A visit to the Maçka Palas never disappoints. Otherwise known as the Park Hyatt, this beautiful luxury hotel invites you in with its stylish décor and professional service. This time, I had a date with the Terrace restaurant and the Food & Beverage Group organised by René Ames.
After the initial meet and greet, a variety of rakı based cocktails were served as we lounged on the Terrace. My favourite, the ginger cocktail, was absent from the aperitifs but quickly the strawberry rakı cocktail moved into a comfortable second place.
As we were seated according to the carefully thought out seating chart, the culinary experience began with petit choux pastry puffs served with mamara paste (mixed herbs, nuts and tomato) and a dip of chilli, red pepper paste and olive oil. A lovely morsel to open the evening, and with a little adjustment to the mamara with a squeeze of lime, the flavour was enhanced to my liking.
The amuse-bouche arrived with ‘my friend’ the ‘ginger rakı cocktail’! Surprisingly, this drink really complemented the dish. The salmon tartar was a lovely mix of fresh flavours and textures. The smoothness of the guacamole, the freshness of the parsley dressing served creatively in the self-serve pipette and the beautiful tomatoes, completed this culinary sensation.
Immaculately presented, the Marinated Scallops entered the dining table with a glass of Gülor 2010 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon; a very pungent bouquet but light and crisp as a Semillon blend should be. Unfortunately, I felt the nose overpowered the taste a little affecting my total enjoyment of the wine. The first mouthful of the scallops didn’t jump out as anything special but the following morsels with caramelised onion and coriander provided more interest. A more powerful and plentiful ‘dollop’ of the orange-ginger dressing would have been welcomed. I don’t believe the potato squash brought anything to the flavour of the dish but the entrée was visually stunning.
As the Gülor 2010 Sangiovese Rosé was poured, the pastel colour shimmered in the moonlight. With a light aroma and a medium length this rosé was très agréable to me. The presentation of the pan-fried tiger prawns was impressive with the tomato chutney, roquette and port wine reduction, but unfortunately the taste to follow did not live up to the appearance. The prawns were not ‘juicy fresh’ and in fact a little chewy, but any prawns pale in comparison to the prawns I ate this summer (well winter actually) in Melbourne’s China town!
With a re-pour of the vin blanc from earlier, I waited with anticipation for the main course, the wild Sea Bass. Cooked to perfection, I thought we were onto a winner here. The petit farcis (stuffed tomato) sat elegantly on the plate with the miniature parcel of asparagus and the round ‘cushion’ of potato gratin. The fish melted in the mouth, the small asparagus were cooked until just ‘squeaky’ to bite and the stuffed tomato was the best surprise of all. To me the inclusion of the black olive sauce (although a Mediterranean touch) was a bizarre choice to accompany the fish. I couldn’t bring myself to eat the olives, as the jus was already a little robust for the gentle sea bass.
With the evening drawing to an end, all that was left to come was the dessert. I must admit that I am usually less impressed with desserts in general. They look beautiful but often they fail to leave a lasting impact of flavour versus beauty.
The Chocolate assortment again was presented with an impressive attention to detail. However, chocolate ice cream, a macaron with chocolate sprinkles (fit for a children’s birthday party), vanilla ice cream with a centre of chocolate and a hard ‘ice magic’ like exterior was not anything surprising or memorable for me. (I’m sorry if this one is lost in translation: Ice Magic was a liquid chocolate sauce we were occasionally treated to during childhood where you poured it on ice-cream and it set like a shell.)
The berry sauce was more like the consistency of confiture and made the macaron soggy. For a macaron connoisseur, I missed the crunchy exterior and the slightly chewy centre. I am sure, many dessert lovers would have been completely satisfied with this dessert but I am certainly a tough critique of all things sweet!
In summary, the Park Hyatt provide an evening of creative food by Swiss Chef Julien Piguet, who was humble, knowledgeable and willing to answer questions when he joined us at the end of the meal. The Gülor wine was very pleasing and as always, the hospitality and service was professional. The table setting was inviting and the company and insightful conversations of the Food & Beverage Group made the evening a complete success, which is why I keep coming back for more. Thanks to René for the 27th dinner of this Istanbul ‘foodie’ group. May there be many more delicious evenings to follow!
Amatrice de bons crus et grande cuisine