Istanbul – Tuğra Restaurant – Çırağan Palace

 tugra - 20Order to be built in 1836 by sultan Abdülâziz, the Çırağan Palace is located on the European river bank of the Bosphorus, being one of the last examples of a time when each Ottoman sultan ordered the construction of his own palace instead of using his predecessor’s. It also served has headquarters of the Turkish Parliament, until it was ruined by a great fire in 1910. Given its proximity to the Besiktas neighborhood, its gardens served as stadium of the famous football club for years, in 1989 a Japanese consortium acquired the palace and restored it in its original form and added a luxurious hotel to its complex, nowadays managed by the Kempinski Group.

tugra - 31The palace is astonishingly charming, from the luxurious details on its interior, to the beautiful and charming view over the Bosphorus. But it’s about its restaurant, Tuğra, I’m here to talk to you about today. Located well inside the palace, in some wide and splendorous rooms with view to the river, creating, for sure, the most romantic ambiance in the city. The cuisine promises an Ottoman inspiration, in the kitchens of its former palaces with one or another touch of the French Haute Cuisine.

tugra - 8Already installed in a huge table, with all the details and comfort, we are presented with a glass of champagne (the inevitable marketing king, Moët & Chandon) and the interesting Turkish Sherbets, of very icy fruits and flowers.

Following the excellent quality bread (a constant in the country), butter and a gratin cheese trio with a tomato sauce, resulting in an excellent beginning.

tugra - 21Amuse Bouche – Vine leaf stuffed with rice

 tugra - 15Tuğra Meze
We chose to start our meal (similar to all the other tables, I think) with a selection of Meze (Turkish appetizers). To choose from there was a bit of everything, hummus, melon with cheese and rose water, roasted eggplant with pomegranate, shrimp with plum sauce, vine leaf stuffed with onion, lentil kofte, cheese curd with herbs, tomato and pinions, chicken paste with chestnut and a species of fava beans aspic. Without being enthralling, all of them were very well prepared, with highlight to the hummus, the chicken paste and the kofte.

tugra - 16Selection of hot appetizers

Nicely fried calamari and an interesting tartar sauce with nuts. Paçanga Börek, a kind of filo dough roll with Pastirma (Turkish Pastrami), cheese, tomato and pepper, strong flavors in a great starter. Also a great Sac Oruğu, a Bulgur pastry stuffed with minced meat, nuts and seasoned with sumac. We also tasted an excellent roasted shrimp with kaşkaval cheese, tomato and sweet pepper, and a dough (Piruhi) stuffed with meat in a yogurt sauce and tomato with butter. All the Turkish specialties were great and more interesting than the cold meze.

tugra - 26Turbot from the Black Sea, vegetables, potato pancake, brioche, samphire, ginger and mastic sauce

A dish in which the influence of the Haute Cuisine is noted, with flawlessly prepared vegetables, like a tureen and with perfect cooking. Excellent quality fish, very well prepared (excellence note to the mastery of the head waiter removing the turbot’s skin). The sauce fully served its purpose, uniting all the elements and giving a new dimension to the dish.

To go with, a Premium Chardonnay of 2012 from Sevilen, one of the main wines of the caste made in Turkey, modest nose, light fruit and wood aromas, but intense in the mouth, with tropical fruits and an excellent use of the wood. Great combination.

 tugra - 27künefe
The Turkish are known for their desserts and this traditional künefe (dough like angel hair, stuffed with cheese, roasted and plunged in syrup served hot, left a memory. Excellent combination of textures and good sweetness balance, in a fantastic dessert which origin dates from the XI century. Delicious.

 tugra - 10Cinnamon Halvah 
Sesame puree with molasses, nuts, pinions, butter and cinnamon with milk ice cream. A strong dessert, with intense flavors and dense texture, balanced by the lightness of the ice cream. Very good.

Accompanying a sweet Turkish wine, a Safir 2012 from Doluca.

tugra - 11The Famous Turkish Delights functioning as petit fours to the end of a long meal

The Service of the room is very distinguished, from the attention to the client to the classic technique of plating on the table. Flawless.

tugra - 12Quinta do Vesúvio 2009

Accompanying us on this experience was the wine Quinta do Vesúvio 2009, which given the impossibility of harmonizing with the dishes we tasted, served as basis for nice talks in the beautiful and well equipped cellar of the restaurant, with its team surrendering to this great wine.

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Final Remarks
Çırağan Palace is for sure one the most iconic hotels of Istanbul, and its restaurant Tuğra represents very well what it is like to dine in a palace, creating one of the most romantic atmospheres I ever had the chance to have dinner in. From the kitchen come dishes of palace inspiration, but as I see it, much more modern and with French cuisine touches. We lacked the tasting of one of the iconic dishes of the house, “Testi”, a lamb stew prepared in a clay jar that is broken on the table before serving (all the show of seeing the serving of this dish spiked my interest). As to the Room, as I said, everything works harmoniously, and it was certainly one of the best services we experienced in the city. In case you stay, or not, at the hotel when you visit Istanbul, Tuğra is a right bet for a long and romantic dinner, with the Bosphorus as background. During summer try a dinner in the balcony.

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Tuğra Restaurant – Çırağan Palace
Ciragan Caddesi 32, Istanbul
+90 212 236 7333

Quinta do Vesúvio 2009 with the support of Symington Family

Photos: Flavors & Sences and Çırağan Palace Kempinski


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