For anyone who has ever been to Kalkan, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, you’ll know how difficult it is to pick a restaurant to dine in, let alone one that stands out. The small town apparently boasts around 300 restaurants, from harbourside establishments to its trademark rooftop venues with views across the town and beyond the harbour to the glistening sea.
We’ve been to Kalkan twice now, and the joy, and issue, every evening is where to eat. You can collect restaurant recommendations, scour Trip Advisor, peruse menus until you’re blue in the face, and still you’ll struggle.
The thing is, they’re all good – it’s rare you get a bad meal in Kalkan. Obviously it can happen, as it can anywhere, but for the most part the food is tasty, the prices reasonable, and the service good.
So why the long introduction? Well, because of all of this, when somewhere stands out so much that you’re rendered speechless, especially amidst a week of eating decent food everyday (sometimes twice!), that makes it pretty special. And that place is Kalamaki.
From the get-go, this restaurant is a cut above. The menu literally speaks at you, its words beckoning you inside. There’s a little less pushing from the man on the door – he knows he doesn’t have to lure you in because the menu will do that. Oh, and not forgetting the stream of people gushing effusively as they leave!
Up the stairs you go, past the kitchen, to the roof terrace, and it’s here that the magic starts. Being a group of five, we were lucky enough to taste loads of dishes on offer, and not one single one was disappointing. I had the Albanian liver to start (see a whole blog post on the main page dedicated to this bad boy!), while someone else had shrimps in a buttery garlic sauce, another calamari, and someone else mussels out of their shells in what can confidently be described as a yummy, creamy sauce.
The liver was the “wow” dish of the starters, but there wasn’t one for the main courses – they were all in a league above any other food we had eaten in Kalkan. From sea bass in a rich creamy bearnaise-style-sauce, edged with fondant potato, to some amazing steaks (pictured below); meaty-yet-subtle swordfish skewers; and a duck breast cooked in an inventive-yet-surprisingly-delicious sauce of orange juice, blackberry jelly, cherry, strawberry, bilberry, raspberry, mint and balsamic vinegar.
Dessert wasn’t the poor relative either, with crispy, light, yet syrup-oozing baklava; delicate fried ice-cream, melting in the middle inside a crispy, nutty, biscuity case; to perfectly-executed creme brûlée sand chocolate fondants. There were the obligatory coffees, and a free shot of amaretto too – a nice touch.
In fact, so good was our first visit to Kalamaki that we felt obliged to return for a second time just to check it was as good as we remembered.
The return visit was no disappointment. So impressed was I by the liver that I tried it again – and it was still excellent. And the Kalamaki Special – beef sautéed in milk and spices with a rich creamy sauce laced with pomegranate and quince was so tender, yet packed with flavour, that I think I won the prize for best main course on that occasion.
Another of our group tried the seafood casserole, absolutely rammed with what they confidently described as “half of the bloody ocean”, while simple grilled sea bream were perfectly cooked, either whole or filleted, and served with a jacket potato that even got the tastebuds going.
But it’s not just the food that makes Kalamaki stand out. It’s the ambience; the chic surroundings; crisp, white table linen and twinkling glassware; modern crockery, excellent food presentation; not to mention the recently-refurbished toilets complete with fish-tank in the wall and an epic waterfall-style tap that is enough to keep anyone mesmerised for minutes.
And of course, it’s the service. I’ve seen the odd critical review about service here, and I can only speak from my own experience, but on both occasions from the minute we arrived to the minute we left, the staff were brilliant. Polite, charming, and knowledgeable about the food, yet friendly and funny to just the right degree. A perfect combination in my book.
We left Kalamaki both times raving about the dining experience we had just enjoyed – obviously a feeling we’d seen aforementioned “effusive gushers” enjoying when we first arrived, and it’s no wonder why. In my opinion Kalamaki has got it just right – but obviously I might have to go back again one day just to check…..