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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stanbuli, Enmore

Fried cauliflower at Stanbuli, Enmore

Stanbuli is Sydney's newest Turkish eatery but don't expect the usual kebab and chips. The menu, by head chef Ibrahim Kasif (ex-Porteno), is all about offering mezze-style dishes - little plates of food you can snack on with a drink - culminating in more substantial dishes like marinated quails, giant lamb cutlets and smoky duck cooked over charcoal.

The bar set-up downstairs means you can pop in for a couple of stuffed mussels with a glass of raki, or take your time over a procession of dishes. Groups are directed upstairs (booking are essential). The bar downstairs is devoted to walk-ins of two or three.

Stanbuli in the old Marie-Louise Salon in Enmore
Stanbuli inside the old Marie-Louise Salon

Stanbuli charms as soon as you arrive at the front door. They've kept the former facade of Marie Louise hair salon, a glorious vision of pink and purple with rounded windows. The restaurant is a partnership between Joe Valore and Elvis Ebrahanowizc (co-owners of Porteno and Continental Deli Bistro) and Ibrahim Kasif.

Downstairs bar at Stanbuli, Enmore
Downstairs bar 

The interior has been completely revamped. Downstairs it's cool tiles and bar stools along the wall and wrapped around the bar. Upstairs it's dark brown furniture with striking blue and white patterned wallpaper, the motif repeated on the front cover of the menu.

The only issue we have with upstairs is the decibel level. Even at two-thirds full, it's uncomfortably loud and clangy with the echo of conversation, so much so that we ask if our trio can relocate downstairs to the bar. Staff are happy to accommodate this request, and reassure us that insulation will be installed upstairs soon to dampen noise levels.

Kofte stuffed with beef and walnuts at Stanbuli, Enmore
Icli Kofte $8 each
Bulgur shell stuffed with beef, walnuts, chillies and spices

We immediately order snacks and drinks while we contemplate what to order. The icli kofte arrive within minutes, deep fried footballs hot from the fryer encased in bulgur, the same cracked wheat you find in tabouli. Kofte fillings can sometimes be dry but these are terrific, a tumble of seasoned beef mince, crushed walnuts and chilli that is juicy and well-seasoned. I'm not normally a fan of kofte but this is probably my favourite dish of the night.

I love, too, that our dishes arrive from the kitchen as they're ready, dispensed by waiters carrying multiple orders on large silver trays. They float and dip throughout the bar area, as clusters of couples huddle closely over drinks and nibbles.

Efes Turkish beer and cocktails at Stanbuli, Enmore
Turkish beer and cocktails

The drinks list includes a comprehensive selection of rakis, as well as wines, cocktails and beers. I have the Efes, a pilsener brewed in Turkey.

Midye dolma mussels stuffed with spiced rice at Stanbuli, Enmore
Midye Dolma $3 each
Stuffed mussels street-style filled with fragrant spiced rice

The midye dolma or stuffed mussels are fast becoming one of the signature dishes here, and with good reason. A stuffing of spiced rice elevates these bivalves to a hearty snack, creating a kind of mini paella boat. These are a common street snack found along the Turkish coast but rarely found here, requiring patience and a significant level of labour intensity.

Use the top shell as a natural spoon and savour the gentle chew of mussel against the seasoned rice.

House pastirma spiced air-dried beef at Stanbuli, Enmore
House Pastirma $9
Spiced air-dried beef and pickled chillies

House pastirma is the last of our drinking snacks, thinly shaved slices of air dried beef. They're just the kind of protein hit you need alongside a drink, served with pickled chillies that are less spicy than they appear.

Beyin chilled lambs brain salad at Stanbuli, Enmore
Beyin $15
Chilled lambs brain salad with purslane yoghurt, charcoal grilled olive and pickled green chilli

The meze menu runs from $14-$18. We're immediately drawn to the chilled lambs brain salad. Eschewing the usual deep fry disguise, here the brains are lined up in a row on a bed of yoghurt and purslane leaves, strewn over with mint, fennel front and pickled chilli. Soft and smooth, like a cold-set custard, the garnishes and yoghurt add pops of flavour and texture.

Kizartma cold fried eggplant and peppers at Stanbuli, Enmore
Kizartma $14
Cold fried eggplant and peppers in braised tomato and yoghurt

There's a heartiness in the cold fried eggplant and peppers, braised in a rich tomato sauce and topped with yoghurt. Vegetarians are well looked after here with the choice of six mezze, three sides and one charcoal dish - hellim sheep and cow milk cheese cooked over coals.

Baklva fava bean pate at Stanbuli, Enmore
Bakla $14
Fava bean pate with yoghurt, pickled okra and radish

Fava beans are reinvented in a slab of bakla or pate, buried beneath a medley of pickled radish, okra and chillies with more purslane leaves and fennel fronds to finish.

Turkish Cypriot style fragrant bread at Stanbuli, Enmore
Bread $2
Turkish Cypriot style fragrant bread with mastic, aniseed and sesame seeds

We make a last minute order for bread, a Turkish Cypriot-style loaf crusted with sesame seeds, that's perfect for slathering with fava bean pate and soaking up the last bits of eggplant tomato sauce.

Karnibahar fried cauliflower at Stanbuli, Enmore
Karnibahar $16
Fried cauliflower and charred onions in a perfumed saffron sauce 

Fried cauliflower is a jumble of deep brown florets with curls of charred onion. There's an impressive nutty flavour to the cauliflower that still possess a gentle crunch in the stem.

Kalamar fried calamari with hazelnut tarator at Stanbuli, Enmore
Kalamar $18
Floured and lightly fried calamari with hazelnut tarator

I'd voted for the kalamar and am glad I did. Rings of fried calamari are tender beneath their armour of knobbly golden batter. The hazelnut tarator is a revelation too, the usual walnuts swapped out for the sweeter hazelnut, in a thick and creamy garlic sauce.

Uykuluk spiced lamb sweetbreads at Stanbuli, Enmore
Uykuluk $18
Spiced lamb sweetbreads, marinated pepper and onion salad

We continue our offal run with spiced lamb sweetbreads, cooked over charcoal until the surface has caramelised, yet still retaining a succulency within. Marinated peppers and onions provide a welcome sweet and acidic counterbalance.

Ahtapot octopus and tarama at Stanbuli, Enmore
Ahtapot $30
Octopus and tarama

Octopus is one of those ingredients that so easily turns inedible in the wrong hands. There's no danger of that here. The tentacles are deliciously tender with a faint char along the edges for a smoky sweetness. The dollop of tarama enhances the taste of the sea.

Adana hand-minced lamb and beef kofte at Stanbuli, Enmore
Adana $30
Hand-minced lamb and beef kofte spiced with capsicum and chilli 

We finish with adana, the closest you'll get to a kebab here, a classic mix of ground lamb and beef mince cooked on sword-like skewer. It's pure protein, served with blistered green chillies, red onions and chunks of grilled tomato and onion.

Ekmek kadayif bread soaked in orange blossom honeyed syrup with pistachio clotted cream at Stanbuli, Enmore
Ekmek kadayif $14
Bread soaked in orange blossom-honeyed syrup with pistachio clotted cream

Dessert offers a quartet of options each priced at $14. We skip the hazelnut baklava and tulumba and zero in on the ekmek kadayif. A slab of sweet bread has been soaked generously with orange blossom and honey syrup. The best part is the pistachio clotted cream, crowned with fresh figs and crushed pistachios.

Muhallebi mastic milk pudding with poached peaches and watermelon granita at Stanbuli, Enmore
Muhallebi $14
Mastic milk pudding with poached peaches and watermelon granita

But the surprise delight is the mastic milk pudding, cool and slippery against the chunks of poached peaches and fluffy watermelon granita.

There's plenty to like here, with Kasif providing a deft hand and sophisticated touch to Turkish dishes that deserve more exposure. It reminds me of Movida, with a Turkish twist, in a good way. What are you waiting for? Book ahead or stroll in, and prepare to be Turkish delighted.

Stanbuli in the old Marie-Louise Salon in Enmore

Stanbuli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

135 Enmore Road, Enmore, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 8624 3132

Opening hours
Wednesday to Saturday 6pm til late
Sunday 4pm-10pm

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12 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/26/2016 02:57:00 am


  • At 1/26/2016 9:33 am, Anonymous John - heneedsfood said…

    Seriously in swoon mode over here. Such deliciousness. We walked past Stanbuli several weeks ago, peering through the downstairs window at the stunning fit-out and hanging lights.

    That sweetbread!!

  • At 1/26/2016 1:50 pm, Anonymous Eva@thehungryplum said…

    This is one of those very rare Turkish restaurants that actually embed their cookery in home-style methods, flavours and classical dishes rather than the usual doner kebab / gözleme / pide combo we tend to see everywhere. I'm very curious to try this place to see if it matches my mother's homemade versions!

  • At 1/26/2016 8:42 pm, Anonymous Tania | My Kitchen Stories said…

    Wow looks like a very different and amazing offering.

  • At 1/26/2016 8:55 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    ooh don't think I've ever had brains that hadn't been crumbed and deep fried!

  • At 1/27/2016 4:17 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Excellent post as always! I missed out offalwise when I went, they only had the brains on. Delicious food. Next time you go get the tulumba with halva parfait it was a highlight of all the desserts with my group. That parfait was spot on!

  • At 1/27/2016 11:57 pm, Anonymous Sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Love they have kept the outside salon, quirky and cute. Food looks amazing.

  • At 1/28/2016 7:04 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    I like the sound of their eggplant and peppers braised in tomato & yoghurt! The ekmek kadayif look delisht too! Haha it does comes across like a Movida x Turkish type place.

  • At 1/29/2016 3:12 pm, Blogger Tara said…

    Excellent post as always! how to cook a roast

  • At 1/29/2016 3:25 pm, Blogger Cassie | Journey From Within said…

    Love the idea of the kept shop front, but deceiving!!
    Omg the brains, I shivered haha!

  • At 1/30/2016 2:34 pm, Anonymous Hotly Spiced said…

    Shame about the noise but it's good to know they're working towards fixing the problem. How unusual to not have signage outside the restaurant! I was confused as to why you posted a picture that I thought was of a hairdressing salon (having not ever known you to review a salon!) I do like the presentation of the dishes and I'd love to try the cauliflower xx

  • At 1/30/2016 10:25 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    I love how they kept the old storefront - it's super cute!

    PS that soaked bread and clotted cream dessert looks out of this world!

  • At 6/15/2016 2:05 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Scored a seat at the bar, loved the music and the food of which I ordered too much. Turned out to be a fine lunch the next day. I'm going back soon.


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