Although it would be cool to have a cafe full of ottoman chairs, Ottoman here refers to the Ottoman Empire, or Turkish Empire. Helmed by Turkish Chef Ali Kose, who worked as a sous chef at Gordon Ramsay‘s Michelin-starred Maze in London, the halal-certified restaurant is under First Gourmet, which is behind Zaffron Kitchen and Prata Wala. The lunch and dinner sets come with an apple tea and daily soup, starting from $8.50 for lunch to the most expensive $20.50 dinner set. Rather good value.
Starters & Sides
The homous ($6), or as Americans call it, hummus, a chick pea dip with tahini (ground sesame paste), lime, and garlic, is smooth but a tad bland for us. However, for the sake of pide bread ($2), cooked over lava stones, exploding with the aroma of charcoal, order the homous to mop the bread with. The bread tastes like sunshine on a rainy day.
Cheese borek ($6 for 6 pcs) is feta cheese wrapped in deep-fried “popiah” skin, nice and easy. It is difficult to find a good falafel ($5 for 3) in Singapore and since this falafel (and cheese borek) is cooked upon ordering, it is comforting, and one of the better falafels I have had.
Chiobu raves about how delicious the Iskender mutton kebab ($18.50) is: grilled minced mutton atop crispy pide croutons, drizzled with a sauce of sun-dried tomatoes, celery, carrots, shallots, and dried mint; yogurt on the side to undercut the richness if you need it. Chiobu likes the intense characteristic “muttony” taste.
I prefer the shish kebab, or skewered meat. Having tried the Ottoman shish platter ($29), with a combination of beef, chicken, and seafood, with pide and pilav (buttered) rice–they are available as individual skewers from $7.50-$12.50– the beef and chicken are fantastic. They have serious starbursts of burnt ends that I relish, extremely smoky, and still retain their moistness. Chiobu opines the beef is tough but I don’t think so, it has a bite that I like. Besides, as our mama says whenever we whine about tough food, “Bo gay [toothless] is it?”
Kunefe ($8.50), freshly prepared upon order, is a nabulsi goat cheese encased within shredded kadayif phyllo pastry, which is then pan-fried with butter and drizzled with sugar syrup, and topped with crushed pistachio. It is super delicious. On first bite, it tastes like caramel popcorn, tinged with a little salt (from the cheese), leaving a buttery aftertaste. Some around our table find it oily from the butter, but as Julia Child says, there is never too much butter. (Ok, she didn’t say it but she might have.) Although Chef Ali has already reduced the sweetness–if you know Middle Eastern cuisine, you’d know Arabs eat really saccharine food–some around our table still find the dessert too sweet, but as the PR notes, “Hey you finished three quarters of it.” Haha, I can’t complain, I like sweet things, and I can eat 10 kunefe. This is one of the most interesting and layered desserts I have this year.
Ottoman Kebab & Grill
311 New Upper Changi Road, Bedok Mall #01-75, Singapore 467369
T: 6702 4031
Rating: 3.500/5 stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
ps: Thanks, Chenyze, for the hospitality.