Special meat means special taste

Special meat means special taste

(Photo: Today's Zaman)

February 19, 2012, Sunday/ 16:07:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Hatay has indisputably one of the richest cuisines in the country. Yet, as I see it, this richness is more visible at the Has Kral Hatay Sofrası in İstanbul than it is in Hatay's Antakya. This Aksaray-based restaurant has opened its second branch in Florya to offer İstanbulites the finest of tastes.

Has Kral offers a rich breakfast menu on weekdays and a special local breakfast showcasing 130 different types of food on Sundays. This taste-rich breakfast is offered open-buffet style and billed at just tl 29, which is certainly a reasonable price considering the diversity of foods and the location of the restaurant. I haven't tasted their breakfast yet, but having seen the local dishes specific to Hatay on the menu, I am planning to do so at the earliest opportunity.

The most eye-catching feature of the restaurant, which offers an average of about 80 different tastes daily, is its starters. Cracked olives, haydari (yoghurt and mint), Lebanese ezme (crushed tomato and chili salad) and mutebbel alinazik (a dish made with eggplant puree, garlic and yoghurt) are among the starters available. These starters are actually so gratifying that one hardly feels the need to go for a main dish. So don't indulge yourself too much in the starter. I particularly liked the sour Hatay kebab and lahmisini, which is a tepsi kebab specific to Hatay. I must note that the içli köfte (a bulgur wheat shell filled with minced, spiced lamb), marinated with a sour pomegranate sauce, is another delicious dish you must try.

Zafer Tunç, the operating manager of the restaurant, explained that everything, including the sour pomegranate sauce, the pretreatment of the meat, the künefe (a dessert served hot made from cheese and pastry) and special soups, is made at the restaurant. Frankly speaking, the Florya branch provides a more attentive service and presents more options than the central branch in Aksaray. "Trust is crucial. This trust can only be earned with quality, hygiene and a hospitable staff. If any of these is missing, it won't work," said Tunç, who closely attends to both clients and flavors.

The secret to what makes this restaurant's kebabs so delicious is, of course, the meat it uses. The meat comes from 6-8-month-old curly-fleeced lambs from Balıkesir. Don't worry about the lamb meat having a bad smell. The bad smell actually comes from the tail fat, and Has Kral does not use tail fat in their products, instead opting to cook the lamb in its own fat.

Another delicious dish you must try at this restaurant is tuzda kuzu kebab (lamb roasted in rock salt), but you should order it the day before and for 10-15 people. A lamb, coated in rock salt, is cooked for eight hours and is stuffed with a special Saudi Arabian rice called abukes, Iranian lemons and 10 different spices. Of course, the final result is extremely tender meat.

The restaurant also showcases testi kebab (kebab on a tray), Belen tava (Belen-style kebab on a tray), beyti (a kind of kebab made of minced meat seasoned and grilled on a metal skewer and topped with tomato sauce and yoghurt), erik tava (kebab with dried plums on a tray), tuzda kuzu (lamb roasted in rock salt), the 160-centimeter-long vezir kebab (a kind of kebab made of grilled eggplants, garlic, lamb and butter) and kuzu tandır (lamb tandoor) for hearty eaters. I would recommend you order fresh fruit juice as well. I chose the pomegranate juice, but there are freshly prepared juices from Lebanese mangoes, kiwis, sweet melons, cherries, pineapples, lemons, carrots and a number of other fruits available.

Of course you cannot think of Hatay cuisine without künefe. How does Has Kral's künefe fare in comparison to that made in Hatay? Frankly, I didn't think it would be as delicious as that made in Hatay, but the first morsel carried me away. The taste was spectacular. The künefe chef is from Hatay and is very secretive about his recipe for this dessert. So you can invest your full trust in him and enjoy this feat. Now you know what your destination is if you want to have a feast.

A feast of delicious dishes

Zahter, tebbuli, fettuş salad: TL 8

Cracked olive, haydari, abugannuş: TL 7

Humus, biberce, Lebanese ezme, stuffed grape leaves: TL 7

İçli köfte with meat: TL 10

İçli köfte with sauce: TL 4

Stuffed mumbar, tepsi kebab: TL 15

Tuzda kuzu: TL 60 (serves one)

Testi kebab: TL 110

Tuzda tavuk: TL 35

Erik tava: TL 90

Belen tava: TL 20

Sour Hatay kebab: TL 25

Beyti, kağıt kebab, minced meat kebab: TL 15

Stuffed beyti: TL 18

Arab tava: TL 17

Kebab with poppy, chicken rule, alinazik: TL 22

Vezir kebab (160 cm): TL 115

Fırında terletme kuzu tandır: TL 25

Çöp şiş: TL 21

Pide: TL 12-14

Künefe: TL 8

Each of fig, walnut, eggplant and tomato desserts: TL 11

Fresh juice: TL 5-7

Enjoy delicious flavors with these dishes

You will certainly eat your fill from the assortment of kebabs at Has Kral Hatay Sofrası, where all kebabs are with lamb. A good start may be the Belen tava, erik tava, tepsi and testi kebabs, or a sour Hatay kebab if you want to head straight into Hatay cuisine.