Guidebook The (unexpected) tastes of Turkey

Best eating in town

The (unexpected) tastes of Turkey

Turkish cooking in Melbourne “seldom strays from the kebab, gözleme and dips path,” observes Michael Harden at Gourmet Traveller. The exception is Tulum in suburban Balaclava, an ambitious restaurant “dishing up unique and largely unprecedented food.” For example: “onion, slow cooked until it has a soft, vine leaf-like texture, is wrapped around rice and minced lamb flavoured with lemon, parsley, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves,” which is then “cooked in a red capsicum sauce and served with smoked yoghurt, a sweet Turkish apple-tea sauce and pickled apple … it's subtle, fragrant, comforting, fortifying, the balance of flavour and texture closely and carefully calibrated.”

Tulum is “that most familiar thing … the small, chef-owned and run suburban restaurant,” writes John Lethlean at The Australian. In the words of Coskun Uysal, the chef and proprietor, “it brings together recipes of my childhood memories and modern Anatolian cooking which is not restricted to the Ottoman cuisine.” This “small, chef-focused venture” is about “Turkish flavours and memories put through a contemporary dining filter, refined, light and feminine,” says Lethlean, “with a very modern approach to contrasting textures, the raw and the cooked, and with multiple sauces or dressings.” Tulum is “modest in size but ambitious in outlook,” says Dani Valent in Good Food, that offers “a tasty dance through Turkish heritage, honoured and updated.”

“Babajan is not Instagram famous,” notes Besha Rodell in The New York Times: “it is a simple operation with an open kitchen in the back, a handful of tables and some sidewalk seating out front.” Yet it represents “the kind of approachable pleasure typical of the city’s best cafes, an abundance of goodness that’s imminently accessible.” She starts with the bread (“soft and pliant and dusted with za’atar, better than the stiff pita I’ve had at much fancier Middle Eastern restaurants around town”) and moves on to “intensely juicy, slow-cooked lamb shoulder” which you can have on your Aleppo eggplant toasted sandwich “with fermented chile and sumac onions,” or on your Turkish baked eggs “where it swims in the spiced tomato, topped with pistachio dukkha.”

They’re cooking “some seriously delicious eats out of their tiny open kitchen,” says Delima Shanti at Time Out. Take, for instance, menemen, “the Turkish take on baked eggs that are traditionally pre-scrambled with tomatoes and spices.” At Babajan, “they choose to bake the eggs whole so you can dunk you simit – a slightly sweet, bagel-like bread ring encrusted with sesame seeds – into the eggy tomato mess.” Or the baklava pain perdu, which is “pretty close to having dessert for breakfast – it comes with a dreamy dollop of kaymak (close relative to clotted cream) and jammy poached quince that adds extra sweetness to the walnut-sprinkled brioche.” But the “real stars of the show” are the daily changing salads on full display on the front counter, says Nola James in Good Food: “a triangular tower of freekeh pilaf with sweet roast peppers and brisket; cannellini beans tossed with tuna, artichoke and basil or a tumble of beetroot, lentils and pumpkin with walnut tarator and tahini.”

Best eating in town
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