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We will send regular newsletters to our members who have signed up for receiving it during the registration. In 'mymerhaba' newsletter, our editorial staff provides updates, with regard to any information related to places worth visiting, viewing, or otherwise worth knowing, for those who care to know more....

Kanaat Restaurant - Seventy Year of Culinary Tradition

Photo: Turkishtime
 Untitled Document The following article was published in August 2003 issue of Turkishtime.

Seventy year culinary tradition

The secret of Kanaat Restaurant serving in Üsküdar for 70 years is hidden in a single sentence: Cooking is not done by a recipe but with the soul; what you need is not good ingredients but morals.

Let's assume the end of the 1880s and let's start this story from the beginning; the very beginning where memory and legend flashes back. The Albanian family, who would take "Kargılı" as their surname after the surname law, migrated to Istanbul where they had been coming for years to buy ingredients. What sort of ingredients? They were Albanians; their prowess lay in setting up tables that whetted appetites; they lived on this magic in their hands.

Vahdettin Kargılı, with a double-scaled ice-cream hanger on his shoulders, sold ice-cream and pastry wafers on Istanbul's cobbled streets. There was something so different about his ice-cream, it melt in the mouth so creamily…Business went well and Mr. Vahdettin was "promoted" to a three-wheeled handcart. Business thrived on and somehow the ice-cream gave him the means to open a humble restaurant downtown. He had his two brothers Fuat and Kenan with him. They named it "Kanaat" (meaning to be contented with little). They were from those people who know how to make do with scarce. They did what they knew; they cooked in a moral way. The magic was already in their hands.

1200 hungry stomachs a day
Must be a code of information transmitted by genes; the second generation managers of Kanaat Restaurant open their doors every day keeping in mind the same bit of information, now serving with the same down-town restaurant mentality but in a slightly larger place. They touch at least 1200 people's stomachs per day. At one corner are apprentices of lathe operators at lunch break with their greasy overalls, as well as members of Turkey's affluent families whose surnames adorn the list of the world's wealthiest. Pop singers, football players, artists, celebrities and strings of tourists from Germany, China and France who flock to Üsküdar on the heels of their guides. Kanaat Restaurant is also the favorite stop of the council of gourmets having enlarged their writing space in newspaper or magazine pages.. How did this reputation and responsibility descend on those who took over from their fathers?

We took refuge in Kanaat Restaurant one Saturday, as the asphalt melted in the blood-pressure-dropping heat of July, inside we gave the deepest sigh of relief. Mr. Vahdettin's son Mr. Mustafa was at the till as usual. He knows no such thing as a summer holiday since the age of 7; he's done all kinds of work at the restaurant. He admits himself that surely, it isn't a must for him to stay at Kanaat seven days a week, granted that he leaves a shrewd and deft manager at the head of business. "But this is what we've seen from our father, we mustn't feel a scratch of discomfort about not being there, the customer should trust that the boss is here, in case of a problem". That's why, although they hear of wishes, neither Mr. Mustafa, nor his brother Mr. Murat or Mr. Bahadır, son of their uncle Fuat Kargılı, are keen on opening another branch: "Primarily, we don't have an aggressive approach".

Mr. Mustafa never thought of doing something else in life, because it never occurred to him that there could be another world other than this restaurant, which was enlarged ten-fifteen years ago. He is not least bothered about this; he finds Turkish and especially Ottoman cuisine incredible. "What we call artichoke was first grown in Spain, you'd say, then what's it doing here. You should turn back to Ottomans, follow Andalusia and so on…"

Unwittingly he shouldered a historical mission, he realized, when he "grew up", what his father meant, that in that shop, something else was being done other than filling up stomachs. And hence, let no one be offended, but they don't care about the bucketful of compliments for their enterprise, the flattering by gourmets and the business cards of their customers. They still do their father's ice-cream. To those who ask, he says, "milk, sahlep (root of orchis mascula) and sugar…If you want, I can give exact measurements of every dish that is made here. You know they call it 'art'. Here, this art has been done for forty-fifty years by cooks and staff trained by them, eyes closed with a pinch of salt or sugar. You may call it soul or something else."

Kanaat Symphony Orchestra
Chicken Vermicelli Soup, Kebab in Pastry, Meatballs with Lemon Sauce, Lamb in Béchamel Sauce, Beef Braised in Pan, Aubergine Moussakka, Hariko Beans in Olive Oil... We wonder which dishes are in demand. Contrary to the trend of "a healthy life and diet " ruling in the world, Mr. Mustafa says that meat dishes are the most preferred. We peek at the proportions of the plates; these meat dishes are something else. Two choices are left: Either Turks perceive "healthy living" as the mental health induced by feasting the stomach or people who normally count their calories save their flings for Kanaat Restaurant.

Although they've tried it for a while, music isn't played at the restaurant. But as you eat, you discover background music of the scrape of forks and knives against the plate, the sipping of glasses, dialogues going on in between mouthfuls and slurping. That sweltering day of July, with the Kanaat Symphony Orchestra in our ear, we talked with Mr. Mustafa about the nobleness of Istanbul which the city still hasn't lost even as it ruins itself, the metaphysical evolution of vegetables and meat fused with each other by human hands onto white porcelain plates, the magic of life and cities; the morals of food, cities and life. It was as delicious as their fathers' recipe, the strawberry, lemon, cream and chocolate flavored ice-cream. The fate of Kanaat Restaurant depends on the choices of the third generation. That's life; it melts away. What falls on us is to "kanaat" (be contented with) what's in our hands.
Tel: (216) 553 37 91

 




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