An Afternoon in Auburn, Sydney

We’ve been a bit slack lately. At the start of the year, we thought we would make a resolution – at least once a fortnight, we would visit a part of Sydney that we’d never been to. Up until late February, it had happened exactly zero times…until we finally made the decision to drive out to Auburn for a meal and a little bit of grocery shopping. It’s really only 45 minutes drive from our place to Auburn, but we’ve just never made the effort to go out there for a visit.

Mixed Grill Plate at Sofra Restaurant
Mixed Grill Plate at Sofra Restaurant

Our first stop was lunch at Sofra Restaurant! By the time we got to Auburn, I was getting more than a little hangry, snapping at K for every little sentence that he dared to utter. Knowing that we were going to be buying bits and pieces from different shops to snack on during the afternoon, we decided to share a single Mixed Grill Plate.

Topped with a generous serve of Lebanese bread, the plate of roasted-to-order meats arrived quickly. The chargrilled chicken was probably my favourite bit – charred and black on the outside but tender and moist on the inside, it really couldn’t be beat. Note – make sure you have some mints on hand, as the plate is loaded up with raw onions and you will be left with a bit of a tang on your tongue!

Sofra on Urbanspoon

Farouk El Bahsa & Sons Pastries
Farouk El Bahsa & Sons Pastries

Our next stop was at Farouk El Bahsa & Sons Pastries. I find myself wondering whether the owner is of any relation to another of my favourite baklava shops – Chehade El Bahsa & Sons Sweets in Bankstown. It is a similar concept, displayed in the same way – slabs upon slabs of Lebanese sweets and pastries laid out behind glass along a large counter running the length of the store.

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Like Chehade El Bahsa & Sons, they sell by the kilo or half kilo – or by single slices if you can restrain yourself to buying in small quantities which I never can. We walked away with a kilo of a variety of sweets – baklava, ladies fingers, pistachio nut slices, and more. Unfortunately, the full kilo of sweets wasn’t just for us! We had a family lunch the next day, so we took it along as our contribution to the meal.

Farouk El Bahsa and Sons on Urbanspoon

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Gima Supermarket is an icon in Auburn – and is a real destination supermarket for many people of Turkish descent, as the largest Sydney stockist of goods and groceries from that area of the world. We were very much the outsiders while we were there – while we were treated politely and with smiles, there were still some questioning looks as to why we were shopping there rather than around the corner at the Asian supermarket!

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Part of it was pure curiosity on our part – K and I love visiting supermarkets in the different countries that we visit, as a real snapshot into what and how people eat in different countries. I loved seeing the massive 1, 2, 5, 10 litre containers of yoghurt and feta cheese in the refrigerator at Gima Supermarket. You can definitely see how dairy plays a part in the diet!

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The produce section was a little bit different as well, featuring certain chillies and capsicum that you wouldn’t normally find in a standard Coles or Woolworths supermarket – or even our usual Asian grocery stores.

We ended up walking away with a few bakery items, a few jars of sauces and chutneys, and some large bags of dried pulses as well. There’s some great deals to be found at Gima Supermarket, especially if you’re planning on cooking a Turkish, Lebanese or Moroccan inspired meal as ingredients like dukkah or bulgur can be found here for half the price of anywhere else.

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A trip to Auburn isn’t complete without buying a 1 metre long Afghan bread for only $1.20 from New Afghan Bread. That’s a metre worth of hot delicious soft yet crispy flatbread, hot out of the tandoor, for only $1.20. You could save it for a later meal…or you could do what I did, and gradually rip pieces off and eat as you walk around Auburn. How could I resist when it was still warm and toasty?

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We finished off our afternoon in Auburn by wandering down the Chinese side of Auburn, ducking into supermarkets to pick up some of our staples (Chinese pickled cabbage, dry noodles, tofu) and to check out some of the shops. It was surprising to see how much cheaper some of the groceries were in Auburn compared to what we would normally pay in Chatswood. Some things like beef mince were $1.50 cheaper per kilo in Auburn, and even veggies from the greengrocer were cheaper per kilo as well.

