Last night we decided to go back to Tuğra, after a year, a magnificent restaurant located on the Bosphorus in the Kempinski hotel’s grand building. There are many restaurants in Istanbul, many claim to the best but few are similar to Tuğra. The kitchen there is very different from anything else we tried. This is not to say that there aren’t numerous other good choices. What makes Tuğra so special is the setting; on the Bosphorus, formal yet guests are casual and the service is impeccable.
We were constantly hassled by the terrible traffic in the Istanbul, so we used water taxis to move around the city. A drive that would take 30 minutes by car if the traffic would be normal, would otherwise take one-hour and a half. The water taxi is a good solution, expensive but worthwhile.
Tuğra restaurant is about as you can get when it comes to traditional Turkish cuisine. Each dish is carefully constructed based on the history of the region, and the conquering of the territory, the animals, the vegetables and the ceremony. The regal lamb, yoghurt made from sheep milk, goose kebab served with Baldo rice, Piruhi pasta and many other important dishes.
The significance of soups, Sultan Mehmet believed that a meal started with soup. The flavors were blended perfectly and this cuisine is balanced. The sour red lentil soup, or the sour seasoned chicken stock with pomegranate is superbly prepared. I tried the Testi Lamb Casserole made with the shoulder of lamb, a more fatty cut, it is prepared with tomato, potato, wild mushrooms, garlic and thyme pilaf. This dish was seen in the Ottoman kitchen towards the end of the 15th Century, recorded as being a court favorite and was served to guests during the Sultan’s spring festival in 1539.
The idea of tradition in a kitchen is not only about recipes, it is about the technique, tools and preparations. A common belief is that the world’s first clay pot was made in Anatolia about 7000 B.C. during the Neolithic era. The first pots made of earth, good to store water, but later were used for cooking meat and vegetable in the embers of a fire. Many dishes at Tuğra are still prepared in a similar way to preserve the tradition and deliver a unique experience.
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