Hamov: Truth in Advertising
Around lunchtime, the phone at Hamov never stops ringing. The little pink delivery scooter and its tireless driver stay in perpetual motion in order to feed a neighborhood full of loyal customers good home-style lunches where they seem to prefer it, in their homes.
Most seem to call in for the day’s specials, which, on a recent visit, included an excellent green lentil soup, fried zucchini fritters (mucver) and fresh green beans with little shreds of lamb for flavoring. But in addition to the brisk delivery business, the small dining room fills up quickly, so we suggest arriving on the early side of the lunch rush in order to get the full attention of the kitchen.
To sum up Hamov as a typically excellent ev yemekleri, or home cooking, restaurant would be true but a vast underestimation of the place. Hamov is run by a mother-daughter team of local Armenians who prepare a number of lesser-known specialties alongside the usual lunch suspects.
We are hesitant to assign ethnicity to any food we encounter in Turkey, but certain Anatolian oddities seem to emerge only when there is an Armenian in the kitchen. If not for their ethnic origin, we relish the chance to sample these specialties because they are so rarely served in restaurants.
Topik, a great mound of tahini, stuffed with chopped onions and mashed chickpeas, is a notch on the bedpost of any culinary adventurer. We’ve only seen it at a few traditional meyhanes around Istanbul. The topik at Hamov, which looked like a Cinnabun and had the pleasant mouth-coating smack of sesame paste, holds its own with any topik in town. But be forewarned, topik is generally available only with advance notice, so call ahead.
After a full lunch and the topik, we asked our waitress what other specialties were on offer. She seemed to size us up with a glance, “Do you eat organs?” We confirmed and she insisted we try the dalak dolma, or stuffed spleen. We were expecting something resembling mumbar, the Gaziantep-style intestine stuffed with rice and boiled like a bratwurst. Rather limp and lacking the low notes that organ meat usually delivers, mumbar has never been one of our favorites. Luckily, Hamov’s stuffed spleen reminded us nothing of mumbar.
Slices of the stuffed spleen were battered and fried recalling kadin budu kofte. The spleen announces its presence with the first bite. A certain sense of guilt accompanied the rich blast of the organ, which was gently flavored with cinnamon and mint. We weren’t sure that we should be eating spleen, but we liked it.
As we finished our meal, a hefty woman – here faced flushed from working in the hot kitchen – peered out of the back to see who had ordered the topik and dalak dolma. Perhaps she was expecting to see someone from the choir at her church, but she appeared no less gracious to find the two new converts to the Armenian kitchen smiling back at her. “Ellerine saglik,” we said blessing her hands. “Afiyet olsun,” she said in response wishing us good health. We are not so sure about the health benefits of our lunch but it was certainly true to its name. In Armenian, Hamov means “delicious.”
Address: Süleyman Nazif Sok. 9 Nişantaşı
(photo by Ansel Mullins)
Post Tags: Armenian cuisine, Istanbul Eats, Istanbul restaurants, specialty foods, vegetarian