Classic Turkish cuisine with a twist, and the art of bringing people together, are at the heart of Yagiz.
When Murat Ovaz named his restaurant, Yagiz, after his beloved Grandfather, he set the tone for a venue that is as much about bringing people together as it is about good food. And since its opening in late 2017, Yagiz has demonstrated that it is well deserving of it’s place in Toorak Road, South Yarra’s fine dining precinct.
Since arriving in Australia a decade ago, Ovaz has worked in some of the country’s finest restaurants, including Paddington’s Four In Hand, and Newcastles’‘Bacchus’ as a senior chef de partie, before heading south to Melbourne’s own Tulum, the Balaclava establishment that redefined Turkish cuisine in Melbourne. Prior to venturing to Australia’s sandy shores, Ovaz cut his teeth at Turkey’s widely respected restaurants Zarifi and Park Samdan.
Ovaz knows his stuff, and his wealth of experience in fine dining is on display at Yagiz from the moment diners enter. The restaurant itself is sleek and refined, but unpretentious. Seating 90 diners, in addition to a small private dining space, Yagiz is both expansive and intimate. With polished concrete flooring and cinder block walls, the space is undeniably modern, but accents of gold and brass tie the space back to its heart of Ottoman opulence. A portrait of the restaurant’s namesake, the much loved patriarch Yagiz, painted by local Melbourne artist Robert Scholton, watches over the large shared dining tables, a reminder of Ovaz’s original goal: honouring the cuisine of his homeland and the universal familiarity of comfort food and togetherness.
The menu is curated and concise and, unsurprisingly, designed for sharing. A slightly simplified and pared down menu from when the restaurant originally opened, the dishes on offer showcase Traditional Turkish techniques and ingredients, reimagined and tweaked for the urban global palate.
Smaller dishes start out the menu, with the Sigara Boreği standing out as an example of the simple perfection of Turkish cuisine. A filo cigar filled with perfectly melt-in-the-mouth tender confit duck, it is delicious and flavourful. The addition of isot, a mildly spicy dried chilli native to the area of the southern region of Urfa and along the Turkey-Syria border, imbues the dish with a smokey richness and – at least for me – a new and interesting flavour experience. A delicate and creamy fava bean parfait served with delicate and crispy lavash is another of Yagiz’s smaller dishes that is perfect for sharing and pairing.
Larger dishes are, for the most part, meat and fish based, though Yagiz does offer plenty of options for vegetarian and vegan diners. For the omnivorous diner, the Ördek – seared duck breast with sticky bulgar pilaf and peaches – can’t be missed for those looking for literal and figurative freshness. For those looking for plant based dishes, I absolutely adored the Mercimek Köftesi – red lentil mix formed into kofta and served simply with butter lettuce and pomegranate. Gluten free options are also available, and the staff are knowledgable and friendly, and can be as hands on or off as you want.
Of Yagiz’s dessert options, I can’t rate their Baklava highly enough. A staple of the cuisine, the delicate and generously syruped layers of filo dissolve in the mouth, while a praline and mastic ice cream is the perfect foil for the sweetness of the pastry, with the latter – a plant resin – provides a fresh, herbal, and surprisingly “green” flavour to the ice cream.
As far as Yagiz’s liquid offerings, the wine list is exciting and inspired, with wines from Turkey, Lebanon, and Morocco nestled comfortably alongside classic offerings from the Loire Valley, and local drops from the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula. Crafted with assistance from consultant sommelier Christian Maier, the wine list pairs perfectly with the dishes on offer.
Just a short walk from South Yarra train station, or a quick tram ride up from Chapel Street, Yagiz is well positioned in the heart of the South’s dining hot spot, and definitely one to add to your Melbourne foodie bucket list.