Tantuni is “a traditional Southern Turkey street food cuisine”, which comprises of “thinly diced beef cooked in a special way in our special pans with Turkish spices”, according to Cem Sungar, owner of the two-week old restaurant of the same name, nestled amidst the towers of Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) in Dubai.
I was intrigued, having never had this cuisine before, and decided to take him up on his offer of dining at the restaurant. Researching on the internet, I found that tantuni is a popular street food in Turkey. I found this website which gave a little more insight into the dish, which says that it started out as a poor man’s dish – meat with a lot of fat stuffed into bread.
So I toddled off to the restaurant, which was quite easy to find (location details and transport methods given below). Once there I was given a quick idea of what tantuni is and how it’s made.
A large flat frying pan, with a pit in the centre awaited us. Thinly diced boiled beef or chicken (note: traditionally, tantuni is made with beef, but Sungar decided to have chicken as an option for non-beef eaters in the UAE) wait on the side to be fried.
Adding oil to the centre, the beef is fried to perfection, and the bread that will eventually be used to wrap the meat and vegetables up into a roll (which I believe is called dürüm) soaks up the juices from the frying pan, to add that extra flavour when it’s finally ready. Onions, tomatoes, Turkish spices (including sumac) and fresh herbs are added to the mix before being expertly rolled up.
How do we eat a tantuni roll? Squeeze the lemon provided, and a little cumin powder along the length of the roll (outside, not inside) and if you’re into spicy food, keep the picked hot peppers on the side too. Then bend the tantuni roll in the middle, so as to create a U-shape… and eat! Beware, this is a messy affair, so be thankful for the plate and paper preventing an even bigger mess.
What did we think of the food? Extremely juicy, was the first thought. It’s very flavourful, and the method of using the bread to soak up juices left by the meat in the frying pan did the trick. We tried both the beef and chicken tantuni, and the unanimous decision was that while both were well done, the beef was superior. It makes for a nice snack or a light lunch if having just one roll, but if you’re hungry, go for two. There’s also the option of ordering a tantuni sandwich instead of a roll, which finds the meat stuffed into bread, which is potentially more filling. Haven’t tried the sandwich version, but I do plan to.
We also tried their salads – the Bostan salad (fresh tomatoes and green leaves mixed with şalgam/Turnip juice), and the Ezme salad (tomato paste and onion salad served with pomegranate sauce). I personally didn’t care very much for the former, but the Ezme salad was a breath of fresh air. Light, refreshing and with a fruity kick, I devoured this salad very fast. It’s a worthy contender, as my companion pointed out, to our beloved green papaya salad in terms of its lightness and freshness. Winner dish, this one.
Among the drinks to be found at the restaurant are ayran (fresh yoghurt mixed with water and salt) and a traditional Turkish drink called şalgam, which is basically turnip juice. The latter is an acquired taste to be honest, and I probably need a few more tastings to be able to finish one bottle…haven’t acquired that taste yet! The ayran however is tart and provides a calming balance to the juicy meat and the highly sweet dessert.
Ah yes, dessert. While the restaurant serves baklava, we tried the Sekerpare, described as small baked doughs with nuts coated in sugar syrup. Reminiscent of Indian sweets in a way, this one was soft, crumbly and paired really well with the expertly created Turkish tea. The tea is not on the menu yet, but Sungar plans to add both tea and Turkish coffee to the restaurant’s offerings soon. Cannot wait!
The restaurant serves up authentic tantuni, with all the chefs brought in from Turkey. Sungar says the motivation to start the restaurant lay in missing this traditional street food. The venue also has combo options, which are well worth the price.
FooDee (and companion) ate:
Two beef tantuni rolls + One Bostan salad + One Turkish Ayran = AED 40/-
Two chicken tantuni rolls + One Ezme salad + One Turkish Ayran = AED 38/-
One şalgam juice = AED 5/-
One sekerpare = AED 15/-
TOTAL: AED 98/- [for two people]*
*Note: I was a guest of the owner of Tantuni, but these are the prices had I paid for the food we ate. The rolls on their own are AED 17 for beef and AED 15 for the chicken.
I was happy with the food and service, and we decided to order from the restaurant for lunch the next day. Yes, they deliver, from Discovery Gardens all the way to the edge of Barsha. So Dubai Media City and TECOM folk, rejoice! The next day, the food was still the same: the beef tantuni roll was excellent, as was the Ezme salad. The Ayran was just as I remembered. Consistent food then. Perfect.
Tantuni does what it says: serve up traditional Turkish fast food. I advise you to try the beef if you eat it; you will not be disappointed. To Sungar and his crew at the restaurant, we would like to say, teşekkür ederim. And that we shall return for some more tantuni!
Practical tips: The restaurant is located in Cluster D, Lake Terrace Tower on the Lake Level. For metro users, nothing could be simpler – hop off the JLT Metro station, and once you exit the station, you will see Cluster D to your left. For those who are driving, there is some parking to be found in that cluster. Once you get to the building ground floor level, go to the left of the building and take the stairs to the lake level. Et voila! They are currently on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/TantuniJlt, and the owner says Twitter is the next step!