Just as there is any hint that summer is really ending, it is always of great excitement to have an alfresco event on the social calendar…let alone at the beautiful Four Seasons on the Bosphorus.
As a frequent visitor to the Sultanahmet Four Seasons Hotel, I was yet to visit its counterpart in Ortaköy. So with a new frock purchased the night before and a pashmina packed to keep in the warmth from the night time air, it came as such a disappointment to hear the downpour of rain as I awoke on Friday morning. Istanbul had only rained once since I returned from Australia in August, but unfortunately the skies decided to dump down on us and force the alfresco dinner into the private dining room.
The immaculate table setting with beautiful bouquets of fuchsia roses and orchids and dinner wear with a stylish colour scheme of blue with gold lattice detail, set the scene for a wonderful classy night of gastronomy.
On arrival, the Four Seasons staff greeted us with a citrus-tinged champagne cocktail. Very soon I was to find out it was actually Italian Prosecco which delighted me even more! So as we mingled, I made friends with the Prosecco waiter who kept my glass topped up with the 100% Brut Italian Prosecco from the 1821 founded Zonin winery (I had no interest in the cocktail mix now I was transported back to my time in Venice.) Together with the ‘nibbles’ of dips, vegetable sticks and olives we were all happy to chat away as we waited for all the foodie members to arrive.
As the friendly and professional staff seated us in our carefully ‘Rene choreographed’ arrangement, the first wine was poured. I had been anticipating the return of ‘my friend’ the 2009 Sevilen 900 Fumé Blanc that I was first acquainted with during one of the wine tasting Fridays at the Sultanahment Four Seasons Hotel. With a smoky bouquet, this extremely smooth wine presented a perfectly balanced palate of freshness and length.
The amuse bouche of prawn with champignons and bow pasta in a chestnut consommé, was presented to us in an asymmetric bowl. The strong mushroom flavour mixed well with the subtle chestnut, however the prawn was a little flowery in texture. The highlight was the fresh olive bread I selected from the varied bread platter, crusty and crunchy on the outside but as soft as a feather inside.
The attentive waiters continued to fill our glasses as the appetiser made its appearance. I was going to need to be a risk-taker with this one, not being a fan of tartar seafood! The Tuna Tartar was surprisingly less scary (and less raw) than I first thought and the cucumber sorbet sitting atop was fresh and not overpowered by the capers. For me, the dish was a little too cold in temperature and sent my mouth into a ‘teeth freeze frenzy’, but I was able to enjoy this dish, the crispy bread morsel adding a third texture.
My excitement elevated as we progressed to the Premium Sevilen 2009 Chardonnay. This classic chardonnay had a fresh and full-bodied aroma yet when paired with the pasta the lingering finish did not overpower the seafood flavours. The Spaghetti alla chitarra turned out to be my favourite dish of the evening. The al dente linguini with the melangé of garlic and chilli was superbly balanced and flavoursome with a picante tongue. Unfortunately there were no bigger chunks of crab or any bottarga in sight on my plate but the dried mullet added to this beautiful combination of ingredients.
As if there weren’t enough foodie delights on hand, then Chef Luca de Astis whipped up a surprise Risotto with calamari and black ink. The after taste of my first mouthful was a little disappointing but after I added a touch more pepper the flavour of the al dente risotto and tender calamari came together with increased satisfaction.
By this stage the soirée was shaping up to be one of the best quality taste sensation dinners in the Food & Beverage groups history. The attentive waiters were there with more bread, more wine and answered any questions that came to mind. The next wine, the Kavaklıdere 2009 Cote D’Avanos Narince and Chardonnay shimmered in the glass and its acidity matched well with the Black Cod.
There was stiff competition between the Spaghetti and the Fish for my winning dish of the night. The cod was buttery with the simple flavours of lemon, potato and caper sauce and was cooked unlike I have ever witnessed. As the fish sat on the plate you could see each individual section of the fish as if it has been cut into precisely measured slices. It didn’t flake but rather melted into pieces and with a little more lemon it would have won hands down.
Chef Luca walked us through each dish and entertained us with his obvious passion and knowledge of gastronomic Michelin quality cuisine. By this time, all our senses were heightened and to find space for the dessert to come was a matter of determination.
The Chocolate Sphere of loveliness sat centre stage in the white bowl on the top of a light spongy base. When the crispy exterior was cracked open the magnificent centre oozed out. The vanilla mascarpone was light and creamy and accompanied the star anise chocolate-y mousse enveloping the cherry griottine. “Are we in heaven yet? “ was my first response, my friend to the right murmured, “I could happily marry this dessert!”
Readers to my articles will know how unimpressed I usually am with desserts. You can safely say I was ‘super’ impressed and definitely in my ‘foodie happy place’ with this ‘chocolate-y sublime cherry ball of fun!’
As all of this oohing and ah-ing about the dessert was taking place we also sampled the Passito Corvus 2007 Turkish dessert wine. This beautiful golden and apricot coloured wine had a port-like bouquet with a hint of caramelised honey. I think I even detected a slight Grand Manier moment but perhaps my palate was getting confused from all the sensations of the evening.
A selection of petit fours, freshly brewed coffee and tea followed but by this time there was little room for any more, as I felt I had become the epitome of une femme gourmande! (woman of greed.)
The Four Seasons team, led by the Food & Beverage manager Tarkan Aksoy, PR Manager Sibel Benli, the wonderful waiting staff who all liaised with our esteemed foodie leader Rene Ames, really out-did themselves even beyond my expectations of a gastronomic evening. Of course, how can I not thank the young Chef Luca de Astis for his impressive culinary presentations and his personal introductions to each course? Merci beaucoup Chef!
All that I am left wondering is how the next dinner can come even close to the style and quality experienced at the Four Seasons on the Bosphorus.
Amatrice de bons crus et cuisine
Price: 140 Turkish Lira
That is about $75 at 1.83 lira to the dollar; and about €55 at 2.48 lira to the Euro