Good Turkish food fits anywhere. It goes with grotty back-alleys, lavish dining rooms and now it’s available a few doors down from some of the tallest buildings in the world.
Like all self-respecting Turkish restaurants, Efes’ cold starters roll out on a hostess trolley to be formally introduced. You’ll probably end up taking one more than necessary; we recommend the rice-stuffed eggplant dolma (RMB68) and the smooth hummus (RMB45), both of which complement a fiery trio of spreads on a chunk of warmed bread. Even more delicious for dipping is a slender lahmacun (RMB45), a thin mince and fresh salad-topped Turkish pizza.
Mains encompass the alluring Turk-Mediterranean spectrum. Plates of grilled mixed kebabs (RMB130) offer juicy chunks of succulent lamb. Spring chickens stuffed with herbed rice (RMB135) bring a cauldron-rich complexity that befits a cuisine as old as the stars. Our own favorite, the sarma beyti (RMB120), provides herbed meat, rolled in lavash flatbread, baked in the oven and served with a mound of sour cream and tomato sauce. It’s everything we were looking for, although not quite on on par with Garlic’s.
Add in a couple of the restaurant’s namesake beers (RMB30) and for a moment we’re not across the Huangpu but over the Bosphorus, looking back at Istanbul’s minarets and twinkling lights. Such moments only come when the food, service and ambiance is just right, and here about does it.
It’s not all magical. Tucked into a quiet corner of a first-mover development off Century Avenue, Efes is waiting for the cranes to drop and an atmosphere to pop up. For now they’ve enough of an offering to pay a visit when in the area.