A Christmas lunch to remember
Some folks head out of Istanbul and Turkey for Christmas to celebrate with their loved ones and partake in traditional Christmas celebrations whereas some of us choose to stay here and create our own new traditions. One such tradition to take the stress out of Christmas is to let someone else cook for you. Most of the big hotels put on a Christmas Buffet or set menu for those who remain here in Istanbul. With a quick ring around, you can find out what’s on offer. With my Foodie Frolics connections this wasn’t necessary.
Chef Fabio Brambilla
When I bumped into Chef Fabio Brambilla last month at the SIRHA Istanbul (where he was a judge in the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition) there was chatter about Christmas lunch at the Grand Hyatt where I whispered my desire for pork in jest but with a secret longing. Chef Fabio explained that a buffet was not feasible this year and that a special Christmas set menu would be created for the occasion with some surprises in store.
I set about gathering some Christmas friends, made our booking at the Grand Hyatt and received the salivating set menu via email. All that was left was to wait for the day to come. Chef Fabio and I chatted and he let slip that my wish was to come true.
As our multi-cultural group arrived (including Marc Guillet of Enjoy-Istanbul) the excitement grew. I had not let anyone know of the surprise to come. So with my secret satisfaction tucked away we sipped our Narince while mingling and chatting until the first dish arrived.
The first plate to grace our Christmas table was the Seared Tuna with Porcini Pickles, Sprout Salad and Marinated Fois Gras. Creamy Edirne duck liver, beautiful soy flavoured tuna, melt in your mouth! A really great combination of crunchy things, salty things; cold creamy fois gras, the tuna then the crunchy croutons and bean sprouts. Impressive on the plate and even more impressive in the mouth!
In true Italian style, the Pumpkin Tortellini with Pan-fried Wild Mushrooms was presented to us on an off centre oval plate. This lovely light pasta was filled with pumpkin and white cheese, accompanied by the amazingly juicy wild mushrooms (sources from Saray in Tekirdağ) garnished with some crispy sage. Strong aromas of shaved truffles and silky olive oil balanced out this juicy dish.
Main Course Madness
Having turkey in Turkey is always a bit of a giggle; We got Oven Roasted Turkey with Sweet Potato, Buttered Vegetables and Cranberry Jelly. The turkey was slightly dry, the brussel sprouts and sweet potato were good, the stuffing and gravy was nice, not my favourite dish but still really acceptable.
With more to come it was time for the most exciting plates, first the Slow Braised Lamb Shank with Plum Sauce on Cauliflower Purée.
Simply put, soft tender lamb, falling apart in folds with no need for a knife to cut it. The plum was not too sweet and the cauliflower purée was very subtle and paired beautifully with the lamb. We were all happy in our little lamb place!
Trumpets heralded the arrival of the Succulent Pork Leg (from Şile) with Truffles scented Sweet Potato (well no actual trumpets but they were playing in my head!) We all oogled over the pork, it was really tender, the centre the best bit. In my opinion the sweet potatoes were a bit heavy handed with the truffles making my tongue tingle and the taste actually exploding all over my mouth which, detracted from the succulent pig. I was hoping for a crispy crackling but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be and was thus hard to cut. However, I was certainly not unhappy with our fabulous pork surprise, a dream come true!
Chestnut Parfait with Caramel Sauce and Pumpkin Gelato.
Looking fantastic on the plate, the parfait was light and fluffy and the pumpkin gelato attempted to balance out the sweetness of the caramel. We combined it with the gingerbread biscuits, which added some extra spice. Overall the dish was a little too sweet for me, the highlights being the gelato and the gingerbread bickies added to it.
Congratulations go to Chef Fabio and his team at 34 Restaurant, outstanding food, a dreamed about port surprise and excellent service. Our 4-hour lunch was enjoyed by all and with much tummy rubbing needed we all waddled home with full and satisfied bellies.
Never fear if you are in Istanbul for Christmas lunch, fabulous food is possible, you just need a little inside Foodie Frolics knowledge! New Year is up next so consider the Grand Hyatt, to see in 2016!
Merry Christmas and Joyeux Noël from Foodie Frolics.