Jakarta’s New Arabian Delights – The Jakarta Globe
One very new kid on the block is Turkish restaurant Turkuaz, located in Kebayoran Baru in South Jakarta. The restaurant opened its doors on July 1 and serves Turkish cuisine in a cozy yet elegant setting. The owners wanted to give the intimate dining area a homely feel — something interior designer Nada Lahlau was able to achieve with a soothing combination of shades of blue and gray.
The walls are covered with black-and-white photographs in wooden frames, showing the people, architecture and landscapes of Turkey. But it is the beautiful chandelier in the center of the restaurant that steals the show, made up of several lanterns with glowing panes of colored glass.
Turkuaz’s head chef, Sezai Zorlu, has lived in Jakarta for 12 years. After working for more than 10 years at Anatolia Turkish restaurant in Kemang, Zorlu decided it was time to move on and open his own restaurant. Despite his long stint away from home, he says he still vividly remembers and misses his mother’s home cooking. “When I was a child I used to play in the garden while my mother was in the kitchen cooking and I still remember the smell,” he said.
With his new restaurant, Zorlu said he hoped to bring a taste of his homeland to Indonesia. Many of the items on the menu are comfort foods from his own childhood.
For me, however, everything looked new and I gladly relied on the chef’s recommendations to guide my order.
I started my dinner with crisp, freshly baked bread from the restaurant’s custom-made wood-fired oven, accompanied by a selection of dips: zeytinyagli hummus, baba ganush and gavurdagi salatasi.
The hummus, surely one of the most famous Middle Eastern dishes, was made of creamy chickpea puree and olive oil, while the gavurdagi salatasi was a refreshing cucumber and tomato dip filled with cracked walnut pieces. But my favorite was the baba ganush, a mixture of baked eggplant and tomato, rounded off with garlic and chili peppers to give it just the right amount of spice.
For the main course, I chose the adana kebab, dubbed one of the chef’s signature dishes. The lamb and beef fillet had been marinated overnight before being grilled on a rotisserie and served in thin slices. The meat was topped with homemade chili paste and wrapped in lavas bread with fresh vegetables. The delicately seasoned meat was extremely tender and juicy, and was definitely one of the best kebabs I have ever eaten.
Zorlu puts great emphasis on the fact that all the ingredients used in his kitchen are fresh, which guarantees the best quality. “Even if it the preparation takes longer, I won’t compromise when it comes to the quality of the ingredients,” he said.
For dessert I tried baklava, which I was told is Turkey’s most popular dessert — and now I understand why. The layers of pastry were deliciously crispy, while the filling of butter, pistachios and syrup provided a sensationally sweet taste in my mouth. A pot of sweet-sour apple tea, imported from Turkey, complemented my dessert perfectly.
Zorlu said that over the next couple of months, the restaurant would open two private rooms and a lounge on the second floor. He also said there were plans to expand the menu and add more dishes — which I gladly use as a reason to come back to Turkuaz soon