Turkish delights at Cinnamon Lakeside

Thursday, 20 June 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Cassandra Mascarenhas Showcasing the sumptuousness of Ottoman cuisine, the Cinnamon Lakeside as part of its themed buffets has infused a variety of delicious Turkish dishes to its ever-changing dinner buffet at The Dining Room this month, courtesy of specialty Guest Chefs Umut Diren and Evren Altaylar who were flown down for the sole purpose of cooking up some traditional Turkish fare for Colombo’s foodies. The chefs initially prepared dishes in line with three specific themes, each sampling cooking from different regions. The buffet commenced on 15 June with Ottoman Palace cuisine which featured many dishes infused with lamb requiring careful preparation whereas the second day of Istanbul Meyhane cuisine was made up of an array of tapas, a range of somewhat more modern food served mostly in pubs, explained Chef Altaylar. The third theme, Anatolian regional cuisine, reflected the countryside with the preparation of traditional dishes generally served in Turkey’s rural areas. However, diners who choose to explore the flavours of Turkey at The Dining Room now can enjoy a fusion of all three themes as the chefs prepare the choicest dishes from each. Present on the day on which the chefs cooked up a rustic storm, I was able to sample the best of the Anatolian countryside. Chef Altaylar explained that the cuisine used a lot of spices and dried fruits and nuts, starting right from the soup. The soup, ‘ezogelin,’ was a rice based broth flavoured with tomato, chilli paste and various herbs including thyme. The appetisers consisted of dishes from the south-east of Turkey. The stuffed dried eggplant, usually made in winter in Turkey, has been modified slightly to suit the local palate and is quite delicious. The ‘muhammara,’ a combination of pound walnuts, tahini and red pepper paste, and ‘boulgur,’ made with tomato and sweet chilli paste infused with pomegranate reduced to a seasoning resembling balsamic vinegar adds a tangy sourness, are both must-tries with the fresh crisp bread. Other appetisers include tapas style appetisers such as ‘haydari,’ a condensed yogurt with mint and garlic, fava beans purée, carrot salad with garlic yoghurt, celery salad with walnut and garlic yoghurt, grilled eggplant purée, ‘topik,’ an onion stuffed potato and chickpea purée, cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and chestnuts, ‘cacik,’ a cucumber and yoghurt dip and Circassian chicken. “Olive oil is used heavily is most Turkish dishes, especially in West Turkey, as is the use of onions,” explained Chef Altaylar, adding that the response from the restaurant’s patrons had been positive, as the cuisine was something new to most of them and they had therefore enjoyed sampling the various dishes. Moving on to the mains, the lamb kebab wrapped in eggplant is quite interesting, beautifully presented and although I didn’t quite take to the eggplant, the lamb on its own was tender and quite scrumptious. Both types of rice, the saffron rice and the other with nuts and dried fruit, make excellent accompaniments to the main dishes but it is best that one serves small helpings of rice as the other dishes are quite heavy. The tomato lentil patties served with a tangy sauce are surprisingly flavourful as is the ‘kesket,’ pounded wheat with chicken stock which has the texture of mashed potato and despite its bland appearance is delicious. There’s no shortage of kebabs to sample with pistachio kebabs, opium poppy kebabs, spicy kebabs, sardines in vine leaves, monk fish skewers and shish kebabs, all freshly prepared by the bustling chefs. Fans of lamb can delight at this buffet, starting with the lamb stew with apricot and almonds, and moving on to the sautéed lamb in eggplant, braised lamb with eggplant béchamel sauce, lamb tandir, and roasted lamb shoulder with roasted cauliflower. The desserts are sweet and refreshing with milk pudding with nuts, honey and almond, oven braised pear with thick syrup, baked soft pastry in thick syrup, tamarind sherbet, rose sherbet, saffron and rice pudding, milk pudding with fruit marmalade, oven baked rice pudding, oven braised pumpkin in thick syrup and revani, semolina cakes with syrup and more to choose from. For those who crave some chocolate at the end of such a huge meal as I did, never fear – The Dining Room also has its selection of standard desserts including gooey chocolate brownies, chocolate chip cake, chocolate fudge cake, hazelnut profiteroles, peach pies and many more. It should also be kept in mind that not all the above-mentioned dishes will be available on a daily basis as the chefs alternate dishes in order to provide patrons with a more varied experience. The Turkish cuisine dinner will be available at The Dining Room from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. until 24 June priced at Rs. 2,555 all inclusive. Reservations are recommended and can be made on 112491930.