It is like walking into your great-grand-mother's home. That is how I felt walking into Beyti Restaurant in Istanbul. Tastefully decorated in the old Ottoman Turkish style, this restaurant often hosts prestigious guests like Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Jack Chirac, Leonard Bernstein, Johnny Halliday, Danny Kaye as well as Turkish Presidents and high ranking government officials.
Thanks to my dear brother, we were seated in one of the larger guest dining rooms - there are eleven. Even though they have a delectable menu to order from, we opted for the 'surprise' tasting menu. This meant a couple of opening dishes of mezes followed by a stream of grilled meats with traditional sides which does not stop until you tell them to!
The first plate was a sampling of Stuffed Grape Leaves, İmam Bayıldı (Fainted Imam - a cold stuffed eggplant), Su Böreği (Filo dough with cheese filling), Beğendi (mashed eggplant with cream and kasseri cheese).
Home made pickles were so delicious we had to order more.
And of course a freshly made salad with olive oil and lemon juice, without which a Turkish table would not be complete.
I'm sure you all had some form of Döner (gyros), but I bet you did not know the size of the cut pieces is an indication of how skilled the chef is. The pieces we got as our first dish was larger than the size of my palm and tastier than anything I ever tasted before. The side dish was İç Pilav (a rice pilaf with nuts, currants and vegetable pieces).
Beyti Guler - the owner of the restaurant paid a short visit to our table however he graciously excused himself not wanting our food to get cold. Köfte (mini burgers), İncik (lamb shank), Pirzola (lamb chops), and Beyti's specialty rolled beef were served one after another with creamy sides of mashed potatoes, beğendi, and spinach.
My mother gave up after the lamb chops followed by my father after Beyti's specialty. Honestly we were all pretty full at that point but my brother challenged Rick for another round. That is when we got the soft and juicy Antrekot (entrecôte) with grilled tomatoes and peppers.
There are two things that follow a Turkish dinner without any exceptions. First is dessert! After some consideration we decided to share two different kinds. Kaymaklı Ekmek Kadayıfı is a syrupy dessert made with bread topped with very thick cream and pistachio crumbles.
The other dessert was Tavuk Göğsü which is milk pudding with shredded chicken breast at the bottom. As strange as this dessert may sound, you do not actually taste chicken but the intense flavors of the pudding. This one is one of my dad's favorites so I had to intervene quickly to take a picture before he made it disappear!
The second thing to conclude a dinner is of course the Turkish Coffee. This tiny cup of coffee not only acts as a digestif but helps sustain and extend the after-meal conversations for it is good etiquette to take tiny sips and not chug it down as you would with other kinds of coffee. We all ordered Orta Kahve meaning coffee with some sugar.
I was hoping to have enough time to have my mother to read our coffee grounds to tell us what is in our future but we had to leave quickly to make it to our next destination where my brother had another surprise waiting for us.