Launched earlier this year to much fanfare and in the attendance of the Turkish ambassador was Saraydan, a Turkish restaurant in Deerfields Mall.
The launch may have been a spectacle but it was one that was perhaps ostentatious in comparison to its surroundings. While every effort has been made to deck out the cafe in a mix of Ottoman and Middle-Eastern style and design, it is right next to the entrance of a major supermarket, which detracts, from the overall ambience.
Still, if you can put that aside, Saraydan, which means ‘from the palace’, is 100 percent the genuine article, with many staff members hailing from Turkey and the genial manager Mehmed ready to lovingly take guests through the heritage of the ingredients and dishes on the menu.
Of course, we start with vine leaves, which are light and succulent in a fresh, mildly spicy, tomato sauce. To this we add a simple farmer salad with feta, olives and tomato, and a light but tangy dressing.
For the mains we’re drawn to the Sultan’s Specials on the menu because who doesn’t want to eat like a sultan? Citir manti is the first choice – deep fried rolled dough, pillowed out with spiced ground beef. Drizzled lavishly on top is garlic yoghurt with a dash of chilli sauce and a few mint flakes. The flavour and texture of the pasta, the lightness of yoghurt and the tang of the chilli sauce combine nicely, which is wonderful as there was a danger with this dough that it could be too heavy.
After a member of his staff drops off our second homemade lemonade – a taste explosion – Mehmed bemoans the ingredients that can be found on UAE shores saying instead that he flies in a lot of the ingredients from Turkey including pasta because it just can’t be perfected here.
My accomplice in over-indulgence opts for the kasarli kofta – kashar cheese filled meatballs, which come with a side of grilled vegetables and white rice. The kofta is succulent and nicely seasoned meat, perfectly moist with the lovely oozy cheese.
That was the main course but as we are both fans of baklava, dessert was the main event for us. This is where Saraydan, and its in-house bakery, really comes into its own.
The lightest flaky pastry, the baklava has just enough sugar syrup to make it sweet without being cloying. Order the mixed baklava platter for two and those with a sweet tooth will go away sated. There is even a modern style of baklava with chocolate inside.
Authentic Saraydan may be, but we are told its most popular dish tralice, sponge cake that is made wet with syrup and milk and the top covered with caramel sauce, is originally not from Turkey. The caramel on top provides a sweet balance to the wet texture of the centre. Again, this looks like it is going to be heavy but is instead somehow refreshing.
Before you go, and while your coffee is being prepared, have a quick look at all of the delicious Turkish desserts on offer. There is everything from künefe and güllaç to tatil with lemon filling and, of course, many different varieties of baklava, as well as desiccated coconut with strawberry flavour and sutlac plus different savoury and delicious looking breads. It’s hard not to take a selection away with you.
Location: Deerfields Mall
We say: Indulgent Turkish delights rooted in rich heritage.
Cost: Roughly AED 100 for two
Opening times: Daily, 8am-midnight
Contact: 02 563 2133