Saturday, November 15, 2014

Braised lamb shanks, or kuzu incik as we call them in Turkey

I separate party dishes into two main categories.  Those that require minimal serving and preparation when the guests arrive and those that will be sure to keep you away from the table in the kitchen.  I like both for different reasons.

Today I'd like to share a recipe for braised lamb shanks.  They fall in the first category, which means you'll have plenty of time to shower before your guests arrive and you will actually be able to enjoy the dinner along with your guests at the dinner table and not in front of the stove.

Lamb shanks are very famous in Turkey and around the world.  Regardless of how you season them or combine them with other goodies, the whole trick lies in cooking the shanks very slowly over as many hours as you can.  I add some wine also, as most European recipes do, which helps break the muscle tissue and soften the mean even more.  A real Turkish delight is what you get at the end.

As a side dish, I made a caramelized onion and fresh herbs couscous dish.  I chose this as I wanted something light, with taste, but not too much, and something fresh to balance the lamb.  It worked much better than I expected and I highly recommend it.

I cooked 6 shanks for almost 5 hours.  I initially browned them (two at a time) in a small amount of oil in a large pan.

After removing the shanks, I added 1 chopped onion (in large pieces).  You can even quarter the onions.  Then I added 2 sliced carrots (adds a little sweetness).  I then added 2 chopped tomatoes and cooked them together for about 5 minutes.  Then 1 added a cup tomato sauce and a cup of chicken broth and let it simmer for about another five minutes.  Last but not least, I added almost 2/3 bottle of a cabernet.

Once everything was ready, I combined them in a big earthen baking dish, covered it with aluminum foil and baked it for 4-5 hours, occasionally turning the shanks (every half hour or so) at a very low heat - 125 C.   During the last half hour, I uncovered them to let the juice thicken.     

The couscous was much easier.  I basically boiled the couscous and set it aside.  Then I sliced two large onions very thinly and caramelized them over very low heat in a non-non-stick pan with just 1 table spoon of olive oil.  The trick to caramelizing is to interfere with the onions as little as possible.  I just stirred them maybe 4 times during a course of 20 minutes.

Then I chopped half a bunch of parsley, mint and scallions.  I mixed all of them into the couscous together with the caramelized onions.  Spiced it up with some red pepper flakes, some ground white pepper and salt and it was ready.

I served everything in 5 minutes and then enjoyed the evening and this amazing food with wonderful friends.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Cochine: A Vietnamese Restaurant in Istanbul

We discovered Cochine thanks to a friend who decided to celebrate his birthday there.  I went there excited about the food, but what really carried me away was the setting.  Every table has a different mood.  The overall environment feels more like a lounge rather than a restaurant.  The general dark setting is offset at your table with table top lights, allowing you to focus on your guests and the beautiful colors of the food.

We unfortunately missed the live jazz performance, but I will soon be back on a day when there is live jazz.

 We had a number of the items on the menu.  Here are the ones that really stayed with me:  Vietnamese Spring Rolls, Viet Style Grilled Beet and Lettuce Wraps, Seafood Glass Noodle Salad, Wok Tossed Asparagus and Asian Mushrooms (my favorite).  We were not very happy with Pho Bo, the traditional Vietnamese Beef and Noodle soup.  We felt the broth did not really have the traditional flavor.

I also highly recommend the cocktails.  The Early Gray Martini is a must try!

Telephone: 0 212 243 92 81 (was very busy, I highly recommend reserving in advance)
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Would Haddock, peas and spinach go well togeter?

It’s Monday evening and I am in traffic on my way home.  As if at least only mentally escaping the traffic,  my mind kept strolling in Paris as I thought of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations program’s 100th episode inParis.

But this wasn't an escape from Istanbul to Paris, rather it was an escape from the complexity of our city lives to the simplicity of the dishes that were taking control of Paris’s culinary scene. The young chefs in Paris were defying the old rules and simply inventing something new every day, based on the day’s ingredients, aiming for elegant, tasty and healthy plates.  One of these plates was so vivid in mind:  some lightly sauteed filet of fish on a bright green sauce.

