A few years ago I went to Turkey will my family and I ate some of the best food of my life. I’ve been disappointed we don’t have more Turkish restaurants in D.C. considering how awesome Turkish food is. Well, Hakan Ilhan finally agreed with me and decided to open a spot that would pay homage to his heritage.
Ottoman Taverna occupies a grand space that is beautiful and opulent, much like the fantastic sites in Turkey. A stunning white décor, with gorgeous orange and gold accents, romantic lighting, and dramatic Turkish artwork make the venue a dream for diners, as does the delicious Turkish fare.
Turkish food is highlighted by mezze, small sharing plates, so the best advice I can offer is to go with friends or family and order the heck out of the mezze menu. The dips are impeccable concoctions of flavor and textures: creamy hummus, tart and rich tzatziki, and muhammara, which is made of red peppers and walnuts.
And that’s just the dips. You need to also get the zeytinyagli enginar, which are these slow cooked artichokes that are served with potatoes, carrots and peas. The dish is sweet but bright, with the vegetables cooked so that they are almost pillowy. The grape leaves are perfectly sour, ezme, which is tomatoes cooked with a thick pomegranate molasses has a hint of sweetness, and falafel are crispy nuggets that you won’t be able to stop eating. The Turkish tabbouleh is another example if why Turkish cuisine is so good: there is a focus on the bright, cold flavors of fruits and vegetables, enhanced by silky olive oil and walnuts and onions and lemon and garlic and herbs. It’s all so refreshing and fragrant, a treat for all of your senses.
Oh, and I am not anywhere near done. Iman bayildi, stuffed eggplant, is a must-try, as is the sigara boregi, which are cheese filled phyllo cigars. My favorite was actually the pide, something that reminds me so much of being in Turkey. Pide are these flatbreads, kind of like pizza with crunchy bread smothered in tomato sauce and cheese. The kekikli keçi peynirli pide comes with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes and red onions, all of my favorite things.
Once you have stuffed your face, get the baklava, because no Turkish meal is complete without baklava and Turkish tea. During the meal, try a cocktail or sample something from their awesome wine menu which focuses on Greek and Turkish wines. They also have Massaya wine from Lebanon, one of my personal favorites.
Ottoman Taverna is located at 425 I St NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.