July 13, 2017

Edirnekapi, Istanbul. June, 2007

Before I went to Istanbul for the first time, there were only two restaurants that I’d made reservations for in advance. One was the late Korfez, a popular and somewhat fancy place on the Asian side of the Bosphorus a bit north of the city centre; they send a private boat to pick you up on the European side. The other was Asitane, in the Edirnekapi neighborhood, right next door to the beautiful Byzantine Chora church with its remarkable mosaics. The food at Asitane was pretty remarkable, too. Take, for example, this delicious Kavun Dolması -- a baked melon, scooped out and filled with a tasty mix of ground lamb, ground beef, rice, pine nuts, almonds, currants and herbs. Asitane specializes in recreating historical dishes from the kitchen registers of Topkapi, Dolmabahce and Edirne palaces, as well as from books and memoirs of visiting foreign dignitaries and other official documents. They regularly delve into menus from famous royal celebrations of the past, such as the months-long feast to mark the 1539 circumcisions of two sons of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. “Dishes from Mehmet the Conqueror’s Reign” and “Aphrodisiacs from the Palace Kitchen” are two of their more recent offerings. My melon entree dates from a 1539 recipe, though whether it was part of the circumcision festivities...I didn’t really need to know. Either way, it was terrific.

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