Istanbul, Turkey is one of the world’s great foodie destinations. The city is filled with dining options, from amazing street food to seriously gastronomic high-end restaurants. I’ve had the opportunity to visit many times and on each trip I always discover something new (and delicious).
Tugra is one of the city’s best restaurants, specializing in a modern interpretation of traditional, imperial Ottoman food. This is food that would have been served to the sultans of the Ottoman Empire, the capital of which of course was Istanbul. Tugra is located inside one of the city’s best luxury hotels, the ornate Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul. Its name gives away the building’s history, it was once an Ottoman palace. This completes the experience, truly allowing guests to dine like a sultan in a former royal palace.
Like a sultan would receive, the service at the restaurant is beyond five-star. But because this is Turkey, it’s still warm, friendly and accessible. Aside from the palatial atmosphere, royal service and amazing food, the restaurant and hotel also deliver the ultimate Istanbul view. The hotel sits on the edge of the Bosphorus Sea, and the restaurant has a large, outdoor terrace overlooking the water. Guests also have a postcard view of the city’s iconic Bosphorus Bridge while they dine.
Dinner was an amazing adventure around Turkey, with different dishes and food products from various parts of the country.
As with most Turkish meals, dinner started with a series of mezes or tasting plates. One featured hot dishes and one featured cold dishes. Each plate of mezes was served with a centerpiece of cheese and fruit, designed to cleanse the palate after trying each selection. Hot starters were next, my favorite being the “borek,” baked dough with cheese and the deep-fried lamp and beef meatballs served on pickled sour cherries.
Hot mezes included: Palace “mantı”, cheese “su börek”, stuffed vine leaves with plum, Kadınbudu meatball, poppy seed calamari, kibbe with zahter relish, lamb cubes “kavurma” on hummus. The cold mezes included Skenderun prawns “pilaki”, marinated anchovy “mastave”, broad fava beans, “muammara” on “Yedikule” lettuce, sautéed Aegean greens “vertabit”, organic Circassian chicken with walnut, eggplant “mamzana” with yogurt, hummus, rose flavored melon and “Ezine” cheese.
The delicious food was accompanied by Turkish Narince wine from the center of the country. The white wine tastes something like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc (closer to the Sauvignon Blanc). We started the meal with some wonderful Louis Roederer (French) Champagne.
I flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul in their foodie-friendly Business Class cabin. Each long-haul, international flight carries a flying chef, complete with chef’s toque, who goes over the menu and prepares the food. The food is a dizzying array of Turkish specialties.