Do you have a fall-back food option that’s forever reliable and you know that you’ll never be disappointed? The kind of restaurant that you know will always be open with tables available, when you get turned away at the door from the new hip restaurant in town?
Erciyes in Surry Hills is one of mine, though it doesn’t look like much from the outside. Dominated by their front-of-house bright-lit takeaway counters and soft drink fridges,you need to push past the crowds of people waiting for their takeaway pides and kebabs to get to their restaurant.
K and I took my nephew there on one of his last evenings in Sydney as a special treat – good Turkish food isn’t something that’s readily found in Hong Kong so I was keen for him to try the food!
We started off simply with with the babagonush which was served with a basket heaped with hot sliced Turkish bread, straight out of the oven. We had to explain to my cousin how to eat this as it was quite a foreign concept for him to eat bread and dips like this. I always love the dips at Erciyes – the eggplant in this babagonush was wonderfully smokey and just heavenly with the piping hot soft bread.
My nephew wasn’t as keen on the cabbage rolls, which he complained were too spicy and hot. Admittedly, the rice mixture inside was well spiced in a way that made it more complex – his ten-year-old palate wasn’t quite ready for the mild chilli hit though! Parenting experts will no doubt shudder when they hear of how I forced him to eat his whole cabbage roll even when he was complaining about the spices…I’m quite merciless! My theory is that he needed to just become used to eating spicy food through constant training – and what better time to start than the present?
The cold green bean salad did help to mute the spiciness of the cabbage rolls for him though. He’s a big fan of the tomato-based sauce, declaring that ketchup is “the best!”. I personally like the simplicity of the salad – beans cooked perfectly, sweet tomatoes, punchy onions, and a drizzle of oil to ensure it’s not too healthy either!
A pide is a must whenever you’re at Erciyes. We kept it simple with the basic ground meat pide which my nephew gobbled down. “It’s just like a pizza,” he said and for a ten-year-old, there’s really no greater praise. I liked the crispy dough and the charred bottoms that characterise a great pide (and a great pizza!), and the squeeze of lemon over the pide that makes the meat really sing.
The lamb shish kebab was amazingly tender and juicy, with a great charred smokiness. The juices of the meat soaked slowly into the Turkish bread platter that had been laid underneath the meat, creating a delicious flavoured bread that K gobbled up. I loved the firm grilled mushrooms, though I did find the fresh chopped side salad a bit too oniony for my liking. Raw onion breath is the bane of my life!
All through dinner, my nephew had been asking what we were having for dessert. “Is there chocolate mousse?” he kept asking, with the memories of the chocolate mousse at Via Napoli still high on his radar. I reassured him that we were having something as equally delicious, but he didn’t actually recognise the baklava as a dessert when it came out as there was no chocolate. “I don’t think that’s dessert,” he claimed, until he actually had a bite and realised how sweet the honey-soaked baklava actually was.
The baklava is almost always overwhelmingly sweet and sticky, which is why I usually opt for my favourite dish on Erciyes’s menu as my dessert choice – the walnut pide (walnut, sugar and butter, $14). We ordered the walnut pide to go this time, and I greedily consumed a third of it in the car on the way home. It’s a real winner, and I’ve been known to leave other nearby restaurants after a main meal, and go to Erciyes just for the walnut pide as dessert.
I highly recommend Erciyes to everyone – it’s hearty, home-made food that always leaves you feeling satiated and satisfied. I always take my out-of-town visitors to it as a special treat and a demonstration that Sydney’s best food, isn’t always Sydney’s most expensive food!