It takes people 11 hours to get to Japan from Istanbul. But, somehow it only took me 20 minutes from Kadıköy by ferry… Whaaaaat?!
Welcome to HORI. – A bite size piece of Japan in Istanbul.
I was invited with six of Istanbul’s leading Turkish bloggers and Turkey’s adorable TV talent/latest release cookbook author, Ayumi Takano, to experience an evening at Hori Authentic Japanese Restaurant, located in the Hyatt Hotel, Taksım.
The restaurant is marketed as ‘authentic’ Japanese cuisine. Let’s see if the dining experience lives up to its name.
Turkish entertainment industry starlet, Ayumi Takano, vouches for its authenticity saying, “It makes me miss my home (Japan). Because it’s not just a Japanese restaurant. It IS Japan.”
A nicety, but also a necessity, is that most of the staff are of Asian decent and the Japanese chefs are trained in Japan.
If there happens to be one Turkish waiter, rest assured he/she is thoroughly educated in all angles of the Japanese kitchen and knows everything from a genuine interest.
An article could be written just on the wait staff alone. But let’s try and keep it to four short paragraphs.
The staff seem to perform a delicate ritual to place each item on a table. It’s like a Japanese tea ceremony. They take their shoes off before entering the private rooms and they kneel when placing every dish on the table. It all happens gently like a lake filled with swans.
Our personal ‘swan’ adressed us in such a polite manner that eventhough we were in Japan for the night, we felt like we were infact Ottoman Sultans.
He showed the poise and control of a yoga instructor.
It is like a choreographed ritual that is rehearsed, then staged. Perhaps because in Japanese culture, there seems a right and wrong way for even the smallest detail.
Before I set out to Hori I had a list of questions in mind for restaurant owner Mr Horikoshi. But, by the end of the evening I didn’t need to ask anything. His work in the kitchen, and food, spoke for itself.
And then I understood why it’s Ayumi’s favourite of all the other Japanese restaurants in Istanbul.
“It’s important to trust the chef because he is dealing with raw fish. According to the season a fish will have a different amount of fat and the muscles may be tenser or softer. And according to this amount of fat and muscle the chef must cut the fish in a certain style.” Ayumi
The food is presentable to the highest and most delicate degree. And because of this, it is seemless to photograph.
The Japanese kitchen also shows that sometimes less is more. So, don’t underestimate the simplicities of a carrot stick with miso and garlic dip.
We went to Hori mid-week and it was a full-house. Every patron was a Japanese businessman. I instantly thought, if ‘they’ are here then it must be good.
Ayumi clarified that when Japanese businessmen come to Turkey for a quick work trip, they are brought to Hori for dinner by their Turkish or Japanese company managers. So, why not follow their lead…
At Hori, if there is no budget in place, Ayumi suggests, “Don’t ask for the menu just ask for the chefs recommendations.”
Perhaps the most common advice when traveling abroad is to head into the back streets for the real flavours of a country. And while this may also be true for Turkey, why not go against the grain for once.
Turn your back on these local back streets. For that special birthday, for that intimate first date, for that business-client schmooze, give yourself over to the pleasures of HORI.
Written by Sheldon Heyes
Experienced Hori? Tell me all about it?! Comment below.
Ayumi’s Kitchen (Ayumi’nin Mutfaği). Latest release and ground breaking cookbook on Japanese food culture, table etiquette and recipes. A fail safe gift idea for lovers of life, culture and food.
You may also enjoy reading “Istanbul fate“. A profile on Ayumi and her Istanbul story.