50 Carrington St Sydney, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Lunch and dinner Mon-Sat|
|Features||Licensed, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating, Accepts bookings, Business lunch|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9262 3161|
Word association time: I say "Turkish food", you say … "kebabs"? Or perhaps "grilled lamb", "kofte", "gozleme" or "pide"? Unless you've been lucky enough to visit the fishing towns and wild hills of Turkey's Aegean coast, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't "vibrant, vegetable-driven dishes covered in mint, and maybe the odd sheep's head soup". Maydanoz is here to change that.
Somer Sivrioglu opened the glossy bar and restaurant behind Wynyard Station last month. The chef is all about showcasing the plant-focused cuisine typical of Turkey's west that's often prepared zeytinyagli-style – that is, cooked in olive oil.
"Because the Aegean has a strong tourism economy, locals from the area don't migrate too much," he says, while checking to see if I like my kisir ($14), a dense and tomato-rich burghul wheat salad brightened by parsley, pomegranate and hazelnuts (I like it very much).
"But people from the eastern part of Turkey, where grilled meats and heavy pastries are more common, have migrated to all corners of the world. This is why there are lamb kebabs everywhere."
Sivrioglu knows his way around a meat skewer, too, having operated the much-loved (and recently closed) Efendy in Balmain for 15 years, as well as an Istanbul outpost of the Anatolian-inspired restaurant. The Turkish-born chef also co-owns Anason and kebab-centric Tombik, both in Barangaroo.
Vegetarian CBD workers will be over the moon with the advent of Maydanoz, featuring 15 plant-championing dishes full of colour and bold flavours. Vegans have many options, too, such as coconut milk-based cacik yoghurt ($16) – tzatziki's cool Turkish cousin, topped with grilled cucumber, mint and shaved coconut and dressed with vivid green parsley oil.
It's an opulent little room, full of gold tones, marble counter tops and velvet banquettes. There's outdoor seating, but you really need to like buses – at least one of State Transit's finest is spluttering out the front at all times. Inside is much nicer for a post-work raki (anise-flavoured brandy, $12) with Turkish pop music on the playlist and charcoal-lifted aromas.
That cacik is the right place to start, with pillowy sheets of stone-baked bread ($10). Roasted carrot hummus topped with dukkah ($14) is sweet and robust; poached quail eggs on toast ($18) are garlicky and filling.
Meanwhile, honey-and-rosemary-oil-brushed halloumi skewers (two for $22) are served on a tabletop grill to keep the cheese soft and milky. It's a world away from the salted rubber passed off as halloumi in supermarkets.
On paper, "cabbage kebab" ($26) sounds less exciting than "alfalfa sprout pizza", but it's the only creation Sivrioglu's group executive, chef Arman Uz, has brought across from Efendy Istanbul, so I'm intrigued. Blackened-edge cabbage leaves retain their bite so you can use them like chips to scoop up velvety, harissa-spiked labne. Top marks. Gold star. Tick.
Cavolo nero and leek pie ($32), seasoned with halloumi offcuts, is beautifully balanced and exactly what you want to curl up with most winter nights.
Consider turning up the comfort levels by teaming it with imam bayildi ($28) – roast eggplant stuffed with bullhorn peppers and sharpened with tamarind. The pulpy aubergine is too mono-textured for a main, but it makes a cracking side.
Meat makes an appearance in two dishes: homely hunks of charcoal-seared chicken ($42) marinated in pomegranate molasses and thyme, and – it fills me with great joy to report this – a $32 soup made by simmering a whole sheep's head for eight hours and thickening the stock with chickpeas and roux.
There are no eyeballs bobbing around – this isn't Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – but there are beguiling creaminess (thanks, dissolved brains), shredded cheek meat, slippery manti dumplings and bits of tongue. I will return for this soup, honed with a puckery vinaigrette to cut through so much collagen it makes tonkotsu ramen look like tea.
It takes serious bravado to serve sheep's head soup near the top end of George Street, and even more guts to focus on vegetables in a part of the CBD where lunch trade is largely based on triple-digit steaks.
Maydanoz is one of the most refreshing openings this year and worth a visit for anyone keen to explore Ottoman cuisine beyond meat and bread.
You say "Turkish food", I say "cacik and grilled cabbage in the city".
Vibe: Plush Turkish meyhane for a veg-driven business lunch
Go-to dish: Cacik with grilled cucumber and mint ($16)
Drinks: Solid line-up of Turkish and Australian wines, plus adventurous house cocktails and spirits
Cost: About $130 for two, excluding drinks
This review was originally published in Good Weekend magazine