Travel: Eat Like a King, Letrally – Asitane Restaurant Istanbul Ottoman Palace Cuisine
This is my first time in Turkey, spending one week sailing around the southern coast for some simple marina life, and then a couple days in Istanbul to get a taste of the historical city where East meets West and still carries that colorful mixture of culture.
During the week of sailing, we mostly had rustic shish kabobs or seafood casseroles prepared in the most traditional brick oven in open fire, nothing but the freshest ingredients from the mother nature and it’s just pure deliciousness. When we got to Istanbul, we thought we should switch things up a little and try some of the traditional cuisines while we’re in the city. A friend of mine recommended a few well know places that I should not miss, and Asitane Restaurant is one of them.
Asitane Restaurant is known for its fine Ottoman cuisine based on authentic recipes retrieved by a dedicated staff from palace archives. The featured dishes in the menu are the same dishes originally prepared for the sumptuous celebration feast given for Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent’s sons in 1539. How cool is that?
The restaurant is located in Edimekapi, it is a little far out from the main old town area where all the famous Mosques are, but it is still considered by many to be one of the most important areas of historical Istanbul. The restaurant lies in the shadow of the mighty Chora Church, which is famous for its mosaics and is one of the most important and well kept buildings of the Bysantine era. Located high up in the foot hills overlooking the Golden Horn, Asitane opened its doors in 1991, the name “Asitane not only means “Head Gate” in Farsi, but also was one of the many names given to Istanbul throughout the reign of the Ottoman Empire.
It took us a couple of wrong turns to finally find the restaurant. When we found the place, I was a bit surprised, the restaurant is a lot more modern and less traditional than I thought, but it is still very charming with a little outdoor garden patio.
I am very embarrassed to admit that I don’t know enough about all the history, but the menu does provide some stories and details about the background. They even have a brief reference of the time period or the exact year right next to each dish description of when the item was originated and served.
We ordered the Asitane Lokmalari (Asitane treats) as an appetizer to start – it includes the Ottoman Hummus from 1469, “Lor” Cheese Blend from 1898, Fava Bean Spread and Pounded Cucumber Salad from 1844 all in one plate. The hummus has a hint of cinnamon and some raison, it’s sweater than the hummus we have in the American market. The cheese spread is blended with scallion and red pepper, it’s flavorful yet very light. Fava bean is infused with dill and it’s very aromatic, and the cucumber salad is creamy and fresh. It’s a great dish to share at the table and have a little taste of everything. It’s a nice summer dish, too.
We also tried the Shrimp Pilaki with the year of “XV c.” — I don’t know what historic time period that is, but I know it is a long long time ago— this is a cold shrimp casserole dish with garlic, carrots and scallions cooked in olive oil and vinegar. We are not very used to having a casserole dish cold, but the flavor of the dish is amazing, the garlic and scallion seeped deeply in the broth, and compliment flawlessly with the shrimp and carrots. I can eat another 5 orders of this dish.
As for the main dish, I ordered the Sea Bass, also from XV.c.. It is a roasted whole fish stuffed with walnuts and spices, served with saffron and rose water dressing. The stuffed walnut and spices created an aromatic cloud around the whole dish, the flavors were infused into the fish as well without overwhelming it. Very delicious.
I was delightfully full and satisfied after my main course, I had a Efes Beer for dessert instead of ordering more from the menu.
The meal at Asitane is definitely a lovely experience: the service is friendly and professional; the surroundings were beautiful and relaxing. The food was interesting and definitely different from our other meals in Istanbul.
The restaurant periodically has themed weeks such as “The Age of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror”, “Ottoman Aphrodisiacs”, “Fish and Seafood Ottoman Style” as part of its mission to introduce the tastes of a bygone era to all. It’s a place I would suggest to try if you have a chance to visit Istanbul.
Kariye Cami Sok. No:6
34240 Istanbul Turkey
+90 212 6357997