Saturday, December 05, 2009

Hunkar Restaurant (Istanbul, Turkey)

For our last evening in Istanbul; we decided to go to one of the best Ottoman cuisine in Istanbul. The restaurant is called Hunkar which has been open since 1950. In 2007, Zagat named it one of best 100 restaurants in the world. In 2009, it is not even mentioned but others still recommend it as one of the best examples of traditional Ottoman cuisine. Hunkar has always been very famous with politicians and celebrities. The locals love the place as well. So, we were very excited to go and taste what all the fuss was about.

Luckily the restaurant was walking distance from our hotel. It was a cool and lovely evening to take a walk. The walk was also good for our appetite.

When we arrived; there was absolutely no one at the restaurant. We at first thought we got to the wrong restaurant. A restaurant as famous as this one was not suppose to be empty. But, we checked for the name and we were at the right restaurant. We also knew we were at the right restaurant because the walls are plastered with photo frames with reviews of the restaurant over the years.

The restaurant has a strange system. The waiter comes to your table with several cold starters on the a huge tray and you pick the ones you want. The first one we chose was creamy eggplant. A soft and light texture but with lots of flavour. You can actually tell you are eating eggplant, which is a good thing.

The second cold starter we chose was a fava-bean puree. A unique way of serving this dish. But no matter what shape or form it comes in; Hunkar did something right. It was very tasty.

For the main courses; we had to choose from a selection of pre-made dishes. This is where I thought the system of Hunkar was a bit strange. You had to get up and go look at the pre-made food that was at a counter where it was keeping the food warm. Imaging high-end cafeteria. You choose the main courses you want to eat and they will scoop it up and set it on your dish and serve to your table.

The first main course we ordered was the house specialty. Turkish pilaf wrapped around with anchovies. This dish was not bad at all. The anchovies were fresh and a very nice taste. Since this dish was pre-made; I found the rice to be dry but still had a very nice taste.

This was the second main course; consisting of many specialties. I cannot remember the names of the dishes because the chef was explaining all of them at once and my eyes were working harder than my ears. I chose the main courses by what they looked like.

We chose a Turkish wine wine: Antik 2007 Shiraz. Another nice Turkish wine. Easy to drink, nice fruit, soft tannins and red berry nose. The wine went well with the food.

The empty but very nicely decorated restaurant. You can see at the end of the room some politicians selecting their main courses from the hot counter. I have to say that the food was good, but I had better dinners in Istanbul. Maybe, I was expecting too much, since I heard and read so much about this restaurant.

We also did not appreciate the attitude of the service. The service was actually very good, the only problem was that our waiter knew we were tourists and treated us like stupid tourist. When the waiter arrived with the bill; he said that the there was no service charge and was expecting one. The tip is already included in the bill. Tourist who do not know this actually tip twice. No other restaurant that we went to said this to us. This was not very honest. We just payed the bill and walked out.

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