One of the coolest things about living in DC is that it’s a total melting pot. People from all over the country and world have congregated to our Nation’s Capitol for many reasons, the most common being a government job. This diversity is evident in many ways, but it is extremely apparent in the food scene. Ottoman Taverna, a new Turkish restaurant on the block, is in my opinion one of the best ethic restaurants on the scene today…
My meal at Ottoman was memorable as soon as I set foot in the place. The space they have created is absolutely beautiful and full of natural light. They also have a fairly large bar area that is probably packed daily for the restaurant’s $5 happy hour from 4-7pm. The cocktail list, both happy hour and regular menu, is very impressive and refined. I accidentally ordered a cocktail that was made with gin, which I can barely stomach normally, but was amazed by the enjoyable and complex flavors of the drink and would honestly order it again. My guest also ordered a glass of white wine that was suggested by our server, which was delightfully fruity and paired well with every item we ordered.
For the first course, I ordered the Confit Garlic Hummus and Zeytinyagli Enginar, which is essentially slow-cooked artichoke hearts, carrots, peas, tomatoes. These bites were packed with flavor despite being fairly small in size, and I especially enjoyed how apparent these flavors were even though the dish was served cold. The hummus was out of this world, and its rich and decadent flavor will stay with me probably until my last days on this Earth. This statement is pretty dramatic considering I’m talking about hummus, but it was literally that good.
The main dishes consisted of Adana Kebab, Karnibahar, and Tavada Levrek. Don’t worry, I’ll explain. The Karnibahar was a rich cauliflower stew with tomatoes, onions, and chickpeas, and was exactly the type of thing you would dream of eating when you’re feeling sick or the weather outside is less than desirable. This dish just screams comfort, and it eating it is like receiving a nice, warm hug from a long lost friend.
The Tavada Levrek consisted of pan-seared branzino, mashed fingerling potatoes, capers, tomatoes, and olives with sautéed spinach. Since I go to so many restaurants, I eat a good amount of branzino, since it’s super trendy right now and you can find it on the menu at most places. With that said, Ottoman Taverna’s rendition of this fish is one that will stand out in my mind, as they were able to take this fairly benign white fish and transform it into a meaningful culinary experience. I especially enjoyed the crushed walnut mixture garnish, which was the cherry on top of each bite.
The last savory dish I consumed was the Adana Kebab, which is gluten free if you ask for white rice instead of pita or rice pilaf. The same holds true for all other kebabs on the menu. This kebab was made with char-grilled lamb and beef, and seasoned with red pepper and herbs. The red pepper was very apparent as this meat has a bit of a bite to it, but it was the perfect amount of spice as the heat did not overwhelm the flavor of the meat.
While there aren’t a ton of gluten-free options for dessert, I opted for the Süzme Yogurt & Bal, which consisted of yogurt with honey, candied hazelnuts, strawberry, and pistachio. The yogurt was lavishly thick and rich and leaning towards the savory end of the spectrum, which was balanced perfectly with the fresh honey and fruits.
It is rare that a restaurant can be so refined yet loyal to traditional flavors and customs, but Ottoman Tavern has achieved just that. They have the absolute best Turkish food in the city, and their multiple gluten-free options and flexibility when it comes to dietary restrictions makes it a place that can be enjoyed by many.