Located in the Edirnekapı district in the heart of the old city, Asitane is a unique restaurant within the Istanbul culinary scene, specializing in “Ottoman Court” cuisine. Although Asitane has been around for close to 20 years, at the moment, the restaurant happens to have its finger on the pulse of one of the latest trends to hit the culinary world – food archeology, the practice of rediscovering historical recipes that have fallen out of use over the years.
After meticulous study and much trial and error, the chefs at Asitane have resurrected long-forgotten recipes from the kitchens of the Sultan’s palaces to create delicious and unusual dishes. The recipes for these royal dishes were closely guarded secrets, known only to members of the palace cooking guilds and passed on not through books but by word of mouth. Consequently, this knowledge was eventually lost. After studying records of meals and celebrations held at Topkapı and Dolmabahçe Palace, the chefs at Asitane have succeeded in recreating several hundred dishes.
The menu is ever-changing, and is prepared using a range of seasonal ingredients. You will immediately notice that the flavors on offer are much more diverse than what is available in contemporary Turkish restaurants, with a combination of sweet and savory that is not typically found in modern Turkish cuisine. Indeed, the recipes incorporate flavors from the Middle East, Balkans, Central Asia, and Anatolia – all territories that were once ruled over by the Ottomans. Another one of Asitane’s unusual characteristics is its location in Edirnekapı, which is off the beaten path and far from the central Beyoğlu district or the waters of the Bosphorus, where you can find most of the city’s upscale restaurants. Nevertheless, this part of town still manages to draw a significant number of tourists with its wealth of historical buildings. Asitane is located next to one of the most noteworthy of these buildings from the Byzantine era, the St. Savior in Chora Church, which is famed for its incredible mosaics and frescos. Additionally, in the rear, Asitane’s large garden is open during the summer months and has a lovely view of the neighboring church.
Inside, the décor is tasteful and subtle, if not a bit unremarkable, with starched white table cloths and Ottoman calligraphy adorning the walls. The real “wow factor” lies with the food. Each dish on the menu has a listing of the date of origin, and all of the recipes are prepared using the cooking methods of that period. Many of the dishes on the menu originate from the special feast of 1539, celebrating the circumcision of Suleiman the Magnificent’s son, including the famous almond soup that was served at this celebration. The waiters at Asitane are all very knowledgeable and ready to make suggestions and guide you towards the dishes you may enjoy the most. Kariye Camii Sokak No. 6, Edirnekapı; P: (0212) 534 84 14