah & Australian Gourmet Traveller Chef Skillery tent, which gives plebs like me the opportunity to learn from a range of chefs at the festival. I caught the end of Colin Fassnidge (Four in Hand, Four Fourteen) as the hordes of eager female fans finally dispersed, and watched Somer prepare a delicious Turkish salad. The dressing was made from olive oil, vinegar and pomegranate molasses – the holy trinity – and sumac, my favourite spice, so needless to say I loved it!
Both dishes that I tried at taste of Sydney had me keen to pay a visit to Efendy in Balmain. I had visited Efendy once many years ago, in my pre-blog days, and had always intended to return. The opening of their new Meze Bar, intended for casual grazing and drinking, was the perfect excuse to do so.
It is a beautiful space; eclectically decorated with mismatched wooden chairs and random but entertaining Turkish movie posters.
The larger communal dining tables and benches would be perfect for a large group, and happily Somer offers a fantastic feast menu: $39 per person for two cold meze, pachanga, chicken wings, kebap and a dessert plate. Our first visit was for a light lunch and we weren’t quite up to a full banquet so we browsed the menu and picked a few interesting dishes.First up, the meze board: six delicious dishes (including amazing pomegranate hummous) with pide. Great value at $22 and served on recycled cupboards!
While reading the menu item ‘pastirma and kashar cheese pachanga borek’ ($7), Mr Black declared he only knew what one of those words meant. I reassured him that pastirma (aka basturma) was a spiced, cured and air-dried beef, borek was a filled fried or baked pastry, and kashar is a kind of cheese and therefore delicious.
The veal kofte with white bean piyaz ($16) were possibly my favourite. A beautiful balance of creaminess, vinegary pickles and delicate, sweet veal.
Efendy is the Turkish word for gentleman; and Somer is a true example of one. He has created a warm and welcoming space in Meze Bar which sits beautifully with the relaxed, communal style of eating. I can highly recommend a trip to Balmain to try it out. And if you go of an evening, make sure you try the delicious tektek shots such as vishne, sour cherry and cinnamon infused vodka with Dom Benedictine and apple tea ($5) or a Lebanese 961 pale ale delicately flavoured with thyme, sumac, chamomile, sage, anise and mint ($8). Cheers!