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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Day’s Special Turkish Flatbread, What the Fungus mushrooms.
Pan Seared Prawns, garlic, fennel, lemon, Aleppo pepper.
Zucchini Fritters, herb yogurt, feta, cured lemon.
Turkish Meatballs, tomato sauce, strained yogurt, pickled peppers.
Humus, tahini, parsley, pickled onion & cucumber, sesame served with extra bread.
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.
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.