Friday, July 26, 2013

Dinner on the Bosphorus at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski's Bosphorus Grill

I love experiences that heighten the senses. It was with great anticipation that I accepted an invitation to dine at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski's Bosphorus Grill. It's not everyday that one is invited to dine where sultans did, in an Ottoman palace setting, no less.

Earlier this year, I had had my first hammam in Istanbul at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski. Knowing the excellence that the Kempinski Hotel group brought to the operation of their properties, I knew that dinner at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski would be just as divine.
Outside the actual palace,
the gates for arriving water craft
gave a hint of the Bosphorus beauty to come.
Spectacular flowers
greet guests on entry to the hotel:
roses, orchids, lilies, and my favorite:
I glanced up above the reception desk
to appreciate for a moment
the way one would arrive
at the Çırağan Palace
back in Ottoman times.
 The stately Laledan restaurant
where the weekly Sunday brunch is held.
I would pass through Laledan on my way to the
outdoor Bosphorus grill.
Every inch of the grounds
contribute to relaxing guests.
Palm trees and salvia create a
destination entrance
to the Bosphorus Grill.
My hostesses:
Lara and Ciler,
two dynamic young professional
Turkish women who are
superb stewards of the hotel's legacy.
 Lara and Ciler
recommended we try
a Turkish wine from
Bozcadda Island.
Corvus Corvus
came from
a high-tech boutique winery
started by an Istanbul architect
and his wife.
They had left everything
to move to the island
and had begun to make wine.
 How romantic.
Children would love the Bosphorus Grill
because the boats come extra close
to see the Palace and the property.
Sezai Erdoğan
is the first Turkish
Executive Chef
at Çırağan Palace Kempinski
in Istanbul,
a pioneering achievement.
He is in charge of all the restaurant
and banquet kitchens
within the hotel.
Soon after Chef Erdoğan
came by to wish us a good meal,
 Mother Nature added to the evening's enjoyment
by rolling in a mighty thunderstorm
 from the Black Sea:
The storm was so much fun to experience!
The storm came quickly
from the Black Sea,
changed the skies over the Bosphorus
and poured down rain,
and just as quickly,
moved on to the Marmara Sea
at the other end of the Bosphorus.
When the rain stopped,
we went to the banquet area to peek
at what was on offer.
Turkey has extraordinary fruits
during the summer season,
especially Adana watermelon,
fresh melons, apricots, and pears.
Notice too, the large Medjool dates
which are
traditionally used to break
a Ramazan fast
due to the amount of sweet, filling, flesh
found in a single date.
That's important for those who have been fasting
since before sunrise.
Eating one date immediately
upon the end of a day's fast
removes the edge of hunger.

 There was a beautiful salad bar.
I resisted.
When in Turkey,
why have salad,
when Turkish chefs
prepare sumptuous mezes
to offer a bit of this and a bit of that?
Oh, and here they are.
Choices upon choices.

Green chicken curry with bamboo shoot
and cashew nut
Sautéed oyster mushrooms with fresh herbs
Grilled baby fennel with carrots
Ratatouille with basil
My final selection of mezes.
Believe me, it was hard to choose.
Looking at the bottom left,
have you even seen smoked salmon and strawberries
paired like that?
That was an idea new to me -
and what a delicious combination.
It was Smoked salmon and avocado salad
with strawberry and balsamic sauce.
An eggplant meze up front
because Turkish chefs
know how to make eggplant sing.
This was a Soya marinated,
baked eggplant salad with and fried onions.
Fennel comfit with root vegetables,
cinnamon, and star anise
because somehow the Europeans have kept the secret
of how delicious fennel is to themselves.
America has yet to discover fennel
in a big way.
Purslane salad with yogurt, garlic and peanuts
(not only is it a delicious salad green,
purslane is a very healthy super food),
also sweet potato salad
 with beef bacon and fresh herbs.
Potatoes gratin with truffles -
what satisfying comfort food.
The star of the plate was that tiny oven-roasted pear
with ricotta cheese and balsamic dressing.
Wow, it was fantastic.
 After our meze course,
we went back to the grill.
There were roasted lambs and chickens
and vegetables.
Chef d'parti Ibrahim Ünalan demonstrated
how he puts the naan on the side of the oven wall
with his naan mitt -
a detail kids would love
to watch performed
while they peer into the naan oven.
I had never seen this before.
So this is how naan is cooked!
There were so many meats
to choose from for a custom grill.
I choose two delicate lamb chops.
It was a hard choice, because the
pistachio-marinated beef tenderloin
also called out to me.
For those who preferred fish for their grill course,
there was mackerel, and salmon, and prawns
and many other fresh, top-quality choices.
Beef tenderloin
I can get back home,
but lamb done Ottoman-style
is not so easily found
in America.
I made the right choice!
Our final selection of the evening
was dessert.
What choices!
 Chef Ibrahim shows off
five different kinds of
homemade baklava.
 I think I'll have to try one
 of those small chocolate mousses
in the bottom right corner.
More tortes, cakes, and puddings.
Homemade mango sorbet
accompanied with chocolate mousse
and seasonal summer fruits.
What a beautiful finish to
a lovely dinner
at Çırağan Palace Kempinski's
Bosphorus Grill.
To see the entire menu
and price list,
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