First Look: Efes – Turkish Style Street Food

When Kemal Şahin took over Efes Restaurant last year, his objective was to provide authentic Turkish food. It’s no secret that Efes had been adrift for a couple of years as the previous owner, possibly overwhelmed by the business, was providing a not very enthralling product. Şahin saw an opportunity in this. There are a great many students, and regular citizens here from the middle East, from Turkey, and beyond who are craving a taste of home. Efes is now as authentic as one can get.

The secret is not such a secret, Şahin insists. Everything is made in-house, fresh, and spiced with a particular sensitivity to the correct blending of spices. The meat is all hormone-free, and procured from the Halal butcher in Quadra Village. The falafels contain no gluten, no powder. They too are ground fresh in house. People vote with their feet. Business has doubled since Şahin took over the kitchen. On the day I came, a large pot kuru fasulye, a traditional bean dish, was brewing in the back as a special request for a large party of homesick Turkish exchange students.

Efes kebab dinner

Efes kebab dinner

Ostensibly, Efes serves Turkish street food: kebabs, donair wraps, and falafel wraps. The donair is not quite like anything else that you can find in the city. The chicken meat that goes inside is not made from a paste, as it is in other places. The flavour is an authentic Turkish style, and not the Halifax style. The kebabs, meanwhile, are quite extraordinary. They are roasted over the grill, fresh each time, on long sword like skewers specially brought over from Turkey.

Also available are Turkish coffee and tea. Young Turkish girls have apparently been coming in, as is the tradition, to discover their fortunes in the upended bottoms of their coffee grounds, as they seep onto the saucers. Şahin wants people to linger at his restaurant. The point here is not to eat a fast meal and to get out (although one is always free to do that, as the service is exceptionally fast) but to hang out, feel comfortable, soak in the geniality of the people running the place. It is a pleasant, and different, place to stop in for a coffee or tea, or even an ayran (the kefir-like yogurt beverage Turks use to aid digestion).


Efes rice pudding


Some of the best deals in the place are the delicious housemade desserts, double baked rice pudding and baklava, and the $5 bowl of donair and rice. The bowl is cheap and quite filling and satisfying. Given Efes’ proximity to the movie theatre, it is quite a good grab-it-to-go special for people who want to eat before they plop down in front of the silver screen. I understand that Efes is working up a partnership for a discount card with the theatre, too, so if you ask them they will likely tell you more.

The best part about Efes is that Şahin is cooking this food purely out of love. He understands the principle that food is a powerful connection to place and nostalgia, but he also simply loves this food. He claims that even if he were in there every day cooking for himself, at least he would be cooking the things that he most likes to eat. If you’ve been walking past this place, harbouring doubts about whether or not you should enter, I advise you bend your path and walk through the door.

Efes.4Efes Restaurant

788 Yates St,

Victoria BC V8W 1L4




Written By:

Born and raised in the mysterious East (by which I mean Ontario and Quebec, not Asia), Adam migrated out to British Columbia in search of adventure and fortune. He had been at different times a scholar, a musician, a poet and a ...

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