Founded in 1950 and owned and managed by the Ügümü family, Hünkar is an upscale version of a classic tradesman restaurant (esnaf lokantası) that specializes in home-style Turkish and Ottoman cuisine.
With its tables covered with white tablecloths and its interior elegantly decorated with wood paneling, memorabilia, and Ottoman art on the walls, Hünkar creates a modern atmosphere. Food can be ordered from the table or can be selected from the open display.
The meal traditionally starts with a bowl of soup, of which there are three varieties available daily. Appetizers consist of meze options and traditional Turkish olive oil dishes (zeytinyağlılar). Main dishes tend to be centered on meat, but there is a wide variety of vegetarian dishes as well. In fact, Hünkar is the only restaurant in Istanbul to be approved and registered by the Vegan Society in the United States.
Hünkar is particularly famous for its beğendili kebap (eggplant puree with lamb chunks). Their yogurt is in a class of its own and is definitely a must-try. For dessert, there are a number of scrumptious options, including komposto (fruit compote), rice pudding, şekerpare (mini cakes in syrup), and aşure (wheat pudding with nuts and dried fruits).
Specializing in high-quality food that is unpretentiously served, Hünkar is very popular with locals and has branches in Etiler and Nişantaşı. The Nişantaşı branch is frequented by families living in the area and tourists, while the Etiler one, which has an outdoor seating area tastefully decorated with hanging dried vegetables like eggplants and corns, is more of a business-lunch spot.
As of March 2011, the Nişantaşı branch of Hünkar began offering tasting menues for those who want to get a proper introduction to Turkish cuisine in one sitting.
Hünkar Beğendi (Lamb served on smoky eggplant puree)
Nohutlu Pilav (Rice with chickpeas)
Aşure (Turkish pudding with grains and fruits)
Saray köftesi (Juicy meatballs fried in egg batter)
İrmik helvası (Semolina halva)
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