Spontaneous dinners are always the best in my opinion. Especially when you're invited by two of your biggest foodie friends, you know you're in for a good night. With crazy busy lives it's sometimes too easy to let time pass without catching up with important friends. So when we got the call to double date with Sali and Nathan we were already there.
Nathan suggested a great Turkish restaurant out in Canterbury which has just recently taken on new head chef Simon Zalloua. Pazar, formally known as La Lupita was a pop up Mexican, now reincarnated as one of the best Turkish restaurants in Sydney (my opinion again).
A warm and welcoming atmosphere with dim lighting and cluttered walls reminded me of a bustling European market during a mild, summer evening. The large black and white print of the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe festival, shot by the restaurant owner himself, really set the feel and tone of the place.
With Nathan and Simon being great mates we knew there was no need to look at a menu, all we had to do was help ourselves to plates and cutlery already on the table and let the food roll on in.
The meal took off with every foodies worst enemy. Bread and dips. The strength it takes for me to hold back on the forever refilled bread basket requires pure determination. Which, if I'm honest never usually pulls through. But lets face it, why would you want it to. Thick, fluffy bread fresh out of the wood fired oven with an assortment of dips including roast beetroot with candied walnuts and feta, hommus with chili and spiced chickpeas and smoked labne with honey and charred eggplant.
Thank goodness it didn't take too long for the next course to make its way over otherwise I would have been up to the eyeballs in bread and hommus. However, that wasn't the last of the bread. We were served up to excellent traditional Turkish Pides. One with Turkish sausage, haloumi, kasar and capsicum and the other ricotta, feta, haloumi, pastirma and egg. Raw egg I might add, which required us to mix it through the hot, melted cheese and cook it fresh on the table.
The texture was super rich and creamy, with an almost whipped consistency. I loved the hit of salt from both the cheese and the pastrima, this was a memorable dish.
After our bread filled rampage, a conservative sized main course makes it way to the table, thank goodness. The smoked lamb shoulder is falling apart. Cooked with dried apricots, dried figs and mandarin, this sweet and sour dish is one of my favourites. I love fruit in savoury dishes so this was a serious winner. Served with a bulghur pilav topped with smoked labne, pine nuts and mint its the perfect accompaniment to soak up those beautiful, natural fruit juices in the lamb.
Then the harrisa wood roasted chicken with chili hommus, lemon and onion salsa was perfectly cooked. The meat was juicy and tender and the slightly crispy skin sung with flavour. By this point I was stuffed. My savoury tummy I mean, my dessert tummy still had plenty of room.
The first dessert had me seriously guessing my tastebuds. Mexican shaved flavoured ice best compared to granita, in mango and raspberry flavour. The mango was served with chili and sweetened condensed milk. Strange right? However the chili was subtle and left just enough bite at the end to keep you wanting more. The contrast between the hard, cold ice and the creamy milk is something I've never experienced before but it was really incredible.
Our second dessert (of course we had more than one) was the churro booza ice cream sandwich. I love booza anyway, if you haven't had it the best way to describe it is sticky, elasticated ice cream. Sandwiched between two flat churros, drizzled with raspberry compote and finished with fluffy fairy floss. The churro was slightly dry and a bit too firm for my liking but the combination of all four elements was spot on. Who doesn't love an ice cream sandwich?
After all that it was necessary to wash it down with a Turkish tea. Brewed in a large traditional Turkish teapot and served on an equally traditional serving tray it was the perfect way to end a Turkish feast.
WHAT'S better than befriending a chef? MARRYING ONE! Sali has the RIGHT idea.
Living in the Eastern suburbs we often miss out on some great food and restaurant experiences as we get comfortable in our bubble, but it is places like these that make me urge you to venture far and wide and to areas you wouldn't normally think to. This is definitely one of the best meals I've had so far this year and I challenge it to be one of yours.
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