Kariye Camii Sokak No: 6
Istanbul – Turkey
Every once in a while a restaurant comes along that has a concept so intriguing, you have to try it. Asitane has come up with such a concept: using authentic, historical Turkish dishes spanning nearly 1000 years. Each dish has either been re-created from original Ottoman menus, or re-created from descriptions of dishes served at the time. Each dish on the extensive menu is given a date, which may seem gimmicky at first, but really works. The setting of Asitane is quaint and beautiful, and is located on the ground floor of a renovated old building. We were lucky enough to arrive on a pleasant day, so we decided to eat outdoors, though there is also extensive indoor seating. To start with, we got a sampler plate, which like all of the other items on the menu, was very reasonably priced. We were surprised that it was such a good deal for such a fine dining experience. The sampler plate included four dips (20 Turkish Lira, about $10): Ottoman Hums (1469/1471), Lor Cheese Blend (1898), Fava (no date on this), and a pounded cucumber salad (1844). The Hums was what we might consider hummus, with currants and pine nuts, the Lor was a spreadable mild cheese (much like ricotta) mixed with rosemary, peppers and tomatoes, and the fava bean dip was seasoned with dill. We also received a basket of bread to sop everything up.
We then tried what was perhaps our favorite dish of the day: ‘Toyga Aşı’ Summer Soup with Yogurt (14th century). The soup was served cool, with mint and olive oil drizzled on top. It was phenomenal! For an entree we chose “Mahmudiyye” with Dane-i Sarı (1539), stewed chicken with cinnamon, cloves and apricots garnished with Rezaki raisins and almonds. The dish was extremely flavorful, with a pleasing sweet taste that went with the saffron pilaf accompaniment.
We highly enjoyed our meal at Asitane, adding even more to our opinion that Turkey has amazing food. To top it off, the setting was lovely, the service was pleasant and the price was extremely reasonable. We also forgot to mention that in addition to your server you will be attended to by the restaurant cat (see below) who likes to visit. To top it off, Asitane is right next to one of the major sights in Istanbul, the Chora Church (Kariye Kilisesi), even though it is a little bit outside of the historical center. If you visit Asitane you are sure to have an extremely unique dining experience you can not get anywhere else (unless you are a time traveler, of course).