The first thing that drew me to Efendy is the venue. It used to be a noted Italian restaurant called L'Unico, and it sits just off a bend on Darling Street in Balmain. It's a grand Victorian style mansion, with grounds, terraces and soft lighting as you can see by my photo above (taken late in the evening as we left).
The second thing that interested me was the idea of trying Modern Turkish cuisine - that is, the type of dishes they are eating in Turkey now. It's quite an unusual fine dining experience, and bar restaurants like the equally expensive Ottoman Cuisine, so we were happy to have the ebullient host Somer Sivrioglu guide us through. The general idea behind the menu is to present authentic Turkish recipes with a modern twist, using the best Australian and Turkish produce.
One of the most remarkable tastes of the evening came very early on - in my first bite to be exact. The photo above shows cracked fresh green olives ($2/person) which were served with the outstanding homemade pita (shown below). It is being made by an external baker, but to their recipe, and finished at the restaurant if I understand correctly. It was good, and very hard not to fill up completely on the bread and olives. Up until now, I have been just starting to like the taste of olives, whereas these I adored... I could not stop eating them, even knowing I would regret filling up on them later!
The next dish we tried was their well presented Meze ($25) which lets you try a wide range of dishes in small portions. I fell in love with the Zucchini Fritters - they were simply the best zucchini fritters that I have ever tried. They made me wish they did breakfast, because they'd make a great breakfast.
I was surprised by the Kadayifli Karides ($20) – an entree where prawns are wrapped in Kadayif, a traditional shredded pastry normally reserved for sweets, and served with a lovely sour cherry and mint salsa, and pomegranate molasses. It looked great on the plate, and was a pleasure to eat.
I also enjoyed less traditional Manti ($21) of lobster and crab egg parcels served in a creamy sauce flavoured with sumac and mint. This dish is kind of a nod to the patrons who come expecting L'Unico (the Italian predecessor) as it's basically ravioli give or take a bit of sumac.
The strangest entrée we tried was the Ahtapot Kokorec ($18) which reminded me of octopus version of sang choy bow. For some reason I didn't expect it to be a hot dish, so it all felt a bit strange. It was mixed with tomato, mushrooms, spices and olive oil. And yes, we did get an inordinate amount of entrées for two people... the host wanted us to sample widely!
After having so many entrees, I was a bit full by the time the mains came around, so if I give the impression that I liked the entrees a lot better, please take that into account. The first main I tried was the Narli Ordek ($32) or duck in pomegranate with broccolini and asparagus.
Check out the vivid green of the imported Turkish pistachios in the second main - Begendili Sarma ($32) - or Wagyu beef fillet wrapped around wild mushrooms, pistachios and kasseri cheese. I'm afraid I didn't think this was the best use of Wagyu, but I was absolutely obsessed with the smoked baby eggplant puree under it - wow! And what's even better - you can get this Smoked baby eggplant puree ($8) as a side too!
If you're dining here, you should try and leave space for dessert! Or you could choose to end the meal with a (humorous) nod to the space’s Italian predecessor L’Unico by trying a Turkish Affogato ($12) made from Turkish Coffee and Maras style Salep ice-cream.
I was really interested in the Maras style Salep ice cream which is made from lotus roots so I tried a trio of them, though after having done so, I felt a bit sick!
We also had this lovely creation which was like a pistachio pannacotta with pomegranate... yum!
The surroundings are elegant, the food is surprising, and the Balmain locals are already flocking in droves!
79 Elliott Street, Balmain
Ph: (02) 9810 5466