When Hatay Sofrasi came to town in 2015, we knew that we were in for a treat. Why wouldn’t we be? Fresh Turkish dishes served while you bask comfortably underneath the hot sun in the midst of a crisp winter’s day? That was our last experience, at least.
Because September’s weather isn’t as accommodating as December 2015’s was, we obviously opted to sit inside when we recently revisited Hatay’s Murouj location for a light lunch. And were we ever glad we did! The restaurant’s interior was completely changed from its family-style décor two years ago. When you walk in, you’re greeted with a sense of modernity and change. A beautiful open-concept kitchen stretches across the far-left hand side of the restaurant, where chilled meats and ingredients sit on full display behind glass canister counters. The dining hall seemed to be bigger, brighter and more whimsically decorated with scenic portraits depicting landmarks in Turkey’s Hatay region, pops of greenery to complement the dining space’s fresh energy, and even a peaceful fountain babbling quietly in the center alongside the tables. And the layout, now flooded with even more light thanks to large windows adorning the place, provided more empty space for diners to relax at their tables and share leisurely meals, and of course, for the serves servers to display the innovative style in which Hatay’s delicacies are served to diners. My favorite touch? The authentic well accompanied by cold-to-the-touch metal cups that are used for pouring out laban ayran drinks straight from the tap!
Thinking we were going to save the indulgence for another day, we also heard that Hatay’s new look included a brand-new menu, offering all of our Turkish favorites with the addition of extra special delights and staples. We didn’t know, however that “new menu” also meant a literal new menu, reprinted and bound expertly into a hardcover book, which made flipping through our options so much easier, and added to the classic contemporary outcome of Hatay’s makeover. The menu is filled to the brim with even more options to what we already know, and could barely contain our resistance to stray away from decadently delicious simit breads with spread and buttery, flaky bourek pastries. Yet, such cravings had to wait another day to be fulfilled, and so with a fresh-from-the-well cup of refreshing ayran in hand, we placed our order for some of the light bites on the menu.
A lovely salad first arrives, entitled Special Hatay Fatoush Salad. This salad embodies many of the Mediterranean’s best salad qualities: you get your Levantine-inspired holy grail of seasoning (lemon, olive oil, salt and a sprinkle of sumac) with the fresh combination of fresh cut salad vegetables and tangy leaves like rocket and mint. Combine that with Greek salad’s signature addition, lovely chunks of feta cheese, and surprise! Roasted pieces of that delicious simit bread sitting in as croutons! I guess you really can have the best of both worlds.
Alongside the salad, we enjoyed a beautifully made Fattet Eggplant that was stunning in presentation, showcasing the familiarities of the fatteh variations we know and love, with a Turkish twist. The dish was compiled of a bed of eggplants, balilah chickpeas and innovatively shaped crispy fried pita forming shapes that actively made my mind wonder about how they were made. Did they crimp it then fry it? How did they not unravel? Either way, I now know that my fatteh making will be taking a more adventurous turn. Over the eggplants and pita, a generous portion of seasoned yogurt was ladled and topped off with toasted pine nuts, parsley and spices. Absolutely delicious, and very reminiscent of what your mother would make at home – a perfect hack for those craving fatteh, but have no way to get to it.
And then, somebody had placed a small pan of hot cheese bubbling at the table. Called Muhlama, this mixture of melted cecil and feta cheeses, semolina and butter came piping hot and was so inviting that we couldn’t help but tear apart pieces of freshly baked Turkish-style pita bread and dip right into that delicious, addictive and buttery cheese. Good thing it came when it did too, because we had something to munch on while watching the show that was about to be put on for us.
All of a sudden, a man arrives at our table with a cart – which is where the restaurant’s more spacious interior comes in very handy. What’s special about this cart is that it contains a jar that’s quite literally on fire! As the expert server puts the fire out and he begins his preparation process, we learn that this traditional dish is called Cerra Kebap (Meat Jar), and that it contains Meat cubes placed in a clay pot with onion, garlic and vegetables, special sauce blends and selected spices from Hatay, and that it’s been cooked in a wood- red oven. Apparently, this is how people from Hatay eat their stew, and honestly, sign me up! It’s meant to be served with yogurt and rice, but I was more than happy spooning out succulent chunks of meat and vegetables onto my plate and attacking them with pieces of delicious bread. And to this day, when thinking about that little clay pot and its delicious contents, I’m inclined to start torching my meat to give it maximum flavor.
Although we were quite ready to throw in the towel at this light, yet highly effective lunch, we couldn’t do without something sweet, and what we’d eaten wasn’t really heavy as much as it was comforting and sleep-inducing. And so, we opted for a classic Turkish delicacy to satisfy the hankering to end our lovely meal on a sugary note: classic Akdeniz Fistigi topped with Turkish Dondorma ice cream and pistachio. A couple of bites of this baby, coupled with a Turkish coffee straight from the source, and you’re set for life.
Thus concluding our lovely experience at Hatay, we walked out, as always, satisfied and having learned a lot. These are the lessons we’ve learned:
- Arabic food and Turkish food can be similar, only the Turks have more fun with actually making the food.
- It’s time to start setting our meat on fire before we eat it.
- When a restaurant has been as beautifully revamped as Hatay was, sometimes, it’s just as nice, if not even nicer to sit inside.
Hatay Sofrasi is located in Murouj off sixth Ring Road. Follow them on Instagram @hataysofrasi_kw. Hatay is also available on Talabat Go! Order from them today and enjoy your Turkish experience at home with the click of a button.