What happens when an ex Quay chef opens up his own restaurant after studying the business side of the restaurant world and opening up dozens of others restaurants? It's a relatively smooth transition for Barzaari's chef Darryl Martin and business partner and family friend Andrew Jordanou. And it's a path gilded in pretty dishes that will make you want to take out your phone or a camera, even if just to remember them.
"I don't know why I'm even taking a photo," says Miss America. "Nobody is going to see it." My long time friend has taken his phone out to take photos for the first time in the 20 years that I've known him. It's really because the food at Barzaari on Addison Street in Marrickville really is a sight to behold. There's a range of Cypriot, Turkish and Eastern Mediterranean offerings, all perfectly plated because sometimes, you can't change the Quay DNA.
So why Cypriot Lebanese and eastern Mediterranean food? Darryl explains, "My wife is Cypriot Lebanese and I've gone to Cyprus and Lebanon four of five times. I stayed in Cyprus for 3 months which was great and it was like living there. I also went to Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan and back and forth."
It's a gorgeous Friday afternoon, one that Sydney's weather has kindly bestowed to us mid Winter where temperatures reached 26°C and a Friday lunch was the perfect idea to segue into the weekend. For a new restaurant it's quite busy and customers are drawn in for snacks and drinks or something more substantial from the wood fired oven or the charcoal grill. It's hard to decide on what we want because we pretty much want everything but we are recommended some dishes from the very friendly waitstaff. It also turns into a "What's that?" every time a wait person walks past with something destined for another table.
Shanklish and Majdouleh in vine leaf, meyer lemon veg $11
This is one of those dishes ordered because it went past us to another table. It's a shanklish cheese stuffed vine leaf wrapped in majdouleh (Armenian string cheese) and baked until melty and gooey. There's zing from Meyer lemon and radishes and it's best eaten hot while it is all gooey, soft and stretchy.
Nigella bread, labne $10
There are times where you just have to take a photo and this is one of them. What is just described as a Nigella bread is an arrestingly pretty not quite bread, not quite cracker topped with nigella seeds with dabs of labne, basil oil, pink pickles, pistachio and pomegranate arils. It's mild with a slightly sour aspect to it but the nuts and basil fill all the gaps.
Wood Fired Coffin Bar pacific oysters $4.50
I rarely order cooked oysters but Miss America wanted some. These are topped with lountza or finely shaved smoked pork loin with parsley stalks. It has a nice briney kick and the lountza adds a depth of flavour to the mouthful.
The next three items arrive at once. There were so many other things I wanted to order (ox tongue, inked kingfish, tsakistes) but we went with sharing one main, a smaller dish and a side as the mains are on the pricey side. The quail toum is two charcoal grilled quails with the perfect amount of fluffy, garlicky toum, tender eggplant slices, pickled onions and pomegranate. This is an all hands on deck situation and there is a finger bowl to clean up afterwards. We each take a quail, dip it in the sauce and the toum and feast on these delicate, sweet birds seasoned with the garlic sauce. After this I eat the eggplant, pickled onions and pomegranate. This is a beautiful dish but one where you really have to get your hands dirty to get into it.
We ordered the koosa because hello halloumi! It's pastourma (air dried beef) and halloumi stuffed inside a whole zucchini that has been baked and sliced up. It comes on a bed of tomato rice and is topped with battered and deep fried zucchini flower petals. The stuffed zucchini is soft with a flavoursome centre and the rice is al dente and well seasoned with tomato.
Charcoal carrots $12
It was a toss up between this and the pumpkin but we liked the sound of the charcoal carrots with pastourma crumb, thick, tangy yogurt, sumac, caraway and leaves. Roasted vegetable salads like this are so wholesome and tangy and this one goes well with the sweet quail.
Time for dessert! The baklava is a twist on the spanikopita that is usually filled with feta and spinach. The paper thin, golden pastry encases a sweet, nut filling and on top is quince ice cream. It's a sizeable dessert made for sharing but I would have loved some honey syrup on top.
Pistachio cake $14
Lovers of orange blossom flavours will adore this dessert. There is a warm, rustic style pistachio cake and a round of orange blossom ice cream underneath a canopy of buttery kataifi pastry with kitromilo.
Darryl explains that kitromilo is a preserved oranges in a cinnamon and orange blossom spiced syrup that they do in-house. These are finely sliced on top of the kataifi. The combination of the three flavours, textures and temperatures are fantastic.
Buttermilk custard $14
I feel as though this needs a new name, like a catchy name because you might bypass this on the menu otherwise. But this is undoubtedly our favourite dessert. It's a buttermilk custard with aniseed, a layer of dibs or date molasses and a fruit and peel sorbet. It's refreshing but still creamy and balances a tightrope of flavours perfectly. Even though there are two of us and three desserts Miss America clutches this possessively and finishes every last bit.
To finish? A sandpit coffee just because you've just got to make as spectacular an exit as an entrance. If you order one go up to the front to watch this being made. Andrew puts water and coffee into a cezve copper pot and then passes it over the layer of hot sand. When he finds a hot spot, the coffee starts bubbling away and they are then poured into little cups to serve. It's strong coffee yes, especially the top layer but I could get used to it very quickly. We also order some Athienou soujouko, small Greek sweets all the way from Athens with a centre of almond. It's like a distant cousin to the Turkish delight, chewy, sweet and a great partner for the strong coffee.
Soujouko and Sandpit coffee $13
So tell me Dear Reader, how often do you take photos of your food? Do you do it to remember the food or for social media? Feel free to give your social media name a shout out too! Have you ever had Sandpit coffee before?
This meal was independently paid for.
65 Addison Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204
Phone: (02) 9569 3161
Open lunch Friday and Sunday, 5:30pm-12:00am Tuesday to Saturday