The newest occupant of the unassuming intersection at Yongjia Lu and Anting Lu, Garlic pitches itself as an upmarket Turkish joint serving your traditional kebabs, pittas, yogurts, etc., in a white-linen setting.
Without romanticizing too much, happening upon Garlic in the middle of that dim, hushed strip of Yongjia Lu really does feel like riding up on a luminous palace that rises up from a desert night-scape. It’s massive, white, glowing with light, and eerily quiet, even when crowded. Inside, you’re greeted by staff members who seem cut from the same cloth as the restaurant – white-garbed, statue-stiff, and speaking only in cordial nods, almost as if they detached from a stone column to take your order. We’ll admit it, it was a welcome breather after a month of nothing but yappy Shanghai restaurant ambience (bless its heart).
Starters consist of flatbreads fresh from a stone oven, homemade yogurts, salads (but actually interesting ones like octopus), imported goat cheese, and other traditional Turkish bites. We sampled the home-made cacik (45RMB), an island of gloppy yogurt filtered with mint and and drizzled with olive oil. With the first dollop on a piece of flatbread, its sour creaminess kicked us in the fillings of our molars, coaxing out geysers of saliva, and prompting us to order enough pitta to dam a river with. It was one of those rare dishes that bridges the gap between rich and palate-cleansing – definitely the highlight of the night. We also recommend the muhammara (68RMB) a pitta dip with aleppo peppers, garlic, walnuts and bread crumbs, that tingles with spice.
Garlic unfortunately faltered when we ordered our main. The grilled lamb skewers atop mashed eggplant plate (130RMB) was a schizophrenic pile of fat-less overcooked lamb (it could’ve been any meat), mushy eggplant, and other jumbled gloop. It tasted especially muddled when compared to the distinct personalities of the yogurt and muhammara. We have heard good things about other mains like the pan-fried lamb brain with porcini (68RMB), but overall the starter menu features far more enticing fare.
The drink selection, on the other hand, proves one of Garlic’s strongest assets, with an exclusively Turkish wine list (glasses start from 45RMB, bottles from 180RMB), fresh-squeezed juices (around 45RMB), cocktails (65RMB), and bottles of Efes, a Turkish beer (35RMB).
For us, Garlic feels like a movie that hooks you with its promising plot and larger-than-life characters but then succumbs to a slightly disappointing payoff. You’re best off piecing together a meal from the scrumptious starters.
Garlic – 698 Yongjia Lu, near Anting Lu (永嘉路698号, 近安亭路). Tel: (0)21-5424-3332. Hours: 11am-11.30pm daily.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].