I adore my friend Sarah, but I just cannot get it through my thick skull that she is a vegetarian. I mean no offense. I just assume everyone I know loves meat and offal and obsesses over them as much as I do. So when I heard Kantin in Istanbul’s Nişantaşı district was serving kokoreç (grilled lamb intestines, my favorite Turkish dish), I asked Sarah and our buddy clint to meet me there.
Thankfully, chef Şemsa Denizsel excels at all things culinary and Sarah was able to chow down on a delectable spinach and mushroom pie. Event Clint wasn’t as carnivorous as I had imagined and preferred to split a kokoreç and a çitir (crispy flatbread) with me. This was a decision he would later regret. You see, like most of us, Clint is accustomed to gamey street food kokoreç. It is rare that a quality offal butcher and world class chef team up to prepare this seasonal dish. Kantin’s kokoreç opened Clint’s eyes to the possibility that grilled lamb intestines wrapped around chunks of fat and served on meat-juice soaked toast can be an amazing thing.
But then again, so can a wood fired flatbread topped with slivers of red onion, chard leaves, hazelnuts and crumbled white cheese. There is beauty in lacto-vegetarian dishes, too, and in simple beverages like home made ginger ale. It’s all about balance and moderation. A little suet here, a little leafy green there. It’s all good if it comes from the right place.
Moderation for desserts, however, has no place in this discussion. We each ordered one and they were all fantastic, though I think my chestnut meringue with chestnut mousse won.
Sarah’s mastic pudding was awesome, but one must love mastic to enjoy such a thing. I enjoy the flavor though admit it resembles lavandar soap.
And to close out the meal, Clint ordered irmik helvası, semolina with butter and pine nuts served with ice cream. As good as it was, I think we both secretly wished it was kokoreç.