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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sahara Restaurant, Parramatta, Sydney

Famous Turkish apple tea $3

Six food bloggers in a restaurant can never be missed.

I often wonder what we must look like to the casual passerby, a table of diners intent on photographing each dish with such seriousness, their faces obscured by a camera lens.

Tonight I'm dining with fellow food bloggers Lex, Minh, Richard, Simon and Suze. It takes some time for six people to get the shot they're finally happy with, but when the photos are done, it's onto the food and plenty of conversation.

Mezze dips platter $14.90
Selection of home-made dips served with crisp garlic herb pide bread

We're at Sahara Turkish Restaurant, found among the stretch of new al fresco style restaurants along the bus stop side of Parramatta Westfield. There's a view into the kitchen from the street, the charcoal grill on which swords of meat are cooked, taking centre stage.

Apple tea served in tea glasses is boiling hot and satisfyingly sweet. Suze and I sip this slowly as we nibble on crunchy shards of garlic herb pide bread served with a trio of dips that includes hummos, baba ghanoush and spinach. The basting of oil and garlic is a little unnecessary given the bread is a mere receptacle for the dips.

Diablo chilli garlic prawns $16.90
Fresh tiger prawns marinated in garlic, herbs and chilli
sauteed in olive and napolitana sauce served in hot pot with bread

We check the menu description when the diablo chilli garlic prawns arrive, checking that yes, chilli had been promised. It's more of a prawn in passata offering than the devil's chilli we'd been hoping for. It's disappointingly devoid of garlic too.

Lamb cutlets $26.90
Chargrilled and thyme-marinated lamb cutlets
served with pilaf rice, salad and Turkish pide bread

Lamb cutlets are a generous serve of five cutlets resting on a bed of mash and a huddle of broccoli and carrot.

Kusbasi shish $22.90
Skewered and bbq tender lamb backstrap marinated in Sahara's
famous herbs and spices served with authentic salad, pilaf rice and aioli

I'm much more interested in the shish meats. Tender cubes of lamb backstrap make up the kusbasi shish, the meat tender and smoky in flavour. A compressed mound of pilaf rice, a saucer of aioli and a boat of cucumber, onion and tomato salad make up the accompaniments.

Adana shish $21.90
Authentic seasoned minced lamb skewers, a rare specialty of Turkey,
served with pilaf rice, authentic salad and aioli sauce

Adana shish is also a winner, the lamb mince a little sweeter in flavour, especially with its charred and caramelised edges. The bed of pide bread beneath the meat is the best part, tasty with the juices from the meat soaking into it.

Authentic dondurma $11
Maraj turkish ice cream

Lex is keen to try the dondurma, the uniquely stretchy ice cream that gets its chewiness from the pounded roots of a wild Turkish orchid. We receive the chocolate flavour which doesn't quite have the chewiness of the version at Mado Cafe in Auburn, although I expect the addition of chocolate may have hampered these qualities somewhat.

Turkish coffee $3.50

We haven't ordered a lot this evening but that's because the night isn't over yet. Suze had mentioned she wanted to have a cheese party to which someone asked, "what should we bring?"

"Bring prosciutto," she said. And so we did.

Prosciutto and cheese party

Apparently Simon doesn't believe in doing anything in halves. Travelling all over Sydney, Simon contributes three prosciutto, two presunto and three jamons:
  • AC Butchery, Leichhardt - Prosciutto Crudo made locally and cured for at least 9 months
  • Hudson Meats, Surry Hills - Prosciutto San Daniele and Jamon Iberico ($295/kg)
  • Pino's Dolce Vita, Kogarah - Prosciutto made locally from Sweet Bangalow Pork
  • Talho Portuguese Butchery, Petersham - Presunto (cheapest at $2.60 for 6 slices but very salty - we ended up frying it into super salty but crispy bacon)
  • Portugese Spanish Butchery, Petersham - Presunto
  • Terry Wright, Randwick - Jamon Serrano and Jamon Iberico ($395/kg)
The prosciutto offerings by Richard, Lex and I seem to pale in comparison although Lex does contribute an interesting prosciutto salami.

More prosciutto

We eat our way through twelve different types of cured pork with slow and considered deliberation. It's fascinating to compare the different texures and flavours, their variations more acute when eaten one after the other. The $395/kg jamon iberico is the clear winner - the flavour of acorns is pronounced and the complexity of flavour is undeniable.

Pigging out on pig? I couldn't think of a better way to end an evening!

Thanks everyone for a great night, particularly Simon for his generous contribution in the name of porcine research, and Suze for being such an accommodating host.

Beetroot relish, strawberries, Haberfield Bakery ciabatta,
rockmelon and Binnorie Dairy labneh

Prosciutto, presunto and jamon

Sahara Restaurant
Shop 2185 Westfield Parramatta
218 Argyle Street (corner Church St and Argyle St)
Parramatta, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9687 7898

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday 11am - late

Related GrabYour Fork posts:
Turkish -- Mado Cafe, Auburn (Jan09)
Turkish -- Al Sofra Pizza, Pide and Kebabs, Auburn
Turkish -- New Star Kebabs, Auburn

Sahara Turkish Restaurant on Urbanspoon
20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/15/2009 12:55:00 am


  • At 9/15/2009 2:43 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    mmm prosciutto... so much tastyness how i love thee

  • At 9/15/2009 7:28 am, Blogger Forager said…

    Ooh, the prosciutto platter looks so amazing! Simon should know - he lives nice and close to the Italian community. What an excellent selection of different jamons too!

