Monday, October 7, 2013

Guest Chef Paula DaSilva's menu at Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel...

Dear readers,

It has been quite a while since I last wrote a post in my blog! In fact, my last post was over a month ago on September 2nd! 

It hasn't been that I didn't have anything to write about - I always do, but it has been a busy month. First, I had to recover from my summer vacation in Alaçatı, Çeşme and just when I got my act together, I took a trip to my favorite city in the world - Paris! Of course, then I had to recover from that trip and here we are!

While in Paris, I received an email from  Artı Public Relations inviting me to a tasting menu prepared by Paula DaSilva at the fairly new (opened one year ago) Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel, which is literally a hop, skip and jump from my apartment, but alas because of bad weather (rainy and cold) on the day of the invite (October 1), I still had to take a cab. 

A subsidiary of Polat Holding, the Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus is the Holding's 2nd hotel in Istanbul and third throughout Turkey (Erzurum). The 5-star eco-friendly certified hotel is ideally located on Barbaros Bulvarı in Balmumcu which is at the half way point between Beşiktaş and Levent, basically the Financial district. The hotel has a total of 214 rooms and suites, an all-day dining restaurant (Art), a terrace bar (212 Bar) and all the other amenities you would expect from a 5-star property. 

As I mentioned earlier, it was a rainy and cold day, but still the view from 212 Bar (17th floor of hotel) where our private Paula DaSilva's tasting menu dinner was held was still breathtaking (but alas, I forgot to take a picture of just the view!)...

@212 Bar (Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel)
The table was beautifully set, and the fireplace warmed us up...
@212 Bar Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel
as we sipped our cocktails and waited for everyone to arrive. Our small, intimate group included Ms. Songül Sel, Deputy Chairman at Polat Holding, Ms. Anıl Boydaş Tınaz, the hotel's General Manager, wining and dining writers/journalists Mr. Teoman Hünal, Mr. Mehmet Yaşin and Mr. Mehmet Yalçın (I wrote mr. and ms. to make it easier to understand their genders), myself and other reps from hotel and PR company.

I usually like to do my "homework" before attending these types of dinners with guest chefs, but I went "cold" this time and had no idea who Paula DaSilva was before I attended and let her do most of the explaining...

Paula DaSilva
In my opinion, Paula is an excellent chef and I'm very happy that I had the chance to meet her and taste her delectable dishes... and the best part is, if you live or will be visiting Istanbul through the end of November, you will have a chance to taste her dishes too (but this time prepared by the hotel's Executive Chef Manuel Evan Sotomayor).

Briefly, Paula was born in Brazil, moved to the USA when she was 7 years old (Boston) and grew up around food as her parents owned restaurants first in Boston and then in Florida and as Paula called them, they were "mom and pop" restaurants specializing in Brazilian cuisine. The 33 year-old chef was the runner up in the 5th season of Hell's Kitchen in 2009; she was the Executive Chef at 1500 Degrees restaurant in Miami and now is the Executive Chef at 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida... 

The following are the dishes included in the tasting menu...

Cod Fish Croquettes (stuffed with potato, cream, spices) and Sea Bass Ceviche (top and bottom)

Sun-Dried Beef Tacos, "Coxinha" Brazilian Style Chicken Croquettes and Shrimp Tacos (left to right)

Oxtail Stew with Okra, Greens, Rice and Egg
Grilled Picanha (top round) with Vinaigrette, Grilled Corn with Cotija Cheese and Black Bean Puree
(top and bottom)
Chocolate Truffles, Caramel Flan and Passion Fruit Mousse (left to right)
I'm not going to bore you with details of every dish that we had, but suffice to say they were all very good. First, I would like to add that according to some interviews that I read on the internet conducted with Ms. DaSilva, she has stated that she doesn't like fusion and prefers to bring out the natural flavors of products. Her cooking technique has been referred to as "rustic" cooking and I totally agree. She is very good and blends her dishes with just the right amount of herbs and spices to bring out their natural flavors. Ms. DaSilva also joined us between courses to explain how she prepared the dishes and gave us information on the ingredients.

In brief ... the "Sea Bass Ceviche" was excellent and I could have eaten a few more servings. She had added just the right amount of lime juice and the red onions added an extra "kick". 

The "Sun Dried Beef" used to prepare this dish is a Brazilian specialty and is a product she brought with her from the USA. It  was very good as was the shrimp tacos with avocado and cabbage. 

The "Oxtail Stew" was surprisingly better than I thought because I am not a fan of oxtail, but the okra was crispy and the spinach and peppers (not spicy) and spices used masked the taste of the oxtail for me.

"Grilled Picanha" or top round used is not a commonly use cut of meat and is a little bit tough compared to other cuts of meat. The grilled corn with cotija cheese (similar to Pecorino Romano cheese) was very very good.

All three desserts were delicious! Who says Executive Chef's can't bake! The chocolate truffle was one the best I've had; the flan was light and creamy and the passion fruit mousse was fluffy and moist.

Also, we were served a selection of wonderful Chilean wines which I had never tried before and each one complemented the grouping of dishes we had very well. 

What better way to finalize our Brazilian feast, but with a good old cup of Turkish coffee I say...

As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, all of these dishes will be available through the end of November at Art Restaurant located on the first floor of the hotel... (the restaurant also has an outdoor terrace dining area for smokers)
Art Restaurant @Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel
Unfortunately, 212 Bar is just that - a bar and food is not served, but definitely a place worth visiting for cocktails and to enjoy a lovely view of the Bosphorus from it's indoor perch or two outdoor terraces on either side. 

Happy dining!

Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel
Barbaros Bulvarı No. 145 Balmumcu  - Beşiktaş
Tel: +90 212  340 70 00 

Stay well!