I showed Jac the website for Ottoman Cuisine after TFP reader Stephaniee recommended it in a comment at my post Where to eat in Canberra? Jac took one look at the menu and fell in love as soon as she saw two words:
Jac is a big BIG fan of offal. I’m not; whenever she eats offal I call her (affectionately, of course) Organ Breath. I freely admit that my experience of Turkish cuisine was limited to kebab shops – so I was very keen to try Turkish fine dining. I happily added Ottoman Cuisine to our Canberra eating list. After checking in at our hotel on Monday afternoon, we rang the restaurant and made a booking for Tuesday night.
When we got there, a party had just arrived ahead of us and a number of people were bunched up at the bar having a drink while others stood around, apparently waiting to be shown to a function room. It took a while for a staff member to arrive/for us to get a staff member’s attention but after that slow start, food and service proved to be excellent.
We decided to order from the a la carte menu this time – the dishes that we found most appealing weren’t on the degustation menu. Besides, we couldn’t have degustation menu two nights in a row, could we? (Well… technically we could! :P) We ordered starters and main courses – we would contemplate dessert afterwards. When we placed our order, our waiter asked if we planned to share the dishes banquet style or if we preferred to eat them individually/separately. We chose the latter – Jac could keep her lamb’s liver to herself!
We ordered the pide (Turkish bread, AU$3), which is baked in-house. The metal basket was stuffed full of sliced bread, served slightly warm. The bread was sprinkled with sesame seeds and nigella seeds. It was a rather appetising golden brown colour on the outside, with crispy charred edges. It was soft, fluffy and chewy on the inside. I’ve eaten pide before and I really like it, but this was dangerously moreish! I was wary of filling up on bread and during the two savoury courses I battled constantly against the urge to just keep eating the bread.
For her starter, Jac ordered ciger tava – lamb’s liver (AU$21). It was a very generous serving. The strips of fried lamb’s liver were served with a red onion salad dusted with sumac. Jac’s eaten some pretty revolting liver at restaurants (not cleaned properly and served with membrane intact, overcooked and rubbery), but these liver strips had been well trimmed, coated in seasoned flour and panfried to a perfect, juicy medium well.
My starter was imam bayildi – an eggplant boat topped with sliced capsicum, onions, tomato and herbs, then braised in olive oil (AU$18). The eggplant was tender, the vegetables on top beautifully softened and sweet. It was delicious and I was in ecstasy the whole time I ate it. I found myself eating it slowly so I could savour the taste. I would happily eat this eggplant dish again and again.
For her main course, Jac ordered kulbasti – thinly sliced veal (AU$33) seasoned with mild Aleppo chilli and chargrilled, served with baby spinach leaves and drizzled with a creamy mustard sauce I immediately wanted to dip my finger into. The veal had a wonderful charry flavour and was buttery soft. The mustard sauce was delicious. The chilli was very mild indeed. I had a taste of the veal and wanted more!
For my main course I chose pilic – chargrilled spatchcock (AU$33), marinated with mild chilli and lemon. It was served with spinach and cracked wheat pilaff. The spatchcock was flavoursome and succulent. Jac had a taste and wanted more!
A dish of rice was brought to the table at the same time as our main courses. The rice was as moreish as the bread! It had been cooked in stock and was deliciously savoury.
We enjoyed our dinner so much we were keen to finish things off with dessert. Jac ordered the trio of homemade ice creams (AU$16). The three flavours were, below – left to right: cardamon, raspberry and pomegranate (topped with fresh pomegranate seeds. Did you know the sweet juicy casing around the actual seed is called the aril?). The ice cream was garnished with a crisp lattice tuille and a smear of chocolate sauce. Jac loved the raspberry and pomegranate ice creams but found the cardamom flavour much too strong. I tried her ice creams and had to agree.
It was a night for boats – I’d eaten an eggplant boat, and now our desserts were served in boat-shaped dishes. :) I ordered the sorbet (AU$12). They were, below – left to right: honey yoghurt (also garnished with pomegranate seeds) and strawberry. The strawberry sorbet was refreshing and just utterly wonderfully strawberry. It smelled of fresh strawberry, tasted of fresh strawberry, and as I ate it, I crunched on real strawberry pips. The honey yoghurt sorbet was creamy and delicious, but the star of the show was that strawberry sorbet. No tuille with my sorbet – I had to be content breaking pieces off Jac’s lattice tuille instead. Both Jac’s ice cream and my sorbet appeared to be sitting on very finely ground pistachio dust.
This was a magnificent meal that left me happy and satisfied. It was one of the best meals we ate in Canberra.
After the initial waiting around at reception, the service was very good. The restaurant was practically empty when we arrived for our 6.30pm booking, with just the private function about to begin, but by the time we were deciding on dessert the dining room was half-full with lots of delicious smells all around. Three private functions were going strong.
We’d definitely return to Ottoman Cuisine. The food was exquisite, beautiful in taste and presentation. The fully vegetarian eggplant starter surprised and delighted me – and I’m a proud carnivore! And I’ve been pining for strawberry sorbet ever since.
Quite often when we dine out I end up having major food envy and spend much of the time ogling someone else’s meal, annoyed with my own choices. I think this meal was so enjoyable partly because I was completely satisfied with everything I ordered. No regrets, no food envy, just joy and pleasure. If I was a cat, I’d have been licking my paw and cleaning my whiskers after my last spoonful of sorbet, totally content.
Thank you so much for telling us about Ottoman Cuisine, Stephaniee!
Turkish fine dining
Corner of Broughton and Blackall Streets
Barton ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6273 6111
Lunch: Tuesday to Friday noon to 3.00pm
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday 6.00pm – 10.00pm
There’s an Ottoman Cuisine in Sydney too.
Canberra trip, November 2010
See the full list of posts from our Canberra trip, November 2010 in correct reading order.