Unfortunately my knowledge is not in fact boundless, and Turkish food is one of the many things I am quite ignorant about (like rugby, and imperial units). In my defence there isn’t exactly an overabundance of Turkish restaurants in Perth beyond the usual takeaway döner kebab and gözleme places, and these days I’m not the late night kebab consumer that I once was. I was pretty happy therefore to learn about a new Turkish restaurant located quite conveniently in Subiaco, called Alaturka.
According to their website Alaturka is pronounced “a la too ka”. Does this mean I have been pronouncing “Turkey” wrong? Should it be “too kee”? Mind you, Turkey probably isn’t even called Turkey in Turkish (nope, is called Türkiye apparently). I’ve had an issue with this for a while. If a place is called Torino or Göteborg or Nihon then I think everyone should call it that. It shouldn’t be changed to Turin or Gothenburg or Japan just so us Angophones can get our tongues around it. This would also do away with the English word “Dutch”, which is “Nederlands” in Dutch (erm, in Nederlands, I mean), and prevent that confusing period when you first learn about this Deutschland place when you’re young and assume it means Dutchland, until you make some remark showing your ignorance and someone mockingly corrects you.
Before I can rule the world and bring about such changes however, I must first gather my strength and what better way to do it than with food. Türkçe food.
Walking into Alaturka, you can tell that some effort and expense has clearly gone into the interior design and it has a clean, modern feel. I’m not entirely a fan of the backless pouf style seats through about half of the restaurant, though they do get me reminiscing about the good old days of whiling away far too many hours parked up on good old backless milk crates at friends’ places, having been beaten to the couches by other whilerawayerers (and then having those damn milk crate marks on your legs if you happened to be wearing anything too short).
After taking our seats we were greeted by a very friendly young man who talked us through the menu briefly, suggesting we go for “Sicak meze tabagi – an assortment plate of hot mezze dishes” ($17.50 for one person, $32.50 for two people) and “Ekmekli dipler tabağı – fresh Turkish bread and trio of dips” ($10.90) to start. He then talked up the “Alaturka Ev mantısı – home made lamb mince and onion filled pasta topped with a garlic yoghurt, buttered tomato paste and sumak spice” ($21.50) for main, telling us his Mother had just made them today. We went with his suggestion for starters, but my friend chose the “Köfte – 5 spice seasoned lamb mince köfte patties grilled and served with pilav rice and garlic yoghurt” ($25.90) for his main while I chose the “Saç kavurma – tender lamb pieces casseroled with fresh tomatoes, onions and herbs served with pilav rice” ($27.90). We must have been in suggestible moods this evening because we also followed our waiter’s next suggestion to also order “Çoban Salatası – shepherds salad with Lebanese cucumber, tomato, red onion and olives” ($9.50) to accompany our mains.
We both tried to order our food using the Turkish names, and while my friend was capable of saying köfte fairly easily I was a little confused by the funny c with a squiggle under it which I thought was a soft s sound like in French, but apparently has a “ch” sound in Turkish (like the c in cello as Wikipedia slightly helpfully puts it). I could only hope the chef was a more capable butcher with the lamb than I proved myself to be of the Turkish language.
While we waited for our food we got some free entertainment in the form of a group of lady patrons who were obviously enjoying a night out without their husbands. It would be fair to say these ladies would definitely be suffering from those annoying marks should they happen to sit on any milk crates, though they did not strike me as the milk crate sitting type. I actually heard them refer to themselves as “yummy mummies”. It was a good thing I had not yet eaten.
The arrival of our starters soon stole our attention away from our fellow diners as we investigated our mezze plate. Our friendly waiter told us the various components – dressed lettuce and Mediterranean olives, fried Turkish sausage, baked eggplant, chicken and lamb köfte drizzled with garlic yoghurt, stuffed mushrooms and two feta and parsley pastries. To be honest, I was disappointed when I saw this somewhat sparse looking plate, particularly the three tiny mushrooms, as I was expecting more given the cost of the dish (I assume this was the plate for two and thus was $32.50).
