Alex Buharali believes it’s impossible to get authentic Turkish food outside of Turkey. “You just can’t find all the ingredients here,” he says. “Seventy per cent of my menu is home-made Turkish food. Most dishes are my mum’s recipes.”
The Istanbul-born former restaurant manager says it’s one of the reasons he opened Turka. And although he serves traditional Turkish dishes, there’s also distinctly Australian dishes, such as beetroot dips; a kale salad with bulgur cracked wheat, pumpkin seeds and dried apricots; or prawns in paprika-burnt butter. Then there’s the dishes that fall under the general category of “middle eastern food”.
To understand why Buharali has included them on the Turka menu, he says it’s important to know some history. “The Ottomans ran that part of the world for 900 years and they brought their chefs when they conquered,” he says, explaining that’s why versions of falafel, baklava and hummus can be found in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Egypt.
Even though the menu isn’t purely Turkish, the slow-fast-slow tempo of eating is authentic. At breakfast, there are quick toast-based options, the kind you’d find at a coffee cart in Turkey – like kashar (a mild, mozzarella-like cheese) with toast – alongside multi-course options, such as the Turka Big Breakfast.
This well-named meal consists of things such as cheeses, fruit, dips, yoghurts, nuts, fried eggs and menemen: a spiced, slow-cooked tomato and capsicum dish resembling shakshuka. It’s huge and is served on wooden planks.
At lunch, the tempo picks up and Buharali serves quick and delicious rolls. Meats like chargrilled chicken or lamb are served on long, crusty bread rolls with tomato, red onion, sauce and pickles. The pace slows again for dinner, where it’s about substantial shared meals.
In traditional Turkish eateries there’s no menu; dishes (served cold and hot) are brought to tables on trays, not unlike the way yum cha is served from carts. “You sit down, you get your cold dishes right away. The waiter comes with a big tray of ramekins and you take from the tray whatever you like. Here that’s too complicated, so I do it to order.”
Cold mezes consist of smoked eggplant or capsicum, olives and Turkish pickles. Try the Mum’s Courgettes, which are sautéed to tender and served with garlic yoghurt and walnuts, and from the warm meze, options, the aromatic, flavourful sujuk (Turkish chorizo) pan-fried and served with capsicum. It can be tempting to order every dish, so if the mood takes you go with the set-menu and let the chef choose.
Then you can sit back and take in the handsome space, which features polished stone floors, industrial lines, exposed timber and ornate light fixtures.
4/6 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest
(02) 8592 1267
Mon to Thu 7am–9pm