You know you’re in for a good meal when you’re given two tables for a table for two.
I’ve only had Turkish food a handful of times and if there’s one thing I remember, it’s that it’s always a feast! And that’s the vibe we’re getting at Turka, which is filled diners with tables filled to the brim with delicious share plates. It’s a cosy Turkish cafe/meze bar located on the busy corner of Pacific Highway and Willoughby Road.
It’s a relatively new addition to the Crows Nest dining scene, one of the few Turkish restaurants in the area. And there’s plenty to choose from with an extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. We’re eyeing the Turkish breakfast for our next visit, but we’re here first for dinner, a menu made of dips, cold meze and hot meze.
It’s a menu that’s designed for sharing, and though we’re just two tonight, we’re keen to try a bit of everything so we’ve gotten ourself an array of dips and cold meze as starters. There’s more than ten dishes in total on our platter, and that combined with the basket of bread would easily make a satisfying dinner for two.
The dips range from the more familiar hummus to the flamboyantly coloured beetroot dip. The hummus is delightfully smooth and garlicky, whilst the sundried tomato and smoked capsicum are chunkier dips that pack a punch.
Zucchini also makes for a tasty and light dip, combined with Garlic Yoghurt and Walnuts.
The bread is an essential vehicle for the dips, and there’s two varieties in ours. There’s the buttery toasted bread, which is delicious enough on its own, but the holes are also great for packing on plenty of dip. On the other end of the spectrum is the soft and fluffy flat bread, if thick and crunchy isn’t so much your thing.
It’s not often that we have artichokes, but we could get used to having them more often if they’re as tasty as these! It’s baby artichoke hearts that are marinated in a mixture of pomegranate molasses and olive oil. They’re zingy bite sized morsels with a sprinkle of tomatoes, feta and mint for a bit of freshness.
We’re told that the smoked capsicums are one their most popular dishes, and it really is something! Cute little smoked capsicums, stuffed with cheese, walnuts and dried apricots, it’s a combination that works well.
The finger dolma (stuffed vine leaves) remind us of the lotus leaf wrapped sticky rice that we get from yum cha (sorry, it’s the Asian in me!), only much less fiddly as you actually get to eat the leaf, and with a distinct taste from the herbs in the mixture. A slice of lemon is provided, and it’s recommended to squeeze some lemon juice on, prior to eating.
We’re surprised to find Salt & Pepper Squid on the menu at a Turkish restaurant, but it proves to be a popular option, with almost every table ordering a serve when we visit. It’s not hard to see why. The baby squid rings are nice and tender, encased in a light crispy batter. The accompanying Homemade Turkish Tartare Sauce is refreshingly different, and we have no problem licking clean the bowl of garlicky and creamy sauce.
The slow cooked pulled lamb arrive with a ‘be careful it’s’ hot’ warning, as it continues to bubble for a few minutes after reaching our table. There’s heft to the mountain of pulled lamb, which is incredibly tender and tasty. Hidden underneath is a tomato sauce based eggplant stew, the warm creamy chunks of eggplant making for a hearty winter comfort dish.
Izmir Prawns also arrive bubbling hot, they’re plump and juicy, and packed full of flavour. Infact, we can almost smell the aromatic Burned Paprika, Chilli & Butter Sauce before it arrives on our table!
I’m not usually a tea person but if there’s one tea I’d recommend this would be it. It’s like a lightly spiced hot apple juice, a refreshing balance of sweet and tart. Absolutely perfect after a heavy meal.
Make sure you also leave room for dessert. Because you have to try the Künefe.
Turka’s version is made fresh to order and it’s well worth the wait. The shredded filo pastry, reminiscent of rice vermicelli (sorry, it’s the Asian in me again!) is baked to a beautiful golden brown. It’s as crunchy as it looks, a satisfying shatter with each bite.
But it’s the stretchy melted cheese sandwiched within the pastry layers that’s the real delight. The contrast between the crunchy pastry and rich luscious cheese is divine- I’ll let the photo do the talking.
The sugar syrup on the bottom imparts the familiar sweetness you find in Turkish desserts, but we find it more enjoyable with the scoop of honey pistachio ice cream that’s delicious enough to be served as a dessert in its own right!