Yesterday was my birthday. My tradition is to cook a lovely Bavarian meal of Wiener Schnitzel, potato pancakes, and cucumber salad. This year, I set out in search of a German restaurant in Ankara. I sent an email to my fellow expats requesting information. Alas, I found that Ankara hosts no German restaurants. I did however, find an Austrian restaurant online.
Fine, I thought. As long as the Bavarian cousins don’t find out! (Poor joke, I know.)
I asked about that restaurant too. I received mixed reviews and finally, one email that reported the restaurant had closed.
By evening, I changed pace and decided to check out a well-established, high-end Turkish restaurant. Dafne is situated across from the Russian Embassy and not too far from my home. I had only heard good things and went there in high spirits.
I was disappointed and found it completely over-rated.
We were looking to enjoy the cool evening breezes and in that respect, thought we had found the right place. Entering Dafne, we walked into a beautiful courtyard of trees and flowers. Tables were scattered, not to close to each other, throughout. Lovely. The greeter, however, took us immediately to the back of the courtyard, and sat us next to an unused swimming pool. The pool was being cleaned by one of those small automatic vacuum cleaners.
Why would I want to sit next to the pool and in the back? My husband immediately requested a table in the gardens. They offered one on the other side of the pool, next to the wall. That was worse. So he tried to explain again and they offered to remove the umbrella, so that we could see the sky above better. That was nice, but still not in the garden. They finally peered into the garden and said they had no small tables available.
I had just walked through the courtyard. Except for one larger group, we were the only customers. But not feeling I could argue this anymore, we settled down to the first table next to the faint chlorine scents of the swimming pool. To make matters worse, there was a small wall behind the bus station that blocked our view of the garden. Oh well, it wasn’t soooo bad.
It took some time to go through the lengthy menu. During that time, no drinks were offered. This actually appears to be normal in Ankara, but I expected differently from this place, since it hosted many foreigners.
We finally asked for the wine menu. There were only two options by the glass, white or red. The prices were high, so I thought I would have one glass of white with my appetizers, and just have water with my meal. We asked if the white was dry. “It is regular.” After a few more unanswered questions, he finally offered a taste.
To date, there is only one white Turkish wine that I find completely unpalatable, Kavaklidere Angora. I just can’t get it down. Now there are two. So I ordered the red. It was not as bad, but it was the coldest glass of wine I have been served in my life. Not what one wants in a red!
After about 20 minutes from our entrance, we ordered one meze, a wild thyme and green onion salad and one larger salad. The salad was not as described or pictured. It was more of the traditional Çoban Salad and covered in chopped walnuts. Both were fine. But beware the walnuts! I saved myself from a shattered tooth as I picked many shells from it.
At the same time, we were served a piping hot pide bread (the best part of the evening) with a complimetary side dish of olives and a side of a traditional Turkish spicy red pepper spread. To be honest, if they had served the two earlier, I would never have ordered a salad and an appetizer.
At this point, I was still pretty happy, bad view, bad wine and all. I was looking forward to a nice leisurely dinner with my husband.
Not! Within minutes, our dinners were served. Ugh, we were just getting started and now I felt completely rushed. The sun was still up.
I pushed my dinner to the side as a sign that I was not ready. The servers looked at me like I was a complete alien. Tom Cruise and I are fine with that.
My hubby started on his meal first, lamb chops. While not bad, there was nothing about his lamb that made it any different than any other Turkish restaurant. Four chops, pounded too thin and too heavily spiced. Cooked until beyond dead. Served with a scoop of rice (or bulgar or something like that) with roasted tomato and peppers.
I was hoping for something more special from my meal. There were four steaks on the menu. One smothered in a mushroom sauce. One with a ginger sauce. One with a red wine reduction demi-glace. I chose the fourth, the most expensive item on the menu, the king of all Dafne steaks – one with three undescribed sauces.
Let’s start with the presentation “served on a marble.” I had no idea what that meant. But it wasn’t bad. A large wooden cutting board with some type of metal plate in the middle of it – something like cast iron – held the sizzling steak. Around it were the trio of sauces in small white bowls, with another bowl holding a side of potatoes.
As my steak sat to the side, it continued to sizzle. I worried as we had a difficult enough time explaining that I wanted my steak to be red inside. I could see blood oozing from it. Obviously they were not following a 5-minute resting rule.
I pulled the heavy load in front of me. The table cloth and my shirt became covered with spots of sizzling grease. I cut into the steak. Damn. It was turning to leather! Who would serve a steak like this? It was not a fajita!!
The trio of sauces: ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard? Seriously?! They were doctored, but those were the bases.
The potatoes? Mashed and covered with cheese. Completely dry and pre-baked until the cheese was hard. Barely heated up for me.
The board was so thick that I found it uncomfortable to eat from, not to mention that after 5 minutes, the steak was still sizzling so hard that I felt like I was in a sauna. I asked for a plate.
Happy to help, a server removed almost everything to the plate. I had to help with the grilled tomato. It had sizzled down to a stew.
As is typical in Ankara, and likely in Turkey, no one checked on us or on our meal. Their duties were done. My husband and I enjoyed ourselves regardless. We spent our time, slowly making our way through the overcooked meats, much of which I treated to the kitten at my ankles. (Also typical of Turkey and hard to avoid.)
We were never offered tea or dessert. We finally flagged down a waiter and asked for tea and the check.
At around 100 TL, this meal is probably priced reasonably to most foreigners, but is way high on Turkish standards. One glass of wine,water, two entrees, one salad, one appetizer.
As we stood to leave, I told my husband that the next time I ask to go to a pricey restaurant, he should just tell me “no” and ask me to cook at home. My eye caught the glance of a German woman had just been seated behind us. She clearly understood. I bet she was wishing for homemade Wiener Schnitzel too!
Does anyone know how to ask a butcher for thinly sliced veal cutlet in Turkish?
Aziziye Mah., Karyağdı Sok., Çankaya, Ankara
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