REVIEW: Tregan Borg visits Tulum
217 Carlisle St, Balaclava
My earliest memories of a Turkish restaurant involve lots of dips, huge meat platters and belly dancers.
Tulum has none of the above.
With origins in Istanbul and experience in kitchens such as the river cafe, Owner/Head Chef Coskun Uysal chose to settle in Melbourne for its love for food and culture.
Uysal has brought his mothers Antalonian recipes and transformed them into a mezze style menu that is delicate and thoughtful without comprising tradition or flavour.
Refining traditional and classically rustic dishes can be challenging, but when done well is quite a beautiful thing.
Lots goes on when it comes to the food, with a strong focus on traditional culinary processes, house made yogurts, vinegars, curing, preserving, and even home made tahini.
A labour of love these processes reflect a true traditionalist approach keeping true to the home country.
Tulum is a small venue, 36 seats to be exact, and on a Saturday night each there was 36 seats bums of seats, the place was packed.
There are two ways to dine chefs menu – Taste of Tulum or dishes of your own choosing.
Chefs menu is a choice of 6 course $70 or 8 course $85, which involves handpicked dishes delivered to your table by the chef himself.
I do enjoy this seemingly new and growing trend of chefs delivering food to the tables, but a little part me can’t help but feel it may evolve into a bit of a gimmicky thing.
It’s food that’s designed to share, ranging from small mezze ($17-$18) – large mezze ($32).
We decided to choose our own, four small, one large and one dessert.
Each dish is really only designed for two to share, even the larger serves.
I was able to sneak a peek at the table next door who had the chefs menu and the serves seemed to be a bit bigger.
‘Patlican’ was a dish that kind of reminded me of a deconstructed baba ganoush.
Beautifully cooked eggplant that was marinated in Turkish coffee, soft and yet charred.
House made labne and tahini, with kataifi for the crisp factor.
‘Kalamar’ calamari, organic bulgur, walnuts and muhamarra, a very light but flavoursome seafood dish.
The calamari grilled, with the addition of muhamarra red spice paste wS a great balance not overpowering the delicate flavour of properly prepared calamari.
The unanimous favourite ‘Dana Yana’ beef cheek, corn, tulum cheese, sehriye, fig and walnut.
Beef cheek so perfectly cooked and melt in your mouth on top sweet corn cooked in cheese, and butter with sehriye (risoni), think a risotto but better.
Now for the dessert I was sceptical, and even tho I was kind of full I needed to see how on earth they had managed a dessert with Jerusalem Artichoke… ‘Sultac’ ($16) – Jerusalem artichoke rice pudding, thyme, pear, cinnamon crumble.
Wow. Soft, sweet, flavours and aroma of thyme, cinnamon crumble crunchy bits and, a subtle yet noticeable Jerusalem artichoke. Yum.
The one we missed but should have ordered was the ‘Cilbir’ – traditionally a dish of poached egg and yoghurt, Tulum’s version involves smoked yoghurt, burnt butter and chicken skin, rookie error for sure.
Drinks list small but interesting. Wine list is concise, which I like, too many options can be overwhelming.
Choice of house (all $18) cocktails, Tulum’s Rosewater looked particularly popular. A range of Turkish imports from Raki to soft drinks.
In a nutshell it’s a cosy neighbourhood restaurant delivering a traditional cuisine in a unique way… next time will be for the chefs menu.