For 10 days in mid-March, the flagship restaurant at the Hilton in Mangaf went all things Turkey. From the change in façade out front to the whirling Dervishes found within, it was a little slice of Istanbul in our very own Kuwait. Beyond the attention to aesthetic detail and delicious foods that lie within, there is intent afoot to truly provide a genuine slice of Turkish life into the hands of Kuwaitis.
Twice a year, the Hilton, best known locally for their 5 beautiful beaches and equally exquisite spa, focuses their efforts abroad by bringing an authentic take on international cuisine to our own local tables. While this may seem like a standard aim for a multinational brand that already boasts several international dining experiences on premise- this is where they get to offer the market the crème de le crème of authentic dining and lifestyle.
For this purpose, it all starts with an attempt to target a culinary experience that is otherwise not available, or is underrepresented in the Kuwaiti dining scene; this March they chose to feature Turkey, and all the culinary character and cultural allure that this colorful nation proudly provides. The first thing they do for these bi-annual food fairs, is spare no expense in bringing in experts from the home country being featured, that they might be sure to get the cultural experience just right. In this case that meant calling in a total of three chefs, each with their own particular Turkish specialty. Chefs Halil Sucu, Aydemir Güler, and Ali Ocak all of the Hilton in Istanbul, packed their knives and recipes and came over to Kuwait for a tutorial in the nuances of their motherland. In coordination with Executive Chef Abdulkader Yamout, they brought more than 85 years of Turkish cooking experience to the event. As a 5 star property itself, and most notably, the first International location of Hilton Hotels worldwide- the talent that was brought in for our culinary delight was top notch.
When each was asked for their personal recommendation it seemed all of the chefs had a tough time deciding. So we forced them to only choose from the products they prepare. For Ali, in his role as Junior Sous Chef, which features all of the salads and cold dishes, he says the Dolmas are some of the best you will ever taste. Aydemir, the Chef de Partie who does main courses, on the other hand fancies any sort of Kebab. And for his part, Halil, the Pastry Chef, says that you really can’t go wrong by finishing everything off with his Baklava. These three classic Turkish dishes should have your mouth watering without a doubt. The gregarious spirit of the chefs showed a clear and uninhibited passion for sharing the food of their home country with you. As international ambassadors for their country, they achieve their goal in spades.
In addition to the food they add in the cultural component. This means, amongst other things, beginning with good music to provide the perfect backdrop of ambiance. They were able to bring over a local band from Turkey to play and they have thus far been well received. They also have all the waiters donning Turkish uniforms to further enhance the feel and increase the overall experience. One begins to imagine as they pass through the pillars in front that they just might be passing the rock pillars in Cappadocia. In addition, the event was launched under the patronage of the Turkish Embassy in Kuwait so as to be sure to best represent their nation; the addition of Turkish Airlines, Hyundai Kuwait, and Burgan Bank also proved benificial. One other point of note worth mention is that during the festival they offer a raffle, wherein the winner gets a free trip to Istanbul.
Given that the Turkish Festival is actually just one of two international food events that the Hilton holds each year, it would be a good idea to keep your ears peeled for the next one. In fact, with the current one now just closing, they are already attempting to decide which nation will next receive the coveted honor of coming to Kuwait towards the end of the year. For now, we will have to wait and see!