Asitane Restaurant – Fine Ottoman Cuisine

A hypnotising journey through 600 years of traditional recipes

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I sit at a table within Asitane Restaurant in historical Edirnekapı, Istanbul.

A waiter stands beside me and instead of glancing quickly over the menu, I drift off into the 16th century…

The precise year  is 1539.

I imagine a palace servant wading through the sounds, smells and produce of the spice market.

Fondling the pomegranates…

Scooping almonds, pine nuts and currants into bags…

Demanding the most subtle selection of lamb and beef.

She is forced to shuffle to the left and right every time a frenzy of shoppers try to nudge their way past, all determined to snatch the freshest selection for their masters.

This loyal kitchen maid is buying produce that will pass the lips of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and his Ottoman jewel Hürrem Sultan.

With the strict auditing measures within the palace kitchens, everything must be accounted for and naturally to the highest standards.

I summon the waiter, I have made my selection…  The menu reads as follows…

Almond soup (1539). A light almond broth flavoured with grated nutmeg and pomegranate seeds.

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Stuffed quince (1539)

Stuffed Quince with Pekmez (1539). Baked quince stuffed with a blend of minced lamb and beef, rice, aromatic herbs, pine nuts, currants and flavoured with grape molasses (pekmez).

“Sudlu Zerde” (1539). Milk pudding flavoured with saffron and honey.

I remain true to my desirable spice market vision and select only meals tagged on the menu as a recipe served in 1539…

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15th century halva w’ honey, pistachios and poppy seeds

I notice, however, that I could have even dreamt all the way back to the year 1469.

This unwavering connection of history, taste and imagination brings an unexpected excitement I have not yet experienced while dining in restaurants across the city of Istanbul.

Asitane Restaurant is certainly a master in fine Ottoman cuisine.

The restored 19th century traditional Ottoman mansion is surrounded by a charming tableau of dilapidated houses and twisting, dreary lanes.

As described on its website, for the past 25 years it has been inviting guests to “explore 600 years of the Ottoman Empire’s flavour legacy”.

Soup menu 300x168 Asitane Restaurant   Fine Ottoman CuisineThe chefs at Asitane were given a challenge and it seems they became detectives to unearth the lost delicacies of an empire which demanded its cooks keep their recipes and cooking methods top secret.

Their detective enthusiasm led them into the 500 year old palace archives.

They researched budget ledgers of palace kitchens and scrolled through memoirs of foreign diplomats and palace visitors.

The result, possibly one of the most eventful menus ever penned by an Istanbul chef.

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My main meal arrives.

Like a moat surrounding a grand palace there is a swish of grape molasses beside my neatly stuffed quince.

I take my first bite, close my eyes and float back to my 16th century dream.

I am convinced that within the palace archives, in voluptuous cursive handwriting, there would be evidence that this dish was Hürrem Sultan’s favourite.

How could it not be?

It is exquisite, royal, delicate and sweetly feminine.

Written by Sheldon Heyes

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Asitane Restaurant
Kariye Camii Sokak No:6
34240 Edirnekapı
İstanbul, Turkey
Telefon:+90 (212) 635 7997
Mobil:+90 (532) 755 9544

About Sheldon Heyes
Lifestyle writer for Turkey - I will prepare you for Istanbul. I will show you my city. Stemming from an Australian media background I have been in Istanbul since 2012. With a foreign heart and a writer's pen I have since embraced, danced, swallowed and mumbled the Turkish culture, music, food and language. Currently - Read by thousands of passengers zooming across the globe at 38,000 feet with Turkish Airlines inflight magazine 'Skylife'. Freelance contributor at The Guide Istanbul Magazine. Online guest posts with Freelance journalist published online at And... thanks to popstar and musician Mehmet Erdem, having a bit of cultural fun and flair appearing in the Turkish video clip - 'Aşkımız Bitecek'. Past contributions - Istanbul Timeout and Home Art Istanbul magazine.

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