Pimp My Plate #5 – BURWOOD

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas – I pop up all over over the place. My foodie challenge to find a good meal – lunch or brunch – with a limited budget of $18 or less for the main plate.

SAHARA by the Park

A large glass window exposes the view of the fire and grill, with skewers of juicy lamb and chicken. You can’t taste the flavour but you can see it.

Enter the door on the left of the window for take away food, and the door on the right, to take a seat in the restaurant area. There is outdoor seating on busy Burwood Road, but it’s noisy.

Sahara By The Park is a traditional, family-run restaurant that serves Turkish and Mediterranean meals, including Mezze dishes, Pide, Kebobs, Salads, and more.

I scanned the menu – walnuts, chilli, garlic, pomegranate juice, pistachios, Turkish coffee. Just the words to ignite my tastebuds into a flavour frenzy.

My $18 budget challenge meant avoiding the more substantial main meals, and ordering from the selection of Salads and Mezze plates, but there were plenty of options.

My waitress kindly suggested several alternatives to the printed menu. Not wanting to encourage possible future dining dilemmas for her, I ordered from the standard menu.

I chose the intriguingly named Sahara’s Chilli Nuts Salad ($16.50); the Chilli Prawns Hotpot ($16.50), a bottle of Gazoz Turkish Lemonade ($4), and I decided the Turkish Coffee Brulee ($9.50) was essential ‘research’.

The Chilli Prawns Hotpot is served with grilled garlic bread, prompting you to tear it into smaller pieces to plunge into the ‘authentic sauce’.

I take my chilli sauces seriously, and I’ve found that so many with a tomato base underwhelm and under deliver – either they lack enough heat, are too sweet, or maybe they haven’t been cooked with enough love? These prawns were swimming in a sauce of thick, rich, bold, and spicy deliciousness. Smallish prawns, but there were plenty of them.

When the Chilli Nuts Salad arrived I immediately understood why the waitress had suggested I didn’t order it as a main, and urged me to ‘pimp’ it up by adding a skewer of lamb or chicken.

To say this salad is a generous serving is an understatement. I mined through diced cucumber, tomato, mild red and green chilli peppers, and the freshest walnuts I’ve ever eaten, with a dressing of pomegranate juice, but it was too much of a challenge for one person, even a hungry one.

The flavours shout ‘Wake up!’ to your mouth in a vibrant flavour explosion that would complement any meat dish.

The Gazoz Turkish lemonade was a refreshing drink to balance out the heady flavours.

My Turkish Coffee Brûlée arrived with a topping of sour cherry jam, sprinkled with pretty, ground pistachio kernels. It was not a traditional brûlée with a hard caramel topping. Brûlée translates from the French word for burnt, which refers to the burnt sugar topping with a rich custard base below it.

This dessert was more a creamy, mousse texture, and the topping was sour cherry jam but I enjoyed it.

Sahara By The Park keeps it simple, local, authentic, and full of flavour.

RATED: Pimped with flavour!  FOOD: 3.5/5
VALUE: 4/5  ATMOS: 3/5  VIBE: mostly Turkish clientele, all ages
Sahara By The Park – 100 Burwood Road, Burwood, NSW

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All images © Awia Markey