I’d like to add Auburn onto our list of regular shopping areas – even if it is only once a month or once every two months. Making savings on non-perishable things like bulk packs of dried lentils and pulses and other items like that would make the trip out more than worthwhile. I’ll be back!

Review: Sultan’s Table, Enmore

The way my friend Jenny describes it, you would think that Manchester in the UK is an empty wasteland of food culture. The variety that we take for granted here in Sydney, is by her account, completely lacking in Manchester. When she visited me earlier this year, I questioned her on what she wanted to try when she was in Sydney. What cuisines doesn’t she have access to back home, and what would she like to try?

On the second night that we went out for dinner (first night was at Gyuzou), we had the choice between Ethiopian (Jambo Jambo – read my earlier review here) or Turkish. We chose Turkish and ended up at Sultan’s Table in Enmore, one of my favourite Turkish joints not least because of its convenient location near Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato for dessert.

Medium Mixed Dips, $18
Medium Mixed Dips, $18

With Jenny’s university friend Catherine who had just moved to Sydney and K in attendance as well, we ordered a number of dishes to share. First up, a must at any Turkish restaurant – a platter of Mixed Dips with warm crusty Turkish bread on the side. I liked Sultan’s Table’s unique addition of a little eggplant salsa in the middle of the platter for something a bit different. The winner here though, was the capsicum dip – slightly spicy, but sweet at the same time.

Imam Bayildi (Whole eggplant filled with vegetables cooked in a traditional way with special herbs & spices), $9
Imam Bayildi (Whole eggplant filled with vegetables cooked in a traditional way with special herbs & spices), $9

As a big eggplant aficionado, the Imam Bayildi caught my eye as one way to increase our vegetable intake at a restaurant where you’re more likely to order carb and protein-heavy meals. Baked till soft, the halved eggplant was served with a herbed tomato salsa on top. It’s quite heavy for a purely vegetarian dish, and does leave a bit of an oily aftertaste in your mouth.

Gourmet Chicken Pide (Chicken, spinach, mushroom, onion, tomato, cheese & parsley), $14.50
Gourmet Chicken Pide (Chicken, spinach, mushroom, onion, tomato, cheese & parsley), $14.50

With over a dozen different pide to choose from on the menu, it’s difficult to settle on just the one! Catherine ends up nominating the Gourmet Chicken Pide which suits us all – the juicy mix of succulent chicken breast with fresh vegetables and melted cheese really hits the spot. K takes the leftovers for a snack the next day at work, and reported that it was still tasty a day later as well.

Mixed Grill (Combination of Adana, lamb, chicken kebabs served with salad and Turkish bread), $29
Mixed Grill (Combination of Adana, lamb, chicken kebabs served with salad and Turkish bread), $29

We finish with the Mixed Grill to share – chunks of delicious skewered chargrilled meats served with a somewhat overdressed side salad, and covered with Turkish bread. The presentation left a little something to be desired – I think that the meat should have been served on the bread as it would mean that the run off juices from the meat would soak into the bread creating pure deliciousness in a single bite.

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Sultan’s Table delivers decent, no-fuss, hearty Turkish food that satisfies. It’s not fancy, and it doesn’t try to be either, with staff rarely cracking a smile as they efficiently bustle around the room with plates.

While I wouldn’t go there expecting to spend hours over fine food and wine with friends, it definitely answers a need for quick and tasty food at a good price in Enmore…a good stop for dinner pre-dessert at Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato.

Sultan's Table on Urbanspoon

Review: Erciyes, Surry Hills

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!

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Babagonush, $11

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.

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Stuffed cabbage rolls, $4 each

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?

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Green Bean Salad, $10

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!

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Kiymali pide, $17

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.

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Lamb shish kebab, $27

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!

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Baklava, $4

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!

Erciyes on Urbanspoon