Hovering like a big blue monstrosity over the Kadıköy skyline sits the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel. Not the most glamorous sky scraper but none the less, a part of the skyline with an uninterrupted view of the Bosphorus, literally the best view on the Asian side of Istanbul.
All set to release their new restaurant concept the ‘Hood’ to the public, the DoubleTree embarks on a new journey after severing ties with the 360° Group. Foodie Frolics and enjoy-istanbul were back on the resto/wine review track to kickstart 2018. Executive Chef Sefa Ceylan and Food & Beverage Manager Ahmet Özeren walked us through the new food and wine menus and restaurant concept.
To get our taste buds prepared for what was to come, a small plate of two flavoured butters arrived, with the addition of some green olive paste from Çanakkale. A red pepper bread was a lovely addition to the breadbasket despite being a touch oily. As this stage an aperitif would have been lovely but we were still yet to find out about the new wine list.
Carrot Soup with Grilled Jumbo Shrimp
Having the soup poured over the prawn was an appreciated and unexpected piece of theatre rarely seen here in Istanbul. With cameras snapping to capture the moment we finally got on with the task of tasting this starter. With subtle hints of ginger, garlic, dill, parsley and one leaf of coriander (detected by this foodie sleuth), the soup proved to be smooth and agreeable with the char of the prawn adding to the complete mouthful. After suggesting to my partner that a vegetable such as carrot or pumpkin in pumpkin soup should be roasted, we found out from Executive Chef Sefa Ceylan, it actually had been roasted but unfortunately the roasted flavour wasn’t singing out as much as I would have liked.
Salmon Tartare with Mango Sauce:
Being no lover of raw salmon or sushi for that matter, I was prepared to keep an open mind and palate for this one. The chef explained that the addition of a sweetish mango sauce was necessary to appease the taste buds of Türks who are not used to tartare (raw meat.) Well, well, kudos to you Chef Sefa! When the salmon was mixed with the mango purée it became a blend of savoury and sweet, both taste senses balancing each other out. The only suggestions for this foodie would have been to use slightly less onion or allow it to spend some time in lemon and salt in order to take away the raw onion finish left in our mouths. As a coriander freak, a touch more ‘kişniş’ (coriander) would have also been lovely, but this is a very personal obsession of mine due to my Aussie roots in Melbourne’s fest of cuisines from all over Asia.
Asparagus with Parmesan Crème:
When asparagus makes an appearance on menus you know that ‘Spring has Sprung.’ Hello asparagus…I love you, especially when you are from France! Four (or was it five?) of my long-stemmed green friends sat upon a creamy pillow of parmesan cream and as if that wasn’t enough, there was an additional hot bowl of it with some added oregano, plus some parmesan chips to hopefully add some crunch.
All in all a pleasant tasting plate of springtime. A touch of citrus would have added the acid needed to cut through all that cream and Italian Parmesan and a touch more seasoning on the asparagus was needed. Despite the Parmesan crisp being a bit chewy and thick it didn’t break in your hands which is a positive…. but I still wanted the textural crunch to balance all that creamy smoothness.
We selected the Chamlija Albarino Narince and the Côtes d’Avanos Sauvignon Blanc to sample with our starters. The first wine paired nicely with the salmon tartare but the second was too overpowering with its full bouquet of fruit, to be a good match for the salmon and cut through the creaminess of the asparagus. The Chamlija wine was a good match for the two appetisers.
Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Cream Spinach, Polenta and Pumpkin Purée:
A visually appealing dish with a hefty beef chunk sitting front row and centre, this was a feast to attack with gusto. The creamy spinach was accompanied with red peppers and shitake and button mushrooms with a fig demi-glace. The sweetness and slight crunch of the fig seeds was an unexpected surprise.
The moment of truth, cutting into the steak proved that asking for one stage rarer than you desire is essential in Istanbul. Mine was a bit more than medium rare but to my liking. The meat however was under quite seasoned. It was in real need of a salt injection.
The addition of the polenta, which had a weird texture (unlike any I have tasted) and no flavour sitting on top of the pumpkin puree, kind of confused the marriage of the spinach and beef. I think all the combinations just missed the mark a little. Despite this, it was an enjoyable dish once extra seasoning was cracked over the beef and our glasses were filled with the rich Chateau Kalpak 2013 red blend, which was the perfect pairing. More of that please!
Roasted Pumpkin Cheesecake with Meringue:
What lay before us was a big slice of appealing looking cheesecake-like dessert, though to say it was cheesecake would be a bit of a stretch. The filling was soft and creamy and the pumpkin was noticeable but it lacked the cheesecake-i-ness created by the cream cheese.
The ‘Masterchef’ labne used could have been the cause. The base made from Turkish Burçak biscuits, was not too biscuity, which pleased me greatly. But, the big no-no was the graininess of the meringue on top, according to this pavlova-making Aussie.
Incorporating the sugar very slowly after soft peaks form is the key to a traditional and smooth meringue. The side of Turkish dessert pumpkin (kabak tatlısı) was a nice addition but added too much sweetness to the overall dish despite some crunchy relief from the walnuts. Not being a sweet tooth I struggled to appreciate it amongst all the sugar.
