Matbah Restaurant

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Matbah (which means “kitchen” in Ottoman Turkish) focuses on 13th and 18th century Ottoman cuisine. Located in the Ottoman Hotel Imperial, just a few steps away from the Hagia Sophia, the space was previously used as the hotel’s restaurant.

 

For the past five years, however, Matbah Restaurant has sought to make those who enter forget that they’re in a hotel. The restaurant is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass. Light Ottoman/ Turkish instrumental music plays in the background. Matbah Restaurant boasts 13 tables covered with white tablecloths, each topped with a small vase of flowers for a simple and elegant feel. The outdoor seating area is currently closed for the winter, yet it’s easy to imagine cocktail receptions taking place here in the summer months. Of particular interest is the glass dome with a blue and purple floral pattern, alluding to that of the close by Hagia Sophia. The dome of the Zeynep Sultan Mosque looks as if it is right under your feet, and the Caferağa Medrese is also visible from the restaurant. These make Matbah Restaurant the ideal location to watch all the seagulls flock back to Sultanahmet in the evening hours. Historic accuracy is emphasized at Matbah Restaurant, down to the waitresses clothing and shoes that date back to the Ottoman era.

 

Matbah not only offers a taste of Ottoman culture along with Ottoman cuisine, but a glimpse into Armenian and Rum (Greek) cultures, as well. The menu is seasonal, featuring game such as geese in the winter, while quail and duck are served in the summer. All game come from the Kars, Ardahan and Ağrı regions. The meat comes from Çanakkale, while the fish is brought daily from the hal (wholesale market). The spices and pastes are from Gaziantep and the dry ingredients are procured from various people in Eminönü. Complimentary şerbet begins and ends the meal at Matbah, with the pomegranate blossom şerbet served as an appetizer and the cinnamon şerbet as a post-meal treat. Toasted bread, tapenade and Tulum cheese topped with walnuts arrive at your table before you even order.

 

For a healthy appetizer, we highly recommend the chickpea lokma (morsel) with currants, served with cinnamon on top. The consistency resembles that of hummus, while the taste is sweet but not overly so. Another uncommon dish is the Lor mahlutu (treated Lor cheese), which is made by kneading the cheese in onion water and served with green peppers and sesame. The taste is tangy yet, thanks to the sesame, it is subtle enough that even those who don’t particularly enjoy Lor cheese should give it a try. The sarma (stuffed grape leaves) varieties- one stuffed with sour cherries and the other, with unripened grapes, topped with yoghurt and sesame and served in olive oil- are some other great alternatives for vegetarians as well as those looking to try something other than the usual sarma with rice. For a non-vegetarian taste, try the quince dolma, made from quince stuffed with sheathed meat, 60% lamb and 40% veal. The quince and molasses give this dish, which dates back to 1539, a sweet touch, while the roasted almonds and currants give it a texture that can’t be beat. However, the dish that they are most ambitious about at Matbah is the Incik (Çanakkale lamb) served with beğendi (eggplant puree) in a bowl of crispy filo dough, a recipe from the 15th century. The lamb is cooked in its own juices with red pepper paste. The succulent Incik melts in your mouth, while the beğendi is flavourful and has the perfect texture. No need to reach for the salt on this ridiculously tasty dish. As for dessert, we recommend you try an Ottoman twist to pudding with the damla sakızlı Helatiye küp muhallebi, a cube-shaped milky dessert made with mastic, served in a dish of rosewater with pomegranate pieces, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, bananas and lemons. Top it off with the cinnamon şerbet, sit back in your chair and savour the satisfying feeling of having dined like a sultan.

 

From the Menu

Sarma with sour cherries 14 TL

Quince dolma 30 TL

Incik with beğendi in a bowl of filo dough 34 TL

Helatiye (Turkish milk dessert with mastic served in rosewater) 15 TL

A glass of rakı 8 TL

Posted:

Venue name: Matbah Restaurant
Contact:
Address: Ottoman Hotel Imperial
İstanbul

Opening hours: Daily 12.00-22.00.
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