Mekan Istanbul

It occurred to me as I sat alone in Mekan Istanbul, watching motionless staff staring blankly ahead as generic sax music played in the background, that the venue had the atmosphere of very big, elaborately decorated elevator. This said, I’d have probably had more chance of being served in an elevator – I’d been waiting for a good 20 minutes for my starters and was beginning to lose hope. I caught the attention of a wandering waiter and enquired as to the whereabouts of my mantar dolma. He retreated into the kitchen, only to emerge and inform me that the mushrooms with garlic and kadhar cheese were ‘in the oven’. I was relieved there was an oven. He resumed his aimless wander and I resumed looking about the vast restaurant and the numerous pictures of bearded men adorning the faux brick walls. I’d heard good things about this restaurant, and initially I was encouraged by its over-the-top decor and ramshackle-regal appearance. However, playing the waiting game with an empty stomach is never good for one’s mood and I was beginning to wish I’d ordered something more simple from the sizeable menu – traditional kebab, perhaps, or one of the pies stuffed with minced meat and kashar cheese. Instead I was waiting for my stuffed-mushroom starter, and I didn’t want to think how long it would take for my mains to arrive. I glanced around at the three other unlucky diners – an elderly man who could have been my age when he arrived in the restaurant, and a confused-looking Japanese couple. It seemed they were enduring a similar wait, so I took small comfort in the fact the joke wasn’t just on me. I picked again at the flatbread, only to remember it was verging on stale. I pushed the plate away and sipped at my Coke. Movement from the kitchen door and I saw a waiter labour towards me, brandishing two dishes. Two dishes? Yet there was no mistake about it: he was heading to my table with my starter and my main course of tas kebab – a lamb stew with aubergine, served in a garlic yoghurt. Like most restaurant patrons, I’m used to having my starters before my mains, but here they thought it simpler just to dump both courses on my table at once. At least I wouldn’t have to endure a similar wait for my main course, but at first glance and then first forkful, I wished that it had never arrived at all. The aubergines of this dull red, lukewarm stew had failed to make an appearance, and I was left with gristly, chewy chunks of lamb and a dry mound of white rice. I peered hopefully over at the mantar dolma, which by contrast looked fantastic. I pierced one with my fork and ate it whole. It squelched and squirmed in my mouth. The mushroom hadn’t been cooked properly and though the kadhar cheese wasn’t overly disagreeable, the dish as a whole just didn’t work. I returned my attention to the smear of stew on my plate. I tried my best to give it another chance, but after two forkfuls I was too depressed to continue and looked around to ask for the bill. The staff were still staring into nothing. They looked as depressed as I did, but at least I was able to escape before close. I’d been told that the traditional kebabs were good, though as I paid the bill I resigned myself that I’d never know whether this was the case, because I wouldn’t be coming back. The bill (for one) 1x Mantar dolma Dhs25 1x Tas kebab Dhs55 1x Coca cola Dhs8 1x Water Dhs4 Total (excluding service) Dhs92

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