It was with great anticipation that Marc Guillet (enjoy-istanbul.com) and I returned to the kitchen of Dutch Chef Rudolf Van Nunen at his new location at Rudolf Restaurant, housed within 10 Karaköy-A Morgan’s Original Hotel, before the official opening set for today Friday 19th December.
It has been difficult for any other restaurant to top the Chef’s Tuti Restaurant delights we sampled earlier this year at the Marmara Hotel, but now his new creations were on the table for comparison.
Upon entering the historic 400 year old building, once a hospital and then a Han for offices, the décor of the restaurant is understated focusing on the connection between the blue glassware and the blue in the artwork adorning the walls (painted by Turkish artist Orhan Kurmalı.) With two dining areas, one utilising the high ceilings and natural light and the other creating cosier dining, there is an ambience of class and style to suit couples and small groups to a capacity of 60 diners. A separate dining space is also used for functions. We saw it being set up with a beautiful Christmas tree for the official opening, due to welcome the Princess of Vienna and other official guests later today.
With a glass of Corvus white wine poured, we were set for another truly special dining experience. Home made bread and creamy butter accompanied our wine and the first starter entered with an air of drama displayed on a unique green ceramic plate, enclosed in a smoke hazed glass cloche.
As the cloche was raised and the smoke disappeared, revealed beneath was a slice of octopus slow cooked in Merlot for two hours, smeared with pesto and topped with fine ribbons of carrot and beetroot and a few leaves of coriander. This creation was delicately prepared, the octopus delightfully tender due to it being pressed after cooking and compacted in its own jelly for 24 hours. As we tasted, the cherry wood permeated the taste and smell of the dish long after the removal of the cloche. Paired with the bread, butter and the wine, this was an extremely well blended match of flavours.
The Corvus white wine blend combines almost equal parts of Chardonnay, Viognier and the Turkish Vasilaki varietals and 5% of the Moscato. As a lover of Chardonnay and less so of Sauvignon Blanc, this wine cleverly insights a bouquet of fruit with a palate of dry and crisp notes.
Next to arrive in another chic ceramic bowl, was a foie gras and quince dish with crispy oven dried wafer thin gingerbread. For this pairing we sampled the Sevilen Late Harvest 2013 Muscat. This wonderful blend of flavours outlined a perfect pairing of friends, the melt in your mouth texture of the duck liver and the tartness of the quince. Adding the sweet dessert wine completed the dégustation experience.
With our taste buds well and truly awakened and ready for more, out came the fish, perched on a teal and brown speckled plate. The Black Cod accompanied by green beans, wild black rice and spinach roots (which were mistaken for baby bok choy) in a miso sauce, showed Chef Rudolf’s quest to use every part of the produce he uses. The spinach root was flavoursome and tender and the morsels of perfectly cooked black cod just fell away like leaves piece-by-piece when pried by the traditional fish knife (another welcome visitor to our table.)
As if this wasn’t enough, a duck leg timbale made its way to our table next, accompanied by black-eyed beans from the Black Sea and topped with crunchy kadayıf pastry. This combination was texturally satisfying and when accompanied by the Corvus blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot) a perfect match was created. The 2009 red wine blend was smooth and round with further potential for development over the next few years.
Just as the desserts were delivered (Pineapple Carpaccio with ginger and coconut ice cream and Turkish coffee Crème Brûlée with passionfruit cream and biscotti) Chef Rudolf appeared at our table, ready to provide some further explanations of the dishes we had sampled and to give us some more insight into this new venture with the Morgan Group of hotels. (Both desserts, by the way were well presented and delicious with subtle flavours combinations.)
Firstly, we learned from Chef Rudolf, that he has created his own blends of Corvus wine, a rare legal partnership agreed between the Corvus owner and himself. The Chef visits the winery and creates his own blends directly from the vats, and bottles the wine with his own signature ‘R’ label, exclusively for the Rudolf Restaurant.
Secondly, the chef described his kitchen equipment (later seen on our tour) which includes a Marrone ‘piano’ Italian cooktop incorporating hot plates, a fryer, pasta cooker etc. all in one stainless steel topped piece with ovens below. A secondary Rational-5 Senses oven is capable of being programed for five different temperatures at once. The Dutch refrigerators withstand the constant open and closing providing excellent eco-friendly and economical service.
The high quality copper pots and pans that adorn the ‘piano’ area seriously require a gym workout to lift! The list of quality equipment goes on, let alone Chef Rudolf personal touches such as his photos of produce along the kitchen corridor.
After a tour of the boutique luxury hotel suites (71 guest rooms plus Loft and Terrace Suites and a Penthouse), including the bar and amazing view of Hagia Sophia, it is clear that this combined Hotel and Restaurant venture is a win/win for the developing Karaköy area, the Hotel owner, Chef Rudolf, the people of Istanbul and International guests who visit the establishment.
In the Restaurant, the extra touches of detail are what separates this from other quality venues in Istanbul. From the exquisite and unique ceramics, personally blended wines and artwork/lighting accessories, to the behind the scenes carefully selected equipment and personally instructed kitchen staff, Chef Rudolf‘s vast array of expertise and artistry can be seen everywhere. Team this with local produce and a creative and delicious seasonal menu that changes every three months and you have a complete dining experience.
Make your way to Karaköy in the coming months and see for yourself, what Rudolf Restaurant has to offer in the fine dining scene. I’m sure there are many more surprises to come!
Text and photos: Sally McDonald
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