Saturday, November 22, 2008

Turkish food in Tartu - a restaurant review for 'Istanbul'

It's been a while since I've written a restaurant review. For some reason I either forget my camera when I go out to eat in Estonia or I just don't get around to posting the emotions I get from there. I find it so much easier to comment on restaurants and food when travelling.
It was the same with this - a new Turkish restaurant called Istanbul that was recently opened in my home-town Tartu - plus the emotions weren't all that good. But then again - bad reviews might be even more useful than good ones, they can spare someone a mediocre experience.

So Istanbul - I've complained in this blog a couple of times, that it is very hard to get decent ethnic (fast)food in Estonia, as the society is quite mono-ethnic, or if not that (we do havw a large russian minority) then at least predominantly white - so every time a new ethnic eatery opens I get my hopes up. And Turkish - let's face it - you can get very very lovely Turkish food and Turksih fast food in many places in Europe, some not even that far away (Berlin, Prague, etc). So I was readying myself for a mouth-watering Döner kebab at least.

The place itself is on the main street of Tartu - Rüütli 2 - it's pretty small and the interior desing / atmosphere is nothing special. It's not bad, but it's not good either. And as it's one room that you step in directly from outside - the eaters are constantly interrupted by gusts of freezing wind as new people come in, go out or smokers go for their regular dose of nicotine.

The service was crap - at least for us. We waited for more than an hour for our dishes, they didn't all come at the same time and we had to remind the waitress of some of our drinks. Although Tartu is not very well known for speck-less service (it's a university town so you get a lot of new waitresses/students who start every fall, are clueless and leave every spring), but you usually don't mind, as the staff are friendly and trying hard. So was this girl, I got the feeling that the hold-ups stemmed from the kitchen.

The food - was a real disappointment. I can't say that it was bad, it tasted like average home-cooked stuff in an average household who is not all that inspired by food. But to do that to Turkish food. My heart bleeds. Really.
I had something that was called a beef kebab, but that was more like a bell-pepper, egg-plant and beef (dry and chewy) stew. The dominant taste was sour and it was oddly served with little, ugly, boiled Parisian potatoes.

Other people had 'young lamb shish-kebab' - dry fried pieces of lamb with the odd potatoes again.

My dad had something they called a 'peasan't dinner', the presentation was impressive - it came in a shallow clay dish and was still sparkling-hot. But again, nearly no meat, the meat that was in it was dry and chewy (beef).

S had something that was called an egg-plan kebab (was to be with beef) - and again the same - a flat, sour tomato sauce, chunks of egg-plant and a tiny bit of meat.

And the side salads were just pathetic. I mean, take a look yourself.

So all in all it made me sad. I really was hoping for some decent kebabs. Don't know if the people in the kitchen didn't know how to cook, weren't Turkish (although I've read in the papers that the chef's supposedly Turkish), neither, or they just really had a spectacularly bad day.

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