They used thick slices of Chilean Sea Bass in the TV program.  It wouldn't have been possible form e to find something like that today in Istanbul .... but I still tried to create version of this recipe and made the following dish. I opened on the side a bottle of California Zinfandel wine, which went really well with it.

The recipe as any has room for improvement and adjustments to your taste, but it is fast, light, healthy and colorful….great for a simple week night dinner.

Recipe for 2 

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of green peas (frozen are fine but fresh would be preferred), a glass of water (optionally chicken broth) and 1 tablespoon of butter.  Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add 6-8 pieces of medium/large sized spinach leaves into the pan and cook the spinach on low heat in the steam from the pea mixture until the spinach wilts-  don’t over cook as the color will darken too much.  Season with salt and pepper to your taste, and puree the mixture with a hand blender, and set aside somewhere to keep it warm until the fish is ready.

Cut in half two haddock fillets (or any other fish fillet).   Pat them dry with a paper towel, season with garlic powder, salt and black pepper.  Heat a large frying pan.  Once hot, add 2 tbps of olive oil and lightly saute the fish.    When frying, first put the side of the fish you want to display on your plate face down.  Don’t over fry the fish.  3 minutes on one side, and 2 on the other should be plenty.

Spoon some of the green sauce on a plate. Place two pieces of fried fish on the sauce.  I decorated mine with julienned turnip to add even more color and freshness.  A little lemon also went very well with it.   Bon appetit :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cafe de Paris / Le Relais de l'Entrecote Sauce

I was in Geneva with a friend last week.  I am not a big meat fan, in fact, I almost never eat meat.  But there are certain places where I cannot resist the offer.  We had lunch at the famous Le Relais de L'Entrecote on Rue de Rhone.  The famous place as you might know serves one menu only:  A small salad with vinaigrette, followed  by an amazing piece of entrecote with their famous sauce and french fries.  The place has an interesting history.  You can read more about it here.

The sauce was so delicious that I quickly realized that I have been eating cheap fakes since the last time I had been to the restaurant's branch in Paris.  After this current Geneva experience, it was not going to be possible to eat cheap fakes anymore.  So I started searching everywhere for the recipe.  There are many out there.  The real one does not seem to have been disclosed yet, but a lot of devoted cooks and chefs have worked hard to develop their versions.  My humble version is below.  I was very happy with it, and so were my guests who have had a chance to try the original sauce both in Geneva and Paris.

I have to credit Scott and his blog Meats, Roots and Leaves for the base recipe which I modified.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chicken stock (I used knorr brand bouillion)
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 table spoon dried tarragon (fresh would have been better, but I couldn't find any)
2 table spoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup white wine
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt

Heat the olive oil on low heat.  Cook the onions and garlic for a few minutes on low heat until they soften.  Add the chicken broth, bring to boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.

While the broth simmers, place all other ingredients except for the butter in a blender.  Add the broth and blend everything into a smooth sauce.

Return to pan, add the butter, and continue to cook on low heat until the butter completely melts.

Pour on your steak and devour.  It's important to keep the sauce warm.  This is why they serve only a little bit a time on a small place and keep the rest warm on tea lights at Cafe de Paris and Relais de L'Entrecote.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


One of my top places in Istanbul to for new food challenges.  Lilbitz is all about little bits of this and that.  But you don't know what "this and that" will be, because they change their menu every two weeks (available on their website).  Max, the talented chef and owner of Lilbitz (along with his architect partner Sema Turker), personally creates a new menu, cooks it for you and tells you all about it.  Every table at Lilbitz is like the Chef's Table at fancy restaurants!

