ELMA EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS: PENTICTON’S NEW LAKESHORE DINING WOWS

ELMA EXCEEDS EXPECTATIONS: PENTICTON’S NEW LAKESHORE DINING WOWS

By Roslyne Buchanan.

Penticton watched hungrily as the oft-failed restaurant beside popular Salty’s Beach House on Lakeshore Drive underwent demolition.

In recent years proprietors who leased the space suffered an embarrassment of empty chairs as Salty’s filled to capacity with line ups of avid patrons at its gates. One wondered if the space itself was cursed.

Mike Barluk, Elma owner with wife Alyse, shows Black Sea cookbook as Chef Max Dallamore looks on. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Black Sea Motel Owner Saba Sahin gambled to create an entirely new building for a fresh concept. His daughter Ayse and her husband Mike Barluk moved to Penticton as the owners and operators of the restaurant. From the beginning, they were involved in the transformation which began as a seasonal concept and evolved into a year-round stunning Turkish-inspired modern structure and cuisine.

Born in Turkey, Sahin changed the name of the motel he bought back in the seventies to Black Sea because the view of the Okanagan Lake and surrounding hills reminded him of the area in which he was raised. Like the cuisine, the restaurant’s name ‘Elma’ is a nod to that heritage. It means ‘apple’ in Turkish which also pays homage to the Okanagan.

Penticton’s lakeview dining scene is enhanced by striking Turkish-style setting and cuisine. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Excited by the hype around its opening, we jumped at the chance to celebrate my husband’s birthday there when a Vancouver friend visited. Mark, Claire and I were joined by close friend and author Jennifer Cockrall King. Jennifer’s latest book called tawâw: Progressive Indigenous Cuisine published by House of Anansi with Executive Chef Shane Chartrand of the River Cree Resort & Casino in Enoch, Alberta is scheduled to launch this October.

The Setting

We were all blown away by the striking architecture. The space is bright and modern yet welcoming with beautiful tiles, lighting and other décor sourced in the owners’ native Turkey plus warm wood highlights such as tabletops, doors and other accents by local wood artisans. Focal to its concept are the massive windows and patios to ensure the Okanagan Lake vista has a starring role.

In the end, no matter how pretty the environs if the food and beverages don’t measure up to the atmosphere the restaurant won’t thrive. I’m happy to report that Elma not only lived up to its hype and long wait, it exceeded expectations.

The Menu

Elma has opened with what it calls a ‘Soft-Opening Menu’ because an established Turkish chef originally from Istanbul is on his way to work with Sous Chef Max Dallamore. He has been conferring with the team and Chef Max has been avidly working with the family and soaking up knowledge from every available source on Turkish menus.

Martini-style Elma special with Turkish coffee and Raki. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Jennifer and I knew the talents of Chef Max through his time at Hillside Bistro and Liquidity Bistro prior. In addition, he is a kind community contributor and has volunteered along with us in the Chefs in the Classroom program of the Okanagan Chefs Association. To the grade 3 students in the program, he was a rockstar.

The menu is divided as Meze (appetizers), Salads & Large Plates, and From the Oven. Perusing it, you quickly learn this culinary tradition is highly diverse, a fusion of neighbouring cuisines with the Ottoman heritage. See howtoistanbul.com for a primer. Mike showed us a new book he had just received called Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes, Through Darkness and Light by Caroline Eden published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd that explores this area. Chef Max was eager to study it and test the recipes.

Elma Day’s feature cocktail that was whisky-based with burnt charcoal and ice cube encasing an edible flower. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Drinks

Equally important and impressive is Elma’s Drink menu where you’ll find local wines, ciders and beers with cocktails and non-alcoholic selections. Two of us couldn’t resist the special with Turkish coffee and Raki martini style, one had the Empress 75 and another the special featuring burnt charcoal in a whisky-based drink that’s ice cube encased an edible flower. What a pleasure to see such elegant and well-presented cocktails in Penticton!

Elma’s attention to detail in cocktails such as this ice cube encasing an edible flower. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

What We Ate

For the main event, we decided to share a number of dishes. Actually, in reading it, we declared we could “eat the menu” yet wisely realized that might be ambitious in one seating.

Roasted Eggplant, pomegranate molasses, garlic crisps served with bread.

Roasted Eggplant, pomegranate molasses, garlic crisps served with bread at Elma. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Day’s Special Turkish Flatbread, What the Fungus mushrooms.

A selection of the Meze (Appetizers) we ordered at Elma with Turkish Flatbread in the center. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Pan Seared Prawns, garlic, fennel, lemon, Aleppo pepper.

Elma Pan Seared Prawns, garlic, fennel, lemon, Aleppo pepper. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Zucchini Fritters, herb yogurt, feta, cured lemon.

The Zucchini Fritters, herb yogurt, feta, cured lemon, at Elma were a spicy bite. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Turkish Meatballs, tomato sauce, strained yogurt, pickled peppers.

Elma’s Turkish Meatballs, tomato sauce, strained yogurt, pickled peppers. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

Humus, tahini, parsley, pickled onion & cucumber, sesame served with extra bread.

For our final appetizer at Elma’s, Humus, tahini, parsley, pickled onion & cucumber, sesame served with extra bread. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

We started with the first five dishes and enjoyed them so much we added one more of humus. Each dish offered a complex symphony of flavours. If there was a weaker one among them, perhaps it was that last humus appetizer. Or maybe our enthusiasm surpassed our appetites!

Either way, we delighted in sharing a dessert at the end:

Turkish Baklava, a family recipe of filo pastry with ground pistachios drizzled with syrup and served with vanilla gelato.

Dessert time: Turkish Baklava, a family recipe of filo pastry with ground pistachios drizzled with syrup and served with vanilla gelato. Photo credit: Roslyne Buchanan.

We could not “eat the menu” so we vowed to return. The dilemma will be the choice between repeating this delicious experience or forging ahead with new choices. I have a feeling we’ll be back often enough to do both!

Elma has style and substance making it a welcome addition to the Okanagan culinary scene. To confirm hours, make reservations and learn more see eatelma.com

Featured photo: A selection of the Meze (Appetizers) we ordered at Elma.

@eatelma

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Roslyne Buchanan (aka Roz) Roslyne Buchanan is a regular freelance contributor to food, travel, wine, home and lifestyle magazines. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine Trails, WestJet Magazine, OpenRoad Driver, Savour, Niche, Destinations Travel Magazine, My Van City, and blog.hellobc.com. Based in Penticton, she enjoys spectacular views of forests, vineyards, lakes, and hills beyond and regular visits from wildlife. Enchanted by the food and beverage industry and all things culinary as well as recreational pursuits such as travel, golfing, skiing, hiking, tennis and snorkeling. For her it’s the perfect balance to pursue her passion for writing with integrity and joy to share firsthand experiences. Most of her adventures are shared with her husband, Mark and when they’re not out exploring, they are managed by two felines Baja and Floyd. Find her personal blog at www.rozsmallfry.com, follow her on twitter @RozDB and Facebook @roslynebuchanan

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