Turkish eatery Anason is the first permanent restaurant to open its sleek navy doors in the Barangaroo precinct. Nestled neatly in an unassuming alcove, Anason is immediately warm and inviting inside and out; the indoor area is largely dedicated to an open plan kitchen and wine storage so most diners eat outside in the open-air terrace.
The innovative menu is stridently Turkish, showcasing authentic mezze plates characterised by bold flavours and even bolder colour palettes. The generous dishes crafted from fresh, local produce are designed for groups to share, which may be bad news for people who like to eat tiny meals alone. Anason invokes the bustling atmosphere of the meyhanes of Istanbul, but unfortunately the decor and music aren't enough to disguise the fact that you're eating in the middle of the soulless, futuristic ghost town that is the still-in-progress state of Barangaroo.
While you peruse the list of local and imported Turkish wines, we recommend starting with a few dips and breads to share. A sesame seed-studded simit ($3 each) is served with creamy tarragon labne, and is simultaneously chewy and soft — it tastes like the delicious carby love child of a bagel and a loaf of sourdough. Meanwhile, both the Atom dip — which is served with a pool of burnt butter and dried Marash chillies — and the creamy pumpkin hummus topped with crispy salted chickpeas are large enough portions to justify ordering several toasted pita breads to mop them up with.
For the larger dishes, Anason is plating up some seriously fresh foods from the sea. There's stuffed mussels brimming with wild rice and sweet currants ($18); according to owner and chef Somer Sivrioglu, these moreish morsels — intended to be tackled in a single bite — are the street food of choice after a Turkish bender. For those who prefer to eat their seafare with cutlery, the octopus with beetroot kisir ($20) is perfectly balanced and a stunning shade of magenta, while the whole calamari dolma can barely contain its delectable stuffing of feta, pistachios and sweet barberries ($28). It's served on a bed of avo-ghanoush, a curious blend of avocado and baba ghanoush, presumably intended for those who can tolerate heated avocado.
If you're after something that hasn't spent a lifetime at sea, the cauliflower with walnut tarator and orange zest ($19) is a robust accompaniment that proves vegetables don't need to be relegated to side dishes, while our favourite is the lamb backstrap ($27). Served roughly sliced on a thick schmear of pureed eggplant begendi, the succulent lamb is impossibly tender and that perfect shade of blush pink that you only seem to see on ads funded by lamb lobbyists.
If you've managed to save some stomach real estate for dessert, the poached quince with tart green apple sorbet ($15) was wonderfully light, while the creamy sutlac — a Turkish rice pudding with a caramelised top sprinkled with crispy pastry bits and hazelnuts — is the pudding equivalent of a toasty heated blanket.
Unfortunately though, once you've had your fill, you have the unenviable task of ejecting yourself from a beautiful evening tucked away in what feels like a patio in Istanbul and returning to the desolate construction site of Barangaroo, where you wait alone on the street for a cab to take you back to civilisation.
Food & Drink
Friday, November 29 - Sunday, January 5
Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney