In Short: Genuine Turkish experience with staff that truly care about delivering it. Stunning location that makes the most of al fresco dining and harbour views.
Turkish cuisine has its roots in the mosaic of cultural influences that has shaped Turkey through the ages. Now the depth and delights of that food culture is gracing Sydney’s newest culinary destination, Baranagaroo, in the form of Anason.
I first visited Turkey in the late 90s, and Istanbul fast became one of my favourite cities ever visited with its vibrant culture, warm people and by far, some of the most incredible food I had ever tasted. It was all about sharing plates, and bite size morsels of delicious ingredients from the ocean and the land, all dancing across the palate as guests danced between the tables with live music and everyone singing.
Now while you might not get a live band or singing at Anason, you definitely get the wonderful, communal-style, shared plate dining experience and the team here have certainly ensured that the highest quality ingredients fill all of their dishes. Lately the Coco and Vine team have really enjoyed leaving the menu selection up to our knowledgeable hosts, and with Burak, the restaurant manager, eager to please, we prepared for a huge feast ahead as he revelled in taking us through a culinary journey of his homeland.
We start with the Atom, a base of Labneh style yoghurt that is a less tangy, more creamy, luxurious style of yoghurt, burnt butter, and two types of chilis. Marash chilis that are directly imported from Marash in eastern Turkey and green chillis which are milder and fruitier in flavour.
Next up is the Pumpkin Hummus with crispy chickpeas, sumac and olive oil. This is a delicious creamy and lighter style hummus, and the crunchy chickpeas are perfectly roasted and provide a nutty flavour and texture.
This is paired with the Saj Pita that is served with zahter butter and this soft, unleavened style of bread is the perfect accompaniment to the Atom and hummus.
In a street-style cart on the side of the restaurant, you’ll see a glass case filled with a popular Turkish street food, the sesame ring simit. The pretzel shaped, robust exterior has a chewy interior, and robust, nutty flavours from the sesame seeds.
The next set of dishes fill the table, and as Burak passionately explains the plates he has chosen for us, we all start passing the choices between us filling our plates with a great array of flavours.
Burak insists that we must have the Special Lamb Back Strap, which is a specialty of the house. Fillets of lamb back strap are grilled for a caramelised crust, put into claypot and baked with diced tomatoes, diced capsicum and Kashar cheese (sheep’s milk) and then served with pickled beans. The meat is wonderfully tender and packed with flavour from the tomato and capsicum sauce.
The Charcoal Octopus with Witlof and Tomato Ezme (smashed tomato) is mouth-watering. The octopus is tender and you can taste the flavours of the sea, with a little bit of bite from the sweet, yet spicy tomato ezme. The Witlof is crisp with a slightly bitter after-taste to counter the ezme.
Chicken Thigh Skewers with Orzo and Apricot Pilaf is another must-have selection from the Anason menu. The Chicken is marinated and packed with flavour from the grilling process, and is served with a tasty apricot flavoured risoni-style pilaf.
Anason is actually the Turkish word for ‘aniseed’, and if you’ve ever been to Turkey then you certainly know that no dinner experience is complete without a generous serving of Raki at the table. Burak explains, as with Turkish food, Raki is meant to be shared with friends, so we oblige! There are 3 ways to consume Raki, neat, with ice, or with ice & water, which is the most ideal way to drink it, so that it extends over the course of the meal. We are served the premium brand of Raki from Turkey, Tekirdag and here at Anason it’s served with rockmelon and pepper cheese, to bring out and balance the sharp flavours of the aniseed.
Burak rounds out our meal with one last off-the-menu dish to indulge in for the night. Midye Dolma or stuffed mussels. They are served with rice and caramelised onions, pine nuts and cinnamon and are associated with late night feasts in Istanbul where young people leaving night spots would indulge in trays of them from street vendors outside. These are best eaten using the one half of shell as a spoon with a splash of lemon juice – yum!
We have had a fantastic and nostalgic night, journeying down the Bosphorus in the delightful hands of Burak and the team at Anason. I yearned for long, summer nights by the ocean, laughing with friends, listening to music and drinking the night away…and then realised that summer was just around the corner!