As I’ve mentioned before, my family likes to visit fancy restaurants for special occasions. When I found out that we’d be patronising Ottoman Cuisine for Fathers Day, though, I have to admit I wasn’t terribly excited.
You see, I’ve been to the Ottoman once before, and I remember two things about the experience. First, that the food left me unenthused, and second, that Mark Latham was there, celebrating something with his fellow pollies (this was years ago, before he became the political journo version of OK magazine).
However, I realised that it wouldn’t matter whether I thought the Ottoman food was on par or not, because the most important part of the night was spending time with my dad, mum, and grandparents.
Do you want to know a secret? The food that night was fan-crikey-tastic, with each of my three courses blowing me away. So, Ottoman? I apologise for doubting you. You are The Awesome.
After almost melting my mind trying to decide between the goat’s cheese-stuffed zucchini flowers, tuna tartare special, or scallop moussaka special for my entree (appetizer to you Americans), I did an about-turn and ordered the Fatush Salata. Vegan friends, this is for you. The insanely crunchy lavosh pieces combined with the buttery-not-bitter[y] walnuts, juicy cos lettuce, zippy pomegranate seeds and intense herbs beautifully. Moreover I, soggy-dressed-salad-hater-extraordinaire, thought that the tangy-umami-sweet-thick pomegranate dressing (served on the side) was deliriously good.
My dad ordered the scallop moussaka special, which came out looking nothing like moussaka. Such technicalities were forgotten (and forgiven) when I tasted a spoonful of that pale pink quenelle you see above. It ws the richest, most unctuous, softly-salty taramosalata I’ve ever come across. My generous father even let me try a scallop, which was tender and tasted of the sea.
First things first: I don’t eat a lot of meat. I simply don’t enjoy the taste or texture much, and on the whole I’d rather get my protein from peanut butter. However, I’ve had this recent odd fixation on the idea of liver, and so when I saw Ciger Tava on the menu, my choice was made.
This dish was described as “strips of crispy fried lambs liver served with red onion and sumac salad”, and oh holy bucket. You folks know me and my preference for things that taste like chocolate, vegetables, pain d’epice, and nuts. So you must understand the gravity of the following statement:
This fried lambs liver with red onion and sumac salad was one of the best things my mouth has ever had the pleasure of hosting.
Anyone who knows anything about liver knows that it’s easy to overcook it and end up with horribly grainy, iron-and-blood-tasting pieces of meat-cardboard. These fried strips, however, were buttery-soft in texture, and only had the faintest taste of iron threading through their umami savouriness. The red onion and sumac salad packed a citrus-zinging punch, and cut through the richness of the liver like a magician slices through a box housing his buxom blonde assistant.
I’m thinking there was butter involved in the frying, or perhaps crack. The only possible con to this dish is that there was simply too much of it. I have a pretty admirable stomach capacity, but this was too rich and generous a portion for me. After all, I had to save room for dessert, right?
Before I go any further, I have to give an incredible shout-out to our amazing waitress. She coped with the gluten/dairy/beef/eggplant/tomato/etc allergies of two people at our table with compassion, humour, and aplomb, then didn’t bat an eyelid when I sheepishly asked to mix and match sorbets and ice creams for my own dessert amusement.
Above, you see a raspberry-topped scoop of honey yoghurt sorbet, and a scoop of cardamom ice cream.
Again, I say Oh holy bucket.
The sorbet tasted utterly of its namesake, with the floral honey countering the tanginess of natural yoghurt until I wanted to compose a haiku to its wonderousness. But then the ice cream. The ice cream. I’ve heard of the magic chewy quality of Turkish ice cream (dondurma) made with salep, but I didn’t dare hope that the Ottoman would offer such a treat.
Well… my family can attest that I shrieked when I cut into the cardmom scoop and it resisted my spoon, then resisted melting on the plate, and ultimately tried to resist being chewed. I absolutely adored the texture and, as one of my pet peeves about ice cream is that it melts and has to be eaten too quickly, I wish all ice cream were like this. Oh, and before I forget, it tasted insanely delicious, too.
Dear Dad, thanks for helping create me and therefore enabling us all to go to the Ottoman for Fathers Day in 2010. I left a very, very well-fed and happy Wayfaring Chocolate.