The menu is fixed and consists of seven courses that take you through a new journey each time.  Last time I went there, which was at the end of November, the theme for the seven courses was winter fruits.  The menu stared with salmon ceviche nori rolls on apple and wasabi cream with pickled cucumber to kick off.  It was then followed by pear and prurslane (semizotu in Turkish) soup on meatstock.  A pear crisp accompanied the soup (which was one of my favorite little add-ons ever).  A most delicate beef carpaccio on a bed of baby spinach, mung beans, glazed with tangerine reduction prepared us for the more substantial dishes to come.  Oven grilled tenderloin with oil and corn cream and black bean puree came first.  Every dish is at most two three bites, but each plate has several dimensions of flavor and texture.  Max, also an enthusiast of food photography, creates a visual art with each dish, clearly picking his ingredients and cooking methods not just for taste but also looks.  After the tenderloin, we savored grilled sea bream (cipura in Turkish) with beef houmous and micro vegetables, flavored with an orange and anise emulation.   Preparing us for the desert, Max then brought oven melted scamorza cheese with quince jelly and mini crisps of pear.  The desert, just the right size after this journey, was chocolate mousse with anise and Turkish coffee, topped with pommegrenate glaze.

I highly recommend this place and suggest frequenting it to keep your taste buds awake year around!  It's a small venue....just six tables.  Every dish is made really for you. Max brings each dish with the waiters and takes his time explaining his artistic creations.  You can see how excited he is about each one in his eyes.  After your dinner, you find yourself in Nu Pera, pleasantly stuffed for after dinner drinks, music and dancing.

Web: , tel: 0 212 245 6054
Address: Mesrutiyet Caddesi, no: 67, Petit de Champs Pasaji, Beyoglu, Istanbul.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Anchoive and Shrimp Tapas

Anchoives.  Or Hamsi as we call them in Turkish. I browsed and browsed and found lots of tomato based recipes for anchoive tapas.  I wanted something fresher.  So I started to play.  Here are three tapas that I came up with which I highly recommend.  They are very easy to prepare and taste delicious.

Ginger, lime, orange honey shrimp
Prepare a vinaigrette by mixing the following:
2 tbl spoons olive oil
1 tbl spoon honey
Juice from two limes
1 tea spoon full of finely grated ginger
2 table spoons full of finely diced red onion
1 teaspoon salt

Prepare 6 pieces of shrimp by placing them in boiling water for 1 minute.  To add a twist, you can boil the shrimp in green tea!

To assemble the tapas, pour 1 teaspoon of vinaigrette on each slice of bread.  Top with a thin slice of avocado and half a slice of orange, and a piece of shrimp.  Drizzle a teaspoon of vinaigrette.  Garnish with crushed walnuts, finely diced red onion.  Season with salt an pepper.

Avocado, onion, marinated anchoives
This was the best I think.
Prepare 6 pieces of de-boned fresh anchoives.  Place them in a bowl with lemon juice (two lemons), 1 tea spoon of salt, and 1/4 cup of finely chopped red onions.  Cover and place in refrigerator for two hours.

Mash one avocado with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, half of a red onion (finely chopped), salt and pepper to taste.

When the anchoives are ready (after resting in the fridge for two hours),  place a table spoon of the avocado mix on a small piece of whole wheat bread.  Place the anchoive on top (without washing the lemon mix off).   Garnish with chopped red onions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle some olive oil on top and serve!

Garlic, red pepper anchoives
Prepare 6 de-boned anchoive fillets and fry them in hot olive oil over medium heat for 45 seconds to 1 minute, set aside.
Clean the pan, heat two table spoons of olive oil, add half of red pepper (julienned), 2 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced), and 1 tea spoon of chili pepper flakes.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes until the garlic is translucent and the peppers have softned.
Place lettuce leaves on small slices of whole what bread.  Place the achoives on top. Garnies with the garlic and pepper pieces.  Drizzle the oil from the garlic/pepper mix.  Add salt and pepper and serve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Give turkeys a break!- Enter the new year with smoked salmon!

We "traditionally" cook turkey in Turkey for new year's eve dinners.  We have pretty much everything about Christmas in Turkey but they are labeled as new year's.  Santa comes on new year's eve, the gifts are collected under the new year tree, and we eat Turkey on new year's eve.