Menu Sum Up:
The Hood menu has enough choices for everyone. With a more modern international style menu, expats and foodies should be somewhat satisfied, however traditionalist Türks would struggle to find something they like. With two soups, six salads and twelve appetisers to choose from, there are plenty of permutations if you would like to share your plates and skip main course (the appetisers size quite generous.)
That being said, there are some main dishes such as the Lamb Tandoori, the Confit Duck Leg and the Mountain Mushroom Truffle Flavoured Risotto worth a look besides the Beef Tenderloin we tried. With nine main course choices plus three pastas, two risottos and four pizzas, there is enough interest for multiple visits to the Hood. If you haven’t eaten enough or are just a sweet tooth, the seven offerings for dessert should hit the spot whether you are a fruit lover, a chocoholic or a fan of rice pudding.
For the vegetarians out there, you have two soups (ask for shrimp to be omitted from the one we tried since the soup is added separately), five salads, five appetisers, three pastas and pizzas to choose from, but nothing in the main course section, which is a little remiss in this day and age. Vegans will have to speak to the chef to find out if dairy can be excluded from the vegetarian options.
It’s pleasing to see that the wines chosen on the new wine list represent the Central and Eastern Anatolian, Aegean and Marmara regions of Turkey. There are seventeen Turkish labels of reds and seven international choices, eight Turkish whites to the three foreign wines, but unfortunately only one Turkish rosé of the total four choices. Just one of the five sparkling wines represent Turkey, which is understandable considering the lack of sparkling wine culture in this country.
The usual suspects DLC and Kavaklidere are present but at least there are some respectable and necessary additions from boutique wineries such as Chateau Kalpak, Chamlija, Côtes d’Avanos and Sevilen. As a connoisseur of Turkish wine, it is an acceptable selection but misses out on some excellent wine producers who are making their mark at International wine competitions. Although I understand the plight of Hotels to connect with wineries with a bigger production and for the ease of communication, wine lists dominated by DLC and Kavakledere do not represent the ‘Wines of Turkey’ as a whole or the development of the Turkish wine industry adequately.
International wine regions represented on the wine list include France (Épernay, Rhône Valley, Provence, Languedoc-Roussillon), Italy (Tuscany & Abruzzo), Spain, Chile, USA (Napa Valley), Portugal and Australia (Victoria.)
Finding out there we could be tantalised by the talents of in-house mixologist, Ilker Ünal was an added bonus to end our evening. After gathering some info on our taste preferences, Ilker set about creating personalised cocktails for each of us. My concoction ‘The Elephant In The Room’ (aptly named for those who know me), contained vodka, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, red grapes and red wine. A lovely blend of fruit with a creamy finish but the alcoholic/fruit balance was not quite there. Marc’s ‘Bittersweet’ with Gin, cherry and pineapple juice was also a little light on the alcohol to make it a balanced cocktail, both more mock tails in our opinions. But we appreciated the effort and the presentation of our cocktails was excellent.
Atmosphere, Ambiance and Service:
Being met by the smiling and hospitable service staff kick-started the mood of the evening with a very positive welcoming vibe. All the staff were impeccably dressed and trained in fine dining etiquette, which is essential for an expat with global dining experience. A little more time spent investing in some English training for the waiting staff would be my only recommendation as an English Educator, not only here but at all respectable hotels and restaurants in Istanbul.
In regards to the design concept, the lovely wood tones around the bar area and the exposed beams of the ceiling match the restaurants new name, ‘Hood’. However, I believe marble tables create a certain kind of coldness and thus the white marble doesn’t match this warmth. The chairs aim to fit in with the wooden décor but only somewhat successfully and lack a bit of back support although nice and soft to sit on. The piano, for use during Sunday lunches and the proposed upcoming Live Music is a nice addition to the aesthetics of the space.
However, lighting together with Music are the keys to creating mood and ambiance. The lighting above the dining area although somewhat restricted by the retracting roof, kind of resembles a dimly lit up runway, but isn’t too distracting. Candles on the tables provide some intimacy but the silver coasters are not necessary, as a mislaid wine glass could easily topple over. The other lamps over the bar and the symmetrical sets of four light bulb type lamps with transparent shades throughout the restaurant, give the room a stark brightness and sharpness not conducive to a warm atmosphere. The Music was unobtrusive and set at an appropriate volume. I was, however, more focused on the food on this first visit but not being distracted by the Music was a definite positive.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable Hotel restaurant experience. The fusion additions and a more international menu were highly appreciated and a welcome addition to the Istanbul foodie scene. With a bit of tweaking to the seasoning and recipes of the dishes, I would definitely recommend getting yourself to the ‘Hood’ to sample this new menu and have a more modern food tasting experience. And by the way, get there soon before the construction of the new mosque planned to take over the car park below starts, so you can enjoy an uninterrupted view of the water whilst sipping a refreshing cocktail!
Unleash your inner foodie!
Price: no idea, because the menu had no prices when we were having dinner
*Soup-2/Salads 6/Appetisers 12/Pasta 4/Risotto 2/Pizza 4/Mains 9/Desserts 7
*Vegetarian Options 2 Soups (ask for shrimp to be removed) 5 salads, 5 appetisers, 3 pastas, 3 pizzas, no main courses.