Asitane Restaurant …My excitement to dine and sample the famous Ottoman cuisines, which were highly recommended by many travel guides for Istanbul, had my expectations soaring high to the sky. The Asitane Restaurant was no exception ,because the reports were glowing and the subject of many articles.
The Asitane Restaurant is a beautiful and luxurious restaurant, located adjacent to the Chora church (Kariye Museum) which has the oldest Byazntine mosaics in Istanbul. The staff was very friendly, informative and had a sense of humour which was very entertaining and transported me back to the Ottoman castle days, with all of it’s charms.
The menu and wine is very large but unusual, as it lists many historical recipes of the Ottoman empire. Included are their names as well as the recipe dates ,which go back to the 15th and 16th centuries. A very interesting start to a meal, which I expected to be memorable.
Unfortunately, it was a delicate task to choose what to eat as they had so many interesting selections, and I have very large foodie eyes with an eye appetite that is larger than my tummy. So, after some very hard thinking, I settled on several foods, which I thought had very interesting histories and ingredients.
I enjoyed the free bread, olive oils and nuts which arrived at the table to accompany the drinks. It helped that they were delivered by a handsome, chatty, Turkish staff member, Did I say handsome ?.
The first entrée of almond soup looked quite interesting ,with it is light, almond broth flavoured with grated nutmeg and pomegranate seeds. It smelled great good with a warm taste of almond, and I quite liked it. It was subtle in taste and delicious. And to make it more important, this was the first time I ever ate almond soup. This added a whole new page to my food dictionary.
The second entrée was called Asitane treats, however it did not look like much of a treat to me. The four, different foods were very bland in both taste and colour and had no presentation whatsoever, on the plate.
Likewise with the third entrée, very boring. It was oven-baked, whole calamari with shrimps, stuffed with a blend of rice, pine nuts and flavoured with cinnamon and fresh mint. The presentation simply did not look good on the plate and was very bland in taste. To me, this was a shame since it had a very exotic name and ingredients. I thought ….”OMG…. Did I order wrong or did the chef have a bad hair day?????”
After the third entree I found myself skeptical about the food and I tried not to be disappointed if the next dish had no flavour.
Finally, the main dish of stuffed quince arrived. The quince was stuffed with a blend of minced lamb and beef, rice, aromatic herbs, pine nuts, currants and flavoured with grape molasses. I asked the restaurant staff if I could eat the whole fruits, including the skin, as I was not sure how to eat this meal. After instructions to eat everything, I started digging into my food. Unfortunately, the taste was similar to the stuffed calamari with shrimps which had little flavor.
By this time, I was thinking I was glad that I live in this modern day and not in the Ottoman Empire. I personally cannot imagine eating this kind of food all of my life. God forbid, I would be skinny like a stick, and maybe drop dead by the blowing wind.
The last main dish of lamb stew cooked with apricots, raisins, dried figs, prunes and almonds was also a huge disappointment for me. It tasted sweet like a dessert. I closed my eyes and tried to swallow and enjoy. After a couple of bites, I stopped eating and decided this type of food is sure not for my tastes.
Unfortunately the dessert of roasted, flour-halva with honey, pistachios and poppy seeds also was the recipient of some sloppy cooking because it was too dry and tasted poorly. Very simply it was too spiced with herbs, to be called a dessert.
For me, it was a big disappointment to visit this beautiful restaurant which looked so grand from outside and inside. But….. if you enjoy talking with a handsome and friendly Turkish people, do come here…….