At Izgara, Potts Point’s newest Turkish restaurant and bar, chefs mesmerisingly prepare and cook a meal in front of you before delivering it to your plate. The diner opens today in the former Harajuku Gyoza space.
This is the third venue for co-owners Efe Topuzlu and Ozgur Sefkatli, who are also behind Above Par in the CBD and Malika Bakehouse in Botany. The elegant 35-seat venue has been designed in the vein of a traditional Turkish ocakbasi restaurant, where the chefs cook in front of diners before personally serving their food. Chefs have come over from Turkey to help recreate the ocakbasi experience.
“In Istanbul we grew up eating in ocakbasi grills, where chefs cook the meat in front of you and serve you directly,” Sefkatli tells Broadsheet. “Efe has also worked in them alongside his uncle who owned an ocakbasi restaurant, so we wanted to blend this concept with modern Australian cuisine.”
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Izgara’s (Turkish for “grill”) meat-driven menu is cooked over an open coal grill, which sits at the centre of the restaurant. Main dishes include shaved lamb backstrap iskender, veal kofte and thinly sliced lamb loin with smoked eggplant and tahini. These are best as follow-ups to starters such as lahmacun (Turkish-style pizza with lamb mince), kibbeh (deep-fried balls of bulghur and lamb mince) and kopoglu (roasted eggplant with garlic yoghurt). And an order of the daily house-made bread is a must. Desserts include baklava and traditional mastic ice-cream.
Sefkatli, who is also group sommelier, has carefully compiled an enormous 250-plus wine list that showcases a mix of Turkish native grapes, European classics, and local and skin-contact drops. A short list of classic cocktails blends flavours from Turkey for concoctions including the Dried Apricot Sour (Chivas 12, apricot brandy and apricot juice) and the Midnight Express (fig- and vanilla-infused bourbon, bitters and orange peel).
The sophisticated fit-out by interior design firm Guru Projects (Santa Catarina, Shaffa, Ezra) is inspired by ’60s Turkish cabaret theatres and art culture. It features a burgundy and dark oak colour palette throughout, intimate booth seating, marble dining tables and ornate chandeliers. The dining room is also framed by a large-scale custom theatre archway.
This is only the first phase of what the pair has planned for Izgara. Weekend brunches are expected to be introduced next month, and there are plans to open a speakeasy cocktail bar with its own wine cellar and private dining area next door, by March next year.