Here is a proposition to let turkeys in Turkey have a break this year!!!  And for you to enjoy new flavors on Christmas or new year's eve.  Enter the new year with smoked salmon for a delicious year ahead!!!  Delicco, a company founded by my friends and my brother, is offering a 20% on discount on the freshest smoked salmon available in Turkey.  They are already preparing smoked salmon for the dinners and parties at the best hotels and restaurants in Istanbul for new  year's eve.  Let them also prepare some for you!!!

Visit to order.  They also have a page on their website, serving room, with all sort of delicious suggestions on how to knock out  your friends with

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Iranian Restaurant in Istanbul- Gilan

This I think is the restaurant that excited me the most in my three years of being back in Istanbul. Gilan Restaurant and Cafe!!! Discovered by none other than my mom, it's located in Acibadem on the Asian side. Don't think it's too far if you live on the European side!!! It's definitely worth the trip. You will have an amazing journey with the owner and chef of the restaurant Fehiman Hanim, discover brand new flavors and learn more than you could imagine about Iranian food and culture. I had been to Tehran and Shiraz in Iran for 7 days back in 2003 but I never had the chance to taste these dishes. What makes this restaurant truly special is that you get to eat food that you can only find in Iranian homes and dishes that are not served in restaurants!

The place is very small. A few small tastefully and simply decorated tables inside with more in the little garden in front of the restaurant. I visited the restaurant on a Friday evening and we were the only customers. The Chef owner and her pleasant waiter from Fikirtepe were excellent. It reminded me of the BYOB (bring your own beer) restaurants in Philadelphia where the restaurants were very small and specialized in particular areas or ethnic foods and had to be the best in their field so that they could compete. The young waiter of Gilan was so proud of his little restaurant and its dishes, so much so that, even the tea was not to be missed. He insisted that my diabetic mom had to taste the desert. She was very happy he had insisted after she tasted Fehiman Hanim's Zerde, a light traditional Iranian desert with saffron, rose water and rice (even the rice is imported from Iran). 

Khoresht Geymeh
For our main courses we ordered Fesenjan, Ghormeh Sabzi and Khoresht Geymeh all served with Iranian plain and saffron rice.

Fesenjan is made from very finely ground walnuts that are stewed for hours. It's available with beef or chicken.

Ghormeh Sabzi is a vegetarian dish made of Iranian vegetables. Has a tangy flavor. This is not a great word to describe food but the word that I am left with is broad. I think this dish left a broad range of falvors in my mouth, all combined together but still distinctly tastable.

Ghormeh Sabzi
Khoresht Geymeh is a ground beef dish made with chik-pea looking beans. These beans are imported from Iran and taste have a taste that falls between lentils and chickpeas. The dish is served with French fries. I was a bit surprised at first to see french fries but they are an excellent accompaniment to the dish. I recommend mixing the dish with the fries and eating them together. Last but not least, in addition to Zerde we also had sircine for desert, made from eggs, flour and saffron, sprinkled with powdered sugar. I highly recommend it all. Looking very much forward to my next visit.

All said, you must go to meet Fehiman Hanim, a Turkish lady who has spent over 30 years in Iran and seen Iran during the Shah days, revolution and through recent days up until 4 years ago when she returned back to her home country with her family.

Address:  Acibadem Mahallesi, Umut Sokak, 3/D, Acibadem, Istanbul
Phone: 0 216 325 6615

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Easy ad Thai with shrimp and squid

I hope my Thai friends won't hate me for this but I finally managed to create an easy Pad Thai recipe that is good enough to bring me back memories of the food from Bangkok. I think this recipe will make Thai food lovers who are distant from Thailand and good Thai restaurants happy enough!

(P.S.: Sorry for the bad picture, this was cooked impromptu and I had to photograph it with my phone).

Soak rice noodles for 15 minutes in boiling water (with the heat off), drain and set aside.

Heat 1 table spoon of vegetable oil in a wok.
Stir fry 1 half mooned onion with two minced cloves of garlic
Add 1 table spoon of red pepper flakes
Add 1 cup of julienned red peppers
Add in the squid and shrimp and stir fry for just another minute (not more otherwise the seafood will overcook!)
Add in the noodles
Add in 1 cup of sweet chili sauce (can be found in most grocery stores, even in Turkey, in the Asian food section)
Add 2 table spoons fish sauce
Mix in 3 spring onions cut in 2cm pieces
Season with salt
Squeeze 1 lime into the noodles and mix everything together
Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and ground peanuts and enjoy!!!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Que Tal - an Istanbul Tapas Bar

Two years ago it was hard to find a single good tapas bar. Now they seem to be opening one by one. Today, I want to tell you about Que Tal, the newest tapas bar in Istanbul which actually does have a bar with tapas! The owners are Ayca and Burcu, two young Istanbulites who have had close encounters with Spain and the world of food and who will be the ones greeting you when you enter their new little restaurant.

The place is a small cozy restaurant located just around the corner form Tunel on the main road that comes up to Tunel from Sishane. Just the right distance away from the craze of Tunel and Asmali Mescit but close enough to feel its energy, Que Tal offers a very pleasant atmosphere. The staff seems happy and to enjoy not only what they are doing but also what they are serving.

I tasted their Sangria, full of citrus flavors, not too sweet, and dangerously smooth that leaves you asking for more. I recommend the mini koftes (I know these are Turco tapas, but they are good). "Que Tal", also an item on the menu, essentially roasted mashed garlic with olive oil and herbs was I think the star of the night. We also ordered lightly sauteed chickpeas, cold tapas platter (variety of olive, red pepper and bean pasted tapas served on small toasts), and sauteed shrimp served with a chili sauce. All highly recommended. Ayca told us that they are expanding the menu and I am looking forward to my next visit to try their new additions.

In short, it's a friendly small restaurant away from all the chains and characterless locations, offering a menu in which you will surely find your flavor of choice.

You can get the most up to date vibe on Que Tal from their facebook page.

Address: Ilk Belediye Cad. No:5/A, Tünel, İstanbul

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lemon Garlic Bonito (Palamut)

Palamut. That's the name of this fish in Turkey. It's know as bonito or horse mackerel in English. I think it's more of a Mediterranean fish as I have almost never come across this fish in the US. Browsing the internet I came across several Spanish and Italian recipes as well.

But none of them really sparked my interest and I decided to go the safe way: lots of garlic, a little olive oil, lemon, white wine and dill. It worked like a charm. The trick here is to first sear the fish and then steam it with white wine. I served it with plain jasmine rice (cooked in water butter, no broth) to bring out the flavor of the fish. It's a fishy fish! So you need to like fish to try this kind.

Here is my simple recipe:

Have the fish gutted and cut into 1cm slices. Clean the marrow and make sure all the blood has been drained. Keep at room temperature.

Chop two cloves of garlic and half moon 1 small onion
Heat a small pan, add two table spoons of oil and saute the garlic and onions

Increase the heat, move the onions and garlic to one side and place two slices of bonito on the empty side (making sure that the fish is directly touching the pan). After about 20 seconds, flip the fish to sear the other side.

Add juice from half a lemon, 1 cup of dry white wine, 3 scallions chopped into 2cm pieces, 1 bay leaf, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, and season to your taste with salt and pepper. Distribute the garlic and onions evenly around the pan to surround the fish slices. Bring to boil.

Once you reach the boiling point, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid or another pan, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Place over jasmine rice, garnish with fresh dill and red pepper flakes and serve with your favorite dry white wine.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Smoked salmon pan pizza with goat cheese

I am trying new variations on smoked salmon. I wanted to make something that was warm but I didn't want to cook the salmon. So here is what I came up with.

Heat a large pan and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook both sides of the tortiall until crisp.
Place a few thin slices of goat cheese
Sprinkle chopped green onions and tomatoes
Sprinkle some oregano to your taste (goes very well with goat cheese)
Then remove from the pan after the cheese is warmed or slightly melted
Top with pieces of smoked salmon
Season with fresh black pepper and enjoy!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

BBQ leftovers panini - grilled lamb, onions and gorgonzola

It happens only rarely but sometimes I have left over food from my bbqs. Reheating bbq leftovers usually leads to very stiff meet. Today I want to share one my favorite ways of making the most of leftover grilled meats. A simple panini.

Thinly slice whatever left over meat you have- I think this works particularly well with lamb but a steak or any kind of chops will also work fine. Of course, the more rear your grilled meat the better. If you have left over grilled onions, slice them as well.

Place the sliced onions on a large piece of bread. Place the meat over the onions. Top with thinly sliced gorgonzola or any kind of blue cheese to your taste. Season with salt and pepepper. Sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley to add a refreshing flavor. Place a second slice of bread over and grill on a pan, a panini grill or even a George Forman grill and enjoy!

Stuffed grilled mushrooms- three cheeses and greens

So far so good! We're firing up the grill pretty much every weekend to not miss a single sunny day. Several of my childhood friends came together last night and for Adana's sake (grilling capital of Turkey!) we fired up the grill. I wanted to make grilled stuffed mushrooms. Normally I would fill them with mozzarella or pepperjack cheese but when I saw that we didn't have any of these I came up with this recipe and it was a huge hit!

Wash and remove (and keep) the stems of 1 kilo of large button mushrooms (about 30 pieces).
Place the following in a bowl and blend it with a hand blender. You can also mix everything in a blender:
Stems from the mushrooms
4 scallions
Half a bunch of parsley
50 gr of danish blue cheese
50 gr of edam cheese
50 gr of goat cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tea spoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tea spoon salt

This will create a soft green paste. To make it less creamy and to not lose any of that tasty mushroom juice (and fat from the cheese) fold in 1 cup of bread crumbs.

Spoon the mixtures into the mushrooms. Grill for about 1o minutes. You can also bake them. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Smoked salmon and apple

I have been exploring new combinations with smoked salmon. One of the flavor combinations that I really enjoyed is apple and salmon. Here are two varieties which I highly recommend. They are very similar and use the same ingredients in different ways:

Spread some cream cheese on an Etimek (or a ready made toasted bread). Place a slice ring of red onion and a thin slice of apple and top with shredded turnip. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Alternatively, spread some cream cheese on a toast (whole grain with sunflower seeds in the picture). Place a piece of smoked salmon and top it with a thin slice of apple. Decorate with chopped red onion, tomatoes, dill and scallions. Season with freshly ground black pepper! Enjoy!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Cake art

I turned 32 just a week ago. And I asked for a dinner with my closest friends. And my girlfriend organized just that for me. And also surprised me with this amazing cake which was created by Nesrin Tong at Pasta Tasarim (Cake Design).

Nesrin Tong creates custom cakes based on the stories of the individuals. My cake shows my passion for food, my unfortunate addiction to my blackberry, frequent work travels, my love for cooking fish and Sunday morning breakfasts. Thank you Damla for this wonderful cake and thank you to Nesrin for creating it!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

The weather is warming up and outdoor breakfasts are back on! To commemorate the season's first breakfast I wanted to prepare something that reflected the easiness of a bright warm sunny Sunday morning. Simple, colorful and delicious. Perfectly scrambled eggs on a toast topped with smoked salmon!
From foodplay

There is no recipe for this. Just scramble two eggs- make sure not to overcook them, eggs continue to cook after you remove them from the pan. You can mix in fresh chopped chives into the eggs after they are cooked. Season with black pepper and salt to taste. Place a spoonful on a toast. Then put a slice of smoked salmon. Decorate with chives or scallions and voila!
From foodplay

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Best smoked salmon in Turkey: Finally available for home delivery!

Now you can get the best smoked salmon in Turkey home delivered to you. Delicco selects fresh salmon (never been frozen!) from Norway, marinates it at its production site and then oak smokes it to perfection. Hand-sliced and packed, the salmon beats everything else I have tasted in Turkey.

