This year, UNESCO added the Kariye Museum to its list of World Heritage sites, sparking renewed interest in the Asitane restaurant located next door. Both the museum and the restaurant feature at the top of any tourist's "must-see" list. The Kariye Museum is famous for its Byzantine mosaics and frescoes. It is a stunning piece of architecture, both inside and out. After feasting your eyes on the museum, head next door for a feast of Ottoman flavours. "Asitane" is an ancient word meaning passage or gate. Asitane is unique amongst other restaurants that serve Ottoman fare in that its menu consists of authentic recipes. Some date back to 1539 and were served at the circumcision feast for Beyazid I and Shah Cihangir, the sons of Suleyman the Magnificent. After a great deal of academic research and practical trials in the kitchen, chef Nuri Ozer put together a sumptuous menu of dishes literally fit for a king. No trip to Istanbul is complete without a visit to Edirnekapı with its delicious mix of Byzantine and Ottoman culture.
This year, the month of Ramazan coincides with the calendar month of November. Fasting and feasting are a part of almost every religion, serving as ways to remember times of plenty and times of want. The breaking of the fast is always a solemn and yet joyous occasion with families and friends coming together to taste the flavours of their particular religious festival. At Asitane, the special "iftar" menu begins with a mixed plate of traditional "fast breakers". There are dates from Medina, Manyas cheese, "mehle" pastrami, Malatya apricots, homemade Asitane jam, honey, "simit" bread and lemon cookies. Next comes a warming soup. You can either enjoy Kavata Soup made with green tomatoes and milk or Almond Soup flavoured with grated coconut and pomegranate. There is a choice of two salads: the House Green Salad tossed in homemade "Dilber" dressing or Carrot and Cabbage Salad with pomegranate dressing. If you prefer to order a la carte, there are a large number of main courses to choose from. But perhaps the best-known dish on the menu is actually a cold starter: Stuffed Vine Leaves with Sour Cherries.
Meat with apricots and raisins
The Ottomans enjoyed mixing sweet and savoury flavours, and many meat dishes at Asitane are made with fruits that we tend to associate with desserts. One such dish is Stuffed Melon, a savoury speciality made in the summer. It consists of baked cored melon stuffed with mincemeat, rice, herbs, almonds, currants and pistachio nuts. In the winter, you can try Quince Kalya: a spicy quince dish made with meat! Meanwhile, vegetarians will enjoy Bazar Bourek made with zucchini, mixed cheeses, tarragon and other spices. For the main course, you can have either white or dark meat dishes. The best white meat dish is Mahmudiyye: spring chicken stewed with almonds, dried apricots and red grapes and seasoned with honey, cinnamon and lemon juice. If you prefer dark meat, try Mutanjene: diced lamb with shallots, dried apricots, red raisins, vinegar, honey and almonds baked in an earthenware casserole called a "guvec". Another option is Kirde: diced lamb and vegetables on flat bread croutons served with yoghurt. For dessert, try the Walnut Kadayıf or the Morello Cherry Bread with a dollop of cream. Asitane serves alcoholic beverages, but you might prefer to try the Tamarind Sherbet.
Address: Kariye Camii Sok. No: 18 Edirnekapi
Tel: +90 212-635 79 97
By The Gate Magazine
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