How The Empire Dined

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Monday, July 08, 2013 

under Food by Paul Collins

Enjoy Shanghai VIP members are entitled to 30% off the total bill (to the value of RMB900) during their first visit to Efes Restaurant Turkish & Meditteranean Cuisine. Thereafter, they receive 10% off the total bill (excluding lunch menus and other promotions). Call 400 8836 569 to find out more about Enjoy Shanghai membership.  


Walk into many Turkish restaurants and you’re greeted by a melange of trinkets, curios and exotic adornments, none of which will have ever been anywhere near the Middle East, and were in all likelihood made in Yiwu in Zhejiang Province.   


This is just one of the many dining clichés that Efes Restaurant in Pudong, which opened in February, studiously manages to avoid. Co-founder Taylan Demirel made it plain to his Istanbul-based architect and interior designer that he didn’t want the restaurant to end up resembling the kind of souk or bazaar that Indiana Jones might stumble into. “No, we didn’t a touristy version of a Turkish restaurant; we wanted it to look like exactly the kind of restaurant you would find in Istanbul today,” he told Enjoy Shanghai.


Clean minimalist lines, muted lighting, velour-covered chairs and pristine linens: Efes is about as far from the famed kebab joint of European lore as it’s possible to get. “That’s also why we didn’t want a standing shawarma grill on the counter; In fact none of our dishes are prepared in advance. Everything, including our kebabs, is freshly cooked only once it has been ordered,” added Taylan.


To this end, the kitchen places a particular emphasis on Western Turkish cuisine, including the region’s famed salads and other appetizers (the ancient city of Efes after which the eatery is named was sited on the country’s Meditteranean west coast).


And Efes has recently appointed a new executive chef, Muharrem Ozkan, who is busy diversifying the kitchen’s output, and will present a completely overhauled menu this September.


“In common with Chinese food, the cuisine of Turkey is one of the most expansive in the world, largely because of the spread and influence of the Ottoman Empire,” he said. Muharrem has worked in Turkish eateries as far afield as Russia, Kazakhstan, Spain and Switzerland, and he claims never to have sacrificed authenticity to appease local palates. “As long as I can get hold of the required ingredients, then I always insist on cooking the dish the same as it would be in Turkey.” 


Muharrem added that the new menu will reflect the culinary heritage that was unique to the court of the Ottoman Palace in Istanbul during the 19th and early 20th century. This royal court boasted the best chefs from every corner of the Ottoman Empire, drawing in influences from Greece, Armenia, Georgia and Arabia.   


Completing the Turkish-born roster at Efes is manager Ramazan Yilmaz, who previously spent more than 4 years working as a sommelier for Royal Caribbean Cruises and who will be using his long experience to match suitable wines to Muharrem’s new menu. “It naturally helps that we can communicate in our native language, and this means working together on the menu so much easier,” he points out.


Although the Puxi side of the Huangpu boasts plenty of similar eateries, Efes is, perhaps surprisingly, the only Turkish restaurant currently in Pudong and the first one on this side of the river for nearly six years. For now, Efes location at the Lujiazui 1815 Culture Center (think a small-scale Xintiandi but with more greenery) is relatively quiet as the expat annual exodus from the summer heat gets under way.  


But Taylan is satisfied at the half-year mark, pointing out that Efes already has a sizeable customer base from across the river, and not just walk-in Pudong residents. And he believes the kitchen’s commitment to authenticity is largely responsible for this. “We don’t want to serve food that just resembles Turkish food; we want to serve real Turkish food,” he said.  





I really enjoyed this place. The service was great as was the food. They bring out a cart of starters that you can see and choose from. The food was so good and the prices were also good, because of this I kind of felt a bit bad using the 30 off coupon. I could have left paying full price and still feeling like it was very good value. I'll come again, and would recommend to others.


May 18, 2014