Tuesday 5 January 2016

The Foodie Review & Recipe: Old Ottoman Cafe & Restaurant - Istanbul, Turkey

Courtesy of Old Ottoman Cafe & Restaurant
After arriving on our first night in Istanbul, we set out promptly to try one of Trip Advisor's highest recommended Turkish restaurants in the area, Old Ottoman Cafe & Restaurant. Fortunately, it was only a five minute walk from our hotel, the Nowy Efendi. See the review of our hotel here.

On our arrival we were greeted warmly by friendly servers and seated at a table for two in a fully booked restaurant, ours was the only table that wasn't occupied. We weren't incredibly hungry, so we decided on sharing one main dish and one appetizer. Our main observation was that the prices were the same that you'd expect back in Canada, so we understood that this was considered a medium to high-cost restaurant mostly for tourists, and was definitely not your hole-in-the-wall local sort of place where you'd find cheap eats.

After giving us a basket of fluffy, freshly baked pita bread, our first dish arrived, which was called Cheese Rolls. This was tasty, it tasted like feta cheese wrapped in a flaky pasty and deep fried. What's not to like?

What also arrived was the second reason for visiting the restaurant - the service. Our server engaged us in conversation and cracked jokes the whole time, lol. They seemed to really enjoy making us feel welcome.

A short wait later, our server placed a small table next to ours, then brought out a wooden tray with a small stone plate with coals and a small fire lit, as well as a clay pot. The whole restaurant hushed quiet and watched.

He placed the pot onto the fire and heated the bottom of the clay pot, then wrapped a towel around the foil-covered top, then raised it upside-down and slowly started hitting the clay top with a metal poker. The top neatly cracked and he swiftly knocked it over, serving us our main dish - Ottoman Style Pitcher Kebab.

Video: Pitcher Kebab at Old Ottoman Cafe & Restaurant - Istanbul, Turkey 

This stew was delicious. It's a tomato sauce-based stew with tender beef and a few surprise ingredients that tasted amazing. I was so enamoured by this stew that I set out to reproduce it at home, and after a little googling I think I got somewhere close:

Recipe - Turkish Style Beef Stew

  • Beef cut into chunks. If there is a little fat attached it increases the flavour of the sauce.
  • 1 Can crushed tomatoes. If you're out, diluted pasta sauce will work.
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • A bunch of dried apricots, sliced into 0.5 cm width slices
  • Thick-cut white mushrooms
  • Sliced green or red bell pepper
  • Baby potatoes or regular potatoes cut in cubes
  • Walnuts (I used almonds) broken into large chunks
  • Thyme leaves and oregano leaves, or dried
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • Chili flakes or fresh Chili (optional)
  • If you can, use a pan or pot that can be put in the oven
  • Season your beef chunks with salt and pepper and set aside
  • Sauté onions, garlic till translucent
  • Add your beef, thyme, oregano, chili if using, saute till browned 
  • Add mushrooms, saute until lightly browned
  • Add rest of veggies, apricots and nuts, stir and sauté till nicely browned 
  • Add can of crushed tomatoes or diluted sauce, it should nearly cover your meat and veggies 
  • Bring it to a boil, stir, then cover pot with foil and put in the oven for 1 to 1.5 hours
  • When finished, the sauce should have reduced by 1/4 to 1/2, and beef should be very tender
Serve over rice or with warm pita.

If you've ever made this dish and have done something different, please comment and let me know!

Served on the side were small plates of what I believe to be steamed barley, which was lightly flavoured and went well with the stew. I preferred eating the stew with pita, however.

At the end of the meal we decided to skip dessert as we were satisfied and ready to head back to the hotel, but we were refused. Our jovial server seemed offended that we so rudely decided to ask for the bill without dessert, so he promptly brought over this dessert on the house, lol.

Well, I guess if they were forcing us to have dessert I guess I had room for it, lol, We happily dove into this warm and soft dessert, which was sweet Semolina with Ice Cream. Delicious! I would now take the server's side and say you shouldn't leave before trying this.

After thanking our server for the free dessert, we now requested the bill but oh no, they weren't finished with us! Bill refused again, he promptly brought over two small cups of Apple Tea, which was so unique and delicious, something like hot Apple Cider. The tea and sugar was settled on the bottom, so you had to stir it before drinking. I loved this so much that I couldn't leave Turkey without buying a box of the tea.


Old Ottoman Cafe & Restaurant is located at: 
Prof. Kazım Gürkan Cad. Cağaloğlu Hamam Sk. No:17, 34110 Istanbul

You have to walk down a little bit of a table-lined alley towards the entrance.

This meal was more of a complete experience rather than just dinner, and I would highly recommend this place for a type of hospitality and service that you probably have never experienced.

Afterwards, you might want to take a stroll around the safe and quiet neighbourhood and gander upon the architecture lit up at night, as we did for the Hagia Sophia above.

Thank you for the wonderful evening, Old Ottoman Cafe!



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