  • At 9/15/2009 8:53 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    That is prosciutto madness! But awesome and definitely not surprising coming from a group of food bloggers hehehe. I am super sad I had to miss out on this :( I've always been so curious about the chewy icecream though that chocolate one doesn't quite sound like one of the best ones around

  • At 9/15/2009 8:54 am, Anonymous shez said…

    Lordy it looks like you all had a fantastic time! Wish I could have been there for it (especially for the meat-juice soaked turkish bread and the piggy supper!)

  • At 9/15/2009 9:09 am, Anonymous Howard said…

    Sahara was my first foray into Turkish/middle eastern food, I think it was in Burwood. I thought it was the greatest thing until I discovered Auburn Rd! But still, Sahara is still pretty good albeit a bit pricier.

  • At 9/15/2009 9:12 am, Anonymous Minh said…

    I have to admit I haven't been able to touch Pork since that weekend... lol that said it was an awesome night!

  • At 9/15/2009 10:53 am, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    That's a lot of prosciutto! Sounds like your cheese party turned into a prosciutto party. Well done to Simon with the research.

  • At 9/15/2009 11:09 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    Feel sick just by looking at all those prosciutto. so much! But I do feel like a slice right own with a fig or date inside though :P

  • At 9/15/2009 11:44 am, Blogger lex said…

    Am increasingly becoming a fan of the diversity of lamb backstrap - next supper: lamb backstrap night! (with more rockmelon refreshers)

  • At 9/15/2009 1:31 pm, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    I really like the turkish bread from Sahara, but I guess, you can't really go wrong with that! The meats are good most of the time too. The cheese party looks intense, did you guys manage to polish it all off??

  • At 9/15/2009 10:31 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Such sacrifice in the name of porky research! Jaws agape at the difference in types of prosciutto procured, hope everyone had lots of water to drink afterwards! BTW, what do acorns taste like?

  • At 9/15/2009 10:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To tell you the truth, living near Parramatta, i dont know how this place survives!! When i walk past it,there is never more than 4 tables with customers there!!


  • At 9/16/2009 1:32 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi chocolatesuze - Oh tastiness indeed. Are you seeing other people at the moment though? lol

    Hi Forager - It was quite a way to end the evening, and yes, Simon's diligence was very impressive!

    Hi Stephcookie - You must get to Mado in Auburn for their maras dondurma ice cream. Oh so good! And sorry you had to miss out. Was much fun!

    Hi Shez - Shame you couldn't make it. The piggy supper was one-of-a-kind!

    Hi Howard - I agree, nothing beats Auburn Road for authentic Turkish (and so cheap too!).

    Hi Minh - I ate prosciutto on Sat night - not much though! I don't think I should've confessed that! lol

    Hi Arwen - I think it did become a prosciutto party, but I don't think anyone was complaining!

    Hi Billy - Feel sick with lerve? lol. It was all in the name of research. Research, I say!

    Hi Lex - Backstrap is a great cut of meat. Sounds like a great idea!

    Hi Betty - We ate most of the prosciutto in the photo but the cheese hardly got touched! Plenty of smiles all around though.

    Hi YaYa - Oh we are always willing to sacrifice our bodies in the name of gastronmic research! The acorn flavour comes across as buttery and nutty and creamy.

    Hi Sydneyguyrojoe - It was reasonably busy when we were there on a Friday night, say 80% full? There seems to be quite a lot of competition but maybe it also creates more passing traffic of people looking for a bite to eat.

  • At 9/16/2009 11:19 am, Anonymous Max said…

    Sigh, a prosciutto degustation? Lovely! Great blog and keep the posts coming!

  • At 9/16/2009 10:00 pm, Blogger Yas @ hungry.digital.elf. said…

    AWWWWWWW is this what I have missed?? Bummerrr!

  • At 9/17/2009 12:12 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Max - Sighs and smiles of happiness all round. Glad you've been enjoying the posts.

    Hi Yas - Nothing like food envy hey? Such a shame you couldn't make it! Next time, for sure!

  • At 9/19/2009 12:58 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We dine at Sahara Parramatta at least once a week with friends and addicted to their juicy grills.
    Its pretty packed on weekends especially when they have bellydancing. If anyone goes in late arvo or early dinner the strip is quiet however their main crowd is corporate lunch til 2pm and then dinner after 7.

  • At 9/20/2009 8:05 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - I didn't realise there was bellydancing on weekends. Thanks for the tip.

  • At 9/21/2009 9:50 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    80% full, Wow things must have changed, the last friday night i was in Parramatta i would say 10% full,looks like the economic downturn is heading up!!


  • At 9/22/2009 2:23 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Sydneyguyrojoe - lol. Maybe you were there on a bad night? It seemed reasonably busy when we were there.


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