Thursday, February 7, 2013

Aqua Restaurant: Four Seasons Bosphorus gets a "visit" from the Four Seasons Firenze!

Dear readers,

For those of you who read my post on Bird Bar & Grill which I posted yesterday, I mentioned I had some time to spare before I have an event to attend in the evening...

Well... hot off the presses! I was fortunate enough to be invited to an evening of Tuscan style Italian cuisine prepared at the hands of Vito Mollica, the Michelin star chef of Il Palagio Restaurant located at the Four Seasons Firenze in Italy and hosted by Patrizio Cipollini, General Manager of the hotel and attended by Daniela Trovato, Director of Sales & Marketing and organized at the fine dining Aqua Restaurant at the Four Seasons Bosphorus in Istanbul!

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul on the Bosphorus

After that very long sentence... I love Italian food and had my fair share of it especially when I lived in NYC! I don't know the Italian population in the city, but I'm sure it's up there! So, besides eating a great selection of different goodies at Italian restaurants, I did have many Italian friends so I was exposed to lots of home cooked Sicilian dishes too (which to this day are my favorites... give me a shrimp marinara or eggplant parmiagano and I'm in tenth heaven!). Besides as far as I'm concerned - nothing beats a slice of pizza with a diet coke from an Italian Pizza Parlor in New York!

After moving back to Istanbul, I got used to eating more Northern Italian style dishes and I believe I've never tried typical "Tuscan style" Italian food until last night and what a wonderful introduction it was!

While we waited for everyone to arrive, we sat at the Lobby Lounge Bar and started our "Italian" evening with prosecco and a variety of appetizers, but quickly moved over to Aqua restaurant after all the guests arrived where our elegantly appointed white table cloth table awaited us!

Aqua Restaurant @ Four Seasons Bosphorus
Chef Vito Mollica prepared a 5-course menu for us and the dishes were accompanied with 3 Italian wines....

I'm still pretty much a novice when it comes to Italian wines and grapes and hope to change that once I get a chance from tasting French and Turkish wines. The first two courses were served with white wine (similar to a sauvignon blanc), Chianti Classico for the following two courses and Passito with our dessert.

Vito Mollica will be the guest chef at Aqua Restaurant through February 10 and I'm definitely not just saying this - if you live in Istanbul, I highly suggest you go to Aqua for dinner or brunch on Sunday. You can make your selections from his a la carte menu or he has prepared a different degustation menu for each evening which is priced at 140 TL for the food and 60 TL for the wine pairing (prices include VAT).

The best way to explain what we ate is to show you their pictures... so here goes!

Our first course... called Piccola Tuscan Ribolita is a hearty popular Tuscan soup prepared with bread and vegetables... and it was a great introduction to what was coming from our Michelin star chef!

Next up and a dish that is just too die for was crab meat and ricotta cheese with citrus dressing! I think if I was given another portion, I could have easily eaten that too! I mean, how can something so simple taste sooooo good! I guess that's the answer right there!

What's an Italian food tasting without pasta? Next up and also excellent was homemade Cavatelli pasta with marinated prawns and baby about cooked to perfection! Al Dente is a concept that has to make it into the homes of Turkish families because most of the time pasta is cooked to death, but really should be firm to the bite!

When I go out to eat, 10 times out of 10, I never order lamb! I'm sorry to say that lamb is not something I prefer and I have never gotten a taste for it although the majority of Turks love it and use it quite often in dishes! But, that doesn't mean I won't try it if I am offered it - like during this tasting! Chef Mollica prepared us a dish called "roasted lamb with sautéed artichokes, mint and olive crust"...The lamb was braised just right and I loved the artichokes!

Now, it was time for dessert - something which I have a very difficult time saying no to as  I'm constantly battling the bulge (lost 11 kg and have maintained it for 6 months, but if I continue eating dessert often, I will definitely run into trouble!).

When we were served a tiny dish with a small bit of sorbet, Çağdaş Ertuna, a columnist at Milliyet newspaper and sitting to my left and I both said "is that it?" and were disappointed! But, we quickly realized that this was just a "palate cleanser" and the real dessert arrived a few minutes later!

This dessert was called "layer of amarena (a sour dark colored Italian cherry grown in the Bologna and Modena regions of Italy) compote, lime mousse, pistachio crumble, amarena sphere sorbet"! I'm normally a chocoholic, but this was a very refreshing dessert and capped off my meal very well! And... the dessert was prepared by the Four Seasons Bosphorus's French pastry chef Ghislain Gaille.

What a lovely meal! What a lovely evening! During dinner I was seated next to Patrizio the GM of the Four Seasons Firenze and he reminded me that we had met when he last visited Istanbul several years ago for an event at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet. I also met Daniela Trovato, the Director of Sales & Marketing and we had a chance to chat before and after the dinner and sharing the same name, (Dani or Danielle is my middle name) we will surely not forget each other's names! Chef Mollica also made sure to pop out of the kitchen often and explain the dishes to us and it was delightful meeting him too!

Chef Vito Mollica, Daniela Trovato, Patrizio Cipollini & Dani (left to right)
Of course, I can't end this post without saying a few words about Leonardo Baiocchi (also an Italian!), the General Manager of the Four Seasons Bosphorus and Sibel Benli in charge of PR and Marketing for this site as well as the Four Seasons Sultanahmet. I only had a chance to meet Leonardo a couple of months ago, but know Sibel for over 5 years. They were also in attendance and were very modest and stood in the background as the team from Florence was hosting the event. I also had a chance to meet Florence Zwicky who has been the Director of F&B at the Four Seasons Bosphorus for the past 10 months.

I'm sure you are salivating at the food when reading this post. Like I said if you are in Istanbul, definitely make a reservation and try the food for yourself - you have until February 10th However, if you don't live in Istanbul, don't worry... you can always go to Il Palagio Restaurant at the Four Seasons Firenze... and make sure to say "Dani from Istanbul sent me" - I think they would get a kick out of that.

Also, I want to share a picture of this property with you... look at those lush gardens and sprawling grounds! I know where I'll be going on my next visit to Florence! Sure, I'm sure it's very expensive, but you gotta live life to its fullest and find a way to treat yourself from time to time!

Stay well!

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