Otantik – How it’s done in Anatolia

4 ****

For some reason I’ve managed never to notice Otantik, despite it’s prominent Istiklal position (no. 170) and unsubtle decor.  Water features and faux foliage abound but, although I am sure a more ambience discerning customer would find it tacky, I thought it was charming.  Even the woman sitting fully costumed by her gözleme (Turkish pancake) stone was fine by me – it means hot, fresh gözleme whatever cool points it loses.  But, I had been away for a few weeks so maybe my Istanbul snobbery gauge needed resetting.

Otantik might be aimed at tourists, the menu is available in English and Turkish and some of the staff speak English, but I think the pictures on the menu would be just as useful to locals as foreigners as there were several dishes I have never heard of before.  On my visit it was certainly full of Turkish people breaking their Ramazan fast.

There is food at the counter that you can choose from, relatively standard dishes like lahana sarma (stuffed cabbage leaves) and various stews that all looked tempting enough, but the real stand out feature comes from looking at the Anatolian influenced menu.  Leaving aside the kebabs and other familiar things, I was still presented with a choice of about 1o things I had no idea what they were beyond the basic description given.

I opted for Hıngal, described as potato dumplings.  They turned out to be like mantı (Turkish ravioli) but stuffed with potato and served with yoghurt sauce.  Actually, I preferred them to mantı, which always feel like a poor man’s tortellini to me.  I didn’t taste my friend’s unappetizing looking rice and meat combination but she finished it and seemed happy so I assume it tasted better than appearances suggested.  She polished off a Turkish dessert popular at Ramazan, güllaç – another of the milk based anaemic looking creations, flavoured with rose water and pomegranate – and I worked my way through the fig dessert (incir tatlısı).  It was incredibly sweet and didn’t really need the serving of Turkish chewing gum ice-cream it came with.  Good, but not a patch on Kanaat’s.

Prices were reasonable, a bit above a standard kebab house but the food definitely warranted that.  Service was really good, a manager even came over to apologise at the end of our meal for making us sit with others which we hadn’t minded anyway.

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