You can now order this salmon at and learn more about Delicco at

Monday, December 07, 2009

360 Istanbul - Senses Restaurant

Dining in pitch darkness. This is how 360 Istanbul ’s new restaurant Senses is marketed. And you indeed dine in pitch darkness. I went to this restaurant last Saturday with two friends. Would I go again? No. Would I recommend it? Yes, the experience is definitely worth a try, albeit a bit expensive for what it’s worth in my view.

Senses is created after the concept of similar restaurants in Switzerland and Berlin. Where in Switzerland the waiters are also blind our guys in Istanbul have taken advantage of technology and are serving with night vision goggles, which unfortunately have little blinking lights that are distracting from the full experience. But not to worry. It’s still pitch dark!

The menu is a five course fixed menu for a price of 125 TL including wine pairing. I do not want to disclose the details of the menu as a huge part of the fun is discovering the food using all your senses except your sight. Dinner is served with two kinds of wines and both are excellently paired with the food. The red is a dark, full bodied wine. The white is dry with hints of pears. I didn’t like the white by itself but it went amazingly well with the main course. And you get unlimited refills!

Guests are briefed before the dinner about the set up. You are told about the configuration of the dinner table, how to get a waiter’s attention (by raising your hand), and strongly encouraged to take care of your natural needs before entering the dining room as it is not recommended that you leave the place until the dinner is over. You are also forewarned that you will most likely try to compensate for the your sight’s absence by talking…and so will everyone else…and that this is exactly what happens. This is why they also recommend everyone to speak with a lower voice but that of course does not really happen.. This is actually an unfortunate thing as the room gets very loud and a bit more silence would be much more welcome to enjoy the dark atmosphere, the food and the company. You are then provided with a black apron and led into the room, curtain after curtain, holding onto the shoulder of the person in front of you.

Guests are encouraged to eat by hand. This makes your experience significantly richer as you real feel the texture of the food. The menu has been designed with a wide range of tastes and textures to give you a diverse experience and challenge you along a large spectrum.

In short I recommend the experience. The food was very good although I think one tends to expect something completely out of this world at a restaurant like this and I can’t tell you that this was the case. But don’t get me wrong. The food was delicious, although I have no clue what it looked like. Things had layers, you had to open certain packages, mix it with this and that….all to enhance your sightless dining experience. And the chefs certainly deserve an applause for this.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Linguine with white wine clam sauce

I had written earlier about how hard it is to find white pasta sauces in Turkey, especially those without cream. I went to Pastarito on Friday. I looked for a white wine clam suace linguine, but no luck. Instead I orderd a shrimp lemon risotto as I was looking for something light, with seafood and hints of citrus, everything you would find a good white wine clam sauce. So I made it at home tonight. Here is the recipe:

From foodplay

Heat a medium to large sized skillet.
Add 1/4 cup olive oil. When the oil is hot, add 1 tablespoon of butter and melt it in the oil.
Add 1 small finely chopped onion and cook for a minute. Add 5 cloves of garlic, also finely chopped and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
Add 1 cup of chicken broth or clam juice if available, and 375 ml (half a bottle) of dry white wine.
Mix in 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes (optional). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Add 1/4 lb cleaned clams (or mussels) and 1/4 lb of peeled and deveined medium sized shrimp. I would rather cook this with clams in their shells and with no shrimp but this is all that I could find.
Mix in 1/4 cup of chopped parsley and cook for about 3 minutes or so- be sure not to overcook the seafood! Remove from the stove.

To serve, you have two options. In the first option, you can simply cook the pasta according to the directions on the box, place a serving of pasta on a plate and pour the sauce over. Garnish with chopped parsley, red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese.

In the second option, which is highly recommended, you can cook the pasta one minute less than the time given on the box. Drain the pasta and add several servings into your skillet with the sauce and toss the pasta to coat it with the sauce. Then place your servings on plates and garnish with chopped parsley, red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese.

From foodplay