By Eda Togan
Asitane is a restaurant I have always heard about but never had chance to visit until last week! There are many restaurants that claim to serve ottoman cuisine in Istanbul. However I think Asitane is unique, because they serve food from the Ottoman palaces.
Our group of foodie friends had a specially prepared menu: a selection of cold starters, hot starters and main courses.
We had the opportunity to choose our main course from a wide selection of the list. And finally desserts from the Royal Kitchen in the Ottoman Topkapı palace.
Our 3 cold starters:
Stuffed calamari with shrimps.
My favorite was Gerdaniyye, which is a lamb chuck slowly braised with aromatic vegetables and herbs, blended with lamb brains, served with sour black plum extract. It was the first time I tried Gerdaniyye mixed with lamb brain. It made the taste unique, plus it was served with sour black plum extract which contributed to the taste a lot. It was delicious!
We were served Urla wines during our dinner.
Serendias Rose 2013 together with the cold starters. Serendias had a lovely Salmon color. I always love drinking rose on a breezy spring day, so it was just right to serve it that night. Serendias is produced from Merlot & Syrah grapes. The taste is fruity and soft, easy to drink with aromatic taste and smells of a raspberry and strawberry mix. However I would not suggest to drink it with Gerdaniyye, since it was much better company for the stuffed calamari with shrimps. Nevertheless I drunk my glass after I finished eating Gerdaniyye since I loved the Rose in itself.
When I saw “Levrek Biryan” in the main course options I said ‘this is it!’ I would love to try the sea bass for 2 reasons.
1 – The fish season is almost over so would it be any good?
2 – What I know is that Ottoman Cuisine was not into fish at all. It is interesting that although the palaces were located on the sea shore in Istanbul they did not use fish in their kitchens. That’s related to the tradition that came from the Byzantine era. Fish was one of the most common and available food so it was called “public food”, which was eaten by the poor and the monks. This tradition was passed on to the Ottoman empire.
Levrek Biryan is made from sea bass, baked in the oven, stuffed with walnuts and spices, seasoned with saffron. It was served in a white oval plate with baby lettuce and red radish.
The Sea bass had a nice gold color that came from saffron. It had an interesting smell which was a mixture of spices and saffron.The sea bass was well cooked but not dry, it was juicy just the way I like it. Each bite with saffron smell reminded me of Asia. I believe the magic comes from the saffron which is brought from India! As I learnt Kashmir is one of the best harvest places of saffron thanks to moist environments in Kashmir. No wonder that smell took me to Asia at each bite!
Nexus 2012 was the red wine accompanying the main courses: 60% Merlot. It was the prize winner wine of Urla. I heard that it could be kept over 30 years without any issue. It has got a very dark ruby color, and it is a full body wine. It was the first time I have tasted this prize winner wine. I thought that my choice on my main course was not a perfect match to Nexus. However I have to say that I was wrong! Since the wine was a very good match to Levrek Biryan, thanks to saffron and stuffing in the sea bass. I think I made the right choice with my Levrek Biryan that night. Overall it was yumm.
Not finished yet! It was time for the desserts from the Royal Kitchen of the famous Topkapı palace: Zerde and Helatiye.
I liked Helatiye best: gum mastic infused pudding cubes served with almonds, pistachios and seasonal fruits in rose water syrup. The gum mastic in rose water syrup is a kind of common dessert, however mixing it with almonds and pistachios made it rather rich.
Having a great food experience in a very nice garden of the restaurant next to the Chora church was unforgettable!