KOSEBASI: Cornerstone of Turkish cuisine

Savour the authentic taste of eastern Mediterranean cuisine at Kosebasi, the Turkish Artisan grill

 

From ‘around the corner’ concept that literally defined its humble beginnings, to a metaphorical rise as the ambassador of Turkish food, Kosebasi (koh-shay-ba-shi), has all the decor trappings of an authentic Turkish artisan grill, with the cuisine designed to take diners on a culinary journey of the Mediterranean town of Tarsus in Southern Anatolia.

Buttressed by a heap load of kudos – ‘World’s Top Restaurants’ in 2010 by Zagat, ‘Best Kebab Restaurant in Istanbul’ from Time Magazine, one of the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ by readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine and ‘Best Representative of Traditional Turkish Cuisine’ by the International Tourist, Hotel and Catering Industry – it made its entry into the Omani food market a year ago, and instantly found its niche in the gourmet circuit as the go to restaurant for authentic Turkish food.

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Located strategically in the first level of the extended City Centre Muscat, Köşebaşı grows on you, one bite at a time. From the pleasant welcoming smile of the staff at the open entrance to the warm aroma emanating from the kitchen grill, the promise of good food and good ambience is fulfilled with aplomb.

Fascinated equally by the rhythmic name and the prospect of savouring authentic Turkish food, we made a lunch rendezvous with Köşebaşı, on a weekday, early this month, and returned satiated and educated in Turkish fare, thanks to restaurant manager Marwan Abo Al Hossan, who guided us through the seemingly endless luncheon with his knowledge of Turkish fare and authentic delights of Kosebasi. Equipped with only limited knowledge of Turkish food, we relied totally on the staff to not just enunciate the names of the dishes right but also learn little titbits about what makes the food so very special. For one, the minced meat used in all the items is hand-ground, to ensure that the temperature is just right.

Strict vegetarians need not fret in the choice of food or scrutinise every dish with a ‘veggie’ magnifying glass, as the cold mezzes have no sign of meat and vegetarian salads feature prominently in the menu. Salads (we are told) are a traditional stronghold of Turkish cuisine.

Our long lunch began with the choicest selections of mezzes, accompanied with what is popularly referred to as ‘balloon bread’ – light puffed bread with black and white sesames on top. There was a pleasant undercurrent of garlic in all of the mezze items we dug into. Whether it was ‘Pembe Sultan’ – homemade yoghurt mixed with beetroot, Abagannus – grilled eggplant mixed with virgin olive oil and homemade yoghurt or the regular humus. It came with the breadbasket and a platter of pickled vegetables and green and black olives.

Kosebasi signature salad, Hellimli Salata, followed next… This salad, topped with grilled Halloumi cheese on a bed of lettuce and rocket leaves, along with cherry tomatoes and lemon-mayo dressing, is served in a large dish with a portion size that could easily make it a complete lunch.

Our vegetarian tryst continued with ‘Sebzeli Pide’, a traditional Turkish pizza with eggplant, mushroom, corn and cheese, and ‘Peynirli Pide’, another traditional Turkish pizza with cheese.

And then we were swamped…literally, by succulent meat and fried seafood. A large tray, laden with chicken and mutton kebabs (keeping with our choice of meat items) made a dramatic entry to our table and we were left gasping at the sheer portion size. The ‘Karisik Kebab’, is a mixed grill platter of Kosebasi bestsellers, including tender chicken cubes, marinated beef slices and special lamb kebap (kebab).

But we soon learnt that when it comes to portion size, Kosebasi has its ways of outdoing itself. Marked as a family portion (with price to match the size), the really long wooden platter, featuring some of the choicest pieces of jumbo prawns and deep fried squid rings, grabbed our eyeballs. Titled ‘Kosebasi Signature Seafood Platter’, it contained grilled jumbo shrimps seasoned with Turkish spices and tender squid deep-fried, light and crisp.

What a showstopper that…

There was more where that came from, as the meal turned to desserts. We have never said no to dessert – we have a gluttonous appetite for desserts, even when the mains have done more justice than they should. And so it was, on that beautiful winter afternoon, we moved on to the desserts with the ease of a foodie. On our table were ‘Peynirli Irmik Helvasi’- hot semolina with cheese, vanilla ice cream and cinnamon, ‘Kunefe’ – homemade traditional Turkish kunefe stuffed with molten cheese, bathed in sugar syrup and topped with vanilla ice cream or kashta; and ‘Cilek Jelli Muhallebi’ – traditional milk custard topped with fresh strawberry and jelly. It was the surprising combo of ice cream and hot semolina that got cleaned out fast – a must–try for all dessert lovers.

As they say in Turkey, ‘Afiyet olsun’ (bon appetite) everyone!

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