The usta [pit boss] has his game face on today.
After a 90 minute hike out of Sultanahmet I’m in serious need of sustenance but my confidence is high. I’m about to try slow cooked Siirt [ southeastern Turkey ] barbecue and I could not be more excited.
Walking through the giant stone arches of the Valens Aquaduct into the arcade that houses Siirt Seref Buryan Kebap Salonu the smell is amazing. I’m greeted warmly [all the Istanbullus are beyond friendly-we’re talking Alabama levels of hospitality] seat myself on the patio and place my order. Mysteriously one of the cooks in a spattered chef smock comes out and addresses me “how did you find us?” I pull out my bound dossier of http://www.istanbuleats.com printouts and he gets really excited.
A GQ looking gent comes out and Abdullah [the cook] offers his translation services. The gentleman is the owner and is very proud of his establishment. He gives me a business card and expresses his wishes for all Americans to come to his restaurant for good food and hospitality.
Then the food comes out and my focus, always razor sharp, takes on a new edge. Perde pilaf is a revelation of rice and pastry cookery. It’s a large brown dome of tender pastry studded with almonds and packed with roasted white meat chicken and rice simmered in broth. Some bites are sweet, others salty and one bite even has a whiff of heat.
It’s a good warm-up for the star of the show which is pit roasted lamb something the restaurant has been doing since 1892. Once I start tearing into the lamb I have to wonder if the usta isn’t actually from Texas-Lockhart to be precise. There’re bits of crackly crust, there’s strips of pure lean and there’s bits of luxurious melting fat.
Abdullah comes trotting out a few minutes later with a small meat pie. “A gift” he explains. It’s Christmas day and an Egyptian is giving an American a gift from a Kurd.
Does anyone know how to get in touch with Hallmark?
The gift is a small pocket of moist dough stuffed with minced lamb, herbs and pepper. I have no idea what it is but its’ deliciousness is not in question.
Leaving the restaurant I walk deeper into the arcade which is an eaters’ paradise. Dozens of butcheries, nut shops, spice stands, fresh markets and small food stores abound.
If you’re a chef living in Istanbul this must be ground zero for deliciousness.
Itfaiye Cad. No: 4, Fatih (new location)