My disappointment continued somewhat as we ate our way through the plate. I started with a pastry, which I didn’t finish as I found it quite oily and somewhat doughy inside, without any apparent feta or parsley flavour. This was counteracted nicely with the tasty mushrooms, though they were quite small, a little dried out and annoyingly there were three of them for the two of us. I am very happy to say that both types of köfte were well spiced and beautifully juicy, and I knew that my friend was in for a good dish with his choice of main. I love eggplant but I did not enjoy this thin little morsel as it tasted far too smoky for my liking, though my friend happily polished it off. The Turkish sausage was good – quite mild tasting at first but with a great hit of heat at the end, and the olives and salad were quite nice as well and gave a needed freshness to the plate.
So, overall the Sicak meze tabagi had some nice components but I didn’t like others, and found it poor value for value so would not order it again.
I was not at all disappointed with the Turkish bread and dips, of which there were actually four instead of the promised trio. The bread was fresh and tasty with a nice hint of outer crispness, and all four dips were delicious. I could not stop dipping into the beetroot and cucumber dip which was beautifully garlicky, I loved the chunkiness of the hommus, and the carrot dip was quite refreshing with the freshness of carrot and sweetness of pickled onion.
My friend’s main dish köfte were as good as those in the tasting plate – well seasoned, juicy and tender and the garlic yoghurt went well with them. My saç kavurma certainly looked delicious served in the pan, and the I really enjoyed it – the lamb was cooked perfectly and thus was delightfully tender. When my friend asked what it tasted like however, my immediate response was “just like it looks” as it was missing a wow factor although it certainly was tasty, wholesome and comforting with a heavy tomato flavour overtone. The pilav rice was nice but not good enough to devote stomach space to over the remains of the Turkish bread and dips.
The Çoban Salatası was very fresh and offered a nice balance to our meat-heavy main dishes, though I was a little tomatoed out by the end of mine!
After a bit of a breather we consulted the menu again to eye off the dessert options. My friend settled on the “Keşkül – dairy milk pudding with chocolate swirls topped with crushed pistachio” ($7.50) without too much difficulty but I could not decide between the “Revani – home made semolina cake served with vanilla ice cream” ($8.50) and the “Lokum tabağı – The original Turkish delight plate” (serves 2, $12.50). I ended up having to toss a coin to decide, and fate decided that it was going to be a Turkish delight night for me.
On the menu the Keşkül is described as having a “dollop of ice cream optional” which apparently actually means you have to opt out of the ice cream option if you don’t want it. I didn’t try any of the surprise ice cream but the pudding was smooth, cool, not overly sweet and quite enjoyable to eat. It was also a generous size, and my friend was not able to finish it.
I wasn’t much help with finishing his dessert either, given that my choice of dessert serves two! It was ten or more pieces of multiple varieties of Turkish delight, sourced from an unnamed maker in Melbourne, and I got through a few before asking for a box to take the rest home in. OK, I’ll admit it, I could actually have eaten more in the restaurant but I really wanted to get them home, sliced in half and photographed in decent lighting.
All of the Turkish delight varieties were really very good. My love affair with all things coconut made the coconut covered ones particularly special, although admittedly the coconut tended to overpower the more subtle flavours. While I really enjoyed seeing and tasting the different types of Turkish delight, I have to say that the traditional rosewater ones were lovely lovely lovely, hard to go past and bursting with the fragrant rose flavour (or tasting like soap, as my housemate so beautifully put it).
To sum up my Alaturka experience, I would say that we enjoyed ourselves and will return, but are not rushing to do so. The service was great and the choice of music was actually really good too, and perhaps if we had chosen a different starter than sicak meze tabagi my overall feeling would be more enthusiastic.
I am very interested to try the Turkish pasta, and would be keen to hear what it is like if any of you happen to try it yourselves.The highlight of our meal this time were definitely the köfte, which I may go back to have during lunchtime, perhaps taking a box of Turkish delight home with me afterwards… to make another Shishkebab Delight (I could not help myself!).