I’m not going to tell you about a duck

I celebrated my birthday on a night train to Vienna from Berlin. I whiled away the hours in a private, locked cabin, reading and luxuriating in solitude. 

What I did not do was dine. There was no diner car on that train, which surprised me when the porter told me. The conciliatory statement, “but you can purchase crisps or a sandwich from me” didn’t sound enchanting, so I went without and luxuriated in the Vietnamese pork I had the next day in Vienna. 

I mention all this as a prelude to my utter and shameless gluttony, also known as “dinner at my hotel.” I wanted to dress up, but didn’t feel up to wandering around the streets of  80• (f) Istanbul while attired in my finery, so I asked the concierge to get me a table at their restaurant, if possible. 

It was possible — I only saw two couples dining there. I will indulge myself in the fiction that the rest of the hotel was too full from celebrating Eid to eat one more morsel. Yeah, that’s it.

Not terribly hungry — I had something perfunctory on the plane from Vienna — I ordered two dishes. The server added a couple more, “on the house.” The first item was a plate with three breads:

The one to the left was flavored with tomato and basil; the center with toasted walnuts; and the furthest with olives. They were divine, if actually a bit subtle; they set the tone.  Once I had eaten those, they brought gravelox:

After that, the mezze platter I had ordered arrived, and it was a beaut:

Highlights included the locally made cheese (lower left);  muhammara (top right), which is a purée of bell peppers, garlic, olive oil, and other goodies; and the hummus. I wouldn’t have thought I could be surprised by hummus, but this had body and character that balanced the garbanzos, lemon, garlic, and olive oil as I’ve never managed to do.

Once that gave way to my appetite, they brought the masterpiece, Avci Boregi. This divine creation took the form of tender, shredded duck in a butter and cream sauce with local  nushrooms, thinly sliced radish and radish greens, and the occasional pine nut. 

I didn’t bother with dessert. I mean, why?


Zesty paella

After my peregrinations around Berlin’s Museuminsel, I didn’t fancy hunting down dinner, so I opted for Bistro Bardot on the ground floor of my sleek, classy Almodovar hotel. This turned out to be an excellent choice because the fare is prepared with care, attention to food preferences and allergies, and the staff shows a consideration one could only hope to find, after exploring museums between noon and seven in the evening.

After a starter of olives and rustic bread with oil and balsamic vinegar, I worked hard not to inhale my paella with chorizo, crisp red peppers, smoked tofu, and baby peas. The dominant taste came from the saffron without which paella is just an impoverished risotto, but there were also fragrant herbs and the slight acidity of grilled cherry tomatoes (which I removed because I do not like tomatoes).

The dinner enjoyed a hundred and one percent satisfaction rating because the sparkling water served me had the right balance of mineral taste and carbonation. I repaired to my room sated without feeling uncomfortably stuffed.