On a quiet side street in Sultanahmet is where you’ll find Paşazade Restaurant. This eatery on the ground floor of Erboy Hotel may strike you as a tourist-trap at first – what with the kitschy konak (old Turkish mansion) and Ottomanera shop decor on the walls, displaying small ceramic objects and bowls of Turkish delight. Sure, the restaurant takes tourists to be its main audience – yet they’ve gone one step further than most hotel eateries to really think of the visitors’ needs. Their business card, for instance, is actually a mini fold-out brochure that explains some of the more traditional Ottoman dishes via both photographs and ingredients. An online version of this brochure is available on their Web site, which also offers an online reservation service.
The all-Turkish wine menu, too, reflects a similar consideration, as the grapes’ regions are listed alongside descriptions to help visitors make their choice. What sets Paşazade Restaurant apart from other tourist-focused enterprises in terms of the food offered is that here, the emphasis is on a more healthy – and reasonablypriced – take on Ottoman cuisine. The portions are smaller than what you’d find in other Turkish restaurants. So, what’s the best thing to eat at Paşazade?
We start with pazı dolması, or Swiss chards stuffed with meat and served with yogurt. This dish is surprisingly light at Paşazade, albeit a bit mushy, and we immediately notice a considerably less amount of grease in this dish than at most other restaurants. Then we move on to Mutancene, a traditional mix of lamb leg served with creamy spinach, almonds and apricots. This peppery dish is Paşazade’s specialty, and it shows: the meat falls apart in your mouth, while the tomatoes give it a light tang. Wait a minute – tomatoes? Yes, at Paşazade, ‘Ottoman –Turkish fusion’ means they use tomatoes, too (as compared to true-to-the-original Ottoman cuisine, which requires that you use tomatoes only if they’re green). Next up we give the hünkar beğendi a try which I think, a decisive dish in any Ottoman-Turkish kitchen. And we’re delighted to find that it lives up to expectation; there’s a trace of peanut buttery flavour in it. The meat’s not as soft as the Mutancene lamb, but the beğendi (creamy eggplant puree) more than makes up for this otherwise-mild dish. Last, we give two desserts a try. First up is muhallebi burması, a decadent version of the popular mastic-pudding that’s topped with powdered chocolate and pistachios. Keeping with the ‘healthy’ theme, it’s not too sugary – in short, good, but not remarkable. Ayva tatlısı, by contrast, packs a punch as the perfect end to your meal. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of this sugary quince dessert served with ice cream, but at Paşazade, I’m converted.
From the menu
Meat-stuffed Swiss chards 16 TL
Mutancene 25 TL
Hünkar beğendi 25 TL
Muhallebi burması 7 TL
Ayva tatlısı 8 TL