Joining Lebanese institution Nadimos at Baan Silom, Ottoman serves homespun dishes of another underrepresented cuisine in Bangkok, Turkish. If you judge a restaurant’s authenticity by the ethnic makeup of its clientele, this small kitchen scores high. The bare-bones terrace is filled most nights with sizeable gatherings of Turkish expats, including some families. It’s perhaps telling, though, that many sit for hours nursing a Turkish coffee (B40) or tea (B10).
That’s not to say the food is particularly disappointing; it just lacks the fireworks of other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean offerings around town (that includes neighboring Turkish restaurant Saman). The hard-to-navigate menu covers a solid range of grilled meat and oven-roasted dishes, but the appetizers only hint at the rich flavors of Turkish cuisine. This is partly down to a lack of seasoning; the hummus (B80), for instance, is all chickpea, very little garlic or salt or lemon. Not particularly exciting. Nor is the rest of the mixed appetizer (B180), actually: the salsa like antap ezme gets a pass mark, but the soslu patlican (dried eggplant, garlic and tomato) is almost one-dimensionally sweet. At the plate’s center is a rather sad pile of pickled chilies which seem sapped of all potency, too.
Another starter, the kuru fasulye (stewed white beans and lamb in tomato sauce, B200) is more fiery but overly watery. The accompanying bazlama (Turkish flatbread) is a nice way to soak up the soup-like broth, though. In fact, bread is one thing Ottoman excels at, whether it’s the bazlama, lavas or pide.
Mains are more appealing, though still a little hit or miss. The meat of the adana kebab (ground lamb kebab, B230) is a delicious mix of spices that comes on this wonderfully soft, almost spongy pide. The flavorless garnishes seem like an afterthought, though. The Turkish-style pizzas, also known as pide, are pretty satisfying—you can’t really go wrong with the sucuklu (B250), basically cheese and spicy salami on a nice, crisp pide base.
One thing we will say, this is not the greasy, after-hours fare you might have tried elsewhere on your travels—if