Tasty Delights at an Istanbul Hotel

The Four Seasons Sultanahmet opened in the past few years. The building was formally a prison in Constantinople, one made famous worldwide when the 1978 film "Midnight Express" was partially filmed on location here. That movie made a huge impression on me some 30 years ago. I sat sipping a very good Turkish white wine, Kav, while describing the scenes from the movie to my wife. It only added to the enjoyment of the evening.

Our hostess, Pinar, and the wait staff were very attentive and friendly. I had to smile when we realized a mistake with the restaurant iPod created an evening of Christmas music -- which I love anyway -- in juxtaposition to the call to prayer we could hear from the two nearby famous mosques.

Dessert was described on the menu as "twice-baked cheese" but it was much more than that. Similar to an Italian tiramisu, it was a combination of layers of pastry alternated with ricotta cheese doused with a syrup and covered with powered coffee. It was quite rich, but very good. During the height of the Empire, desserts would have been made from dried fruits and honey with some flour or semolina based pastry. Cheese was a luxury item reserved for palace menus. Gok has combined the best of both for an excellent end to the tasting menu.

It was a special occasion for my wife and me, so we were planning to splurge a bit anyway, but I was quite surprised at how reasonable it was, considering that we were in a beautiful hotel in an exceptional city.

The drinks we had on the terrace overlooking the city and the Sea of Marmara before dinner were a little pricey, but the dinner for two with a bottle of wine was about $100 a person. For the beautiful surroundings, the "Midnight Express" memory, the Christmas music and the history lesson, it was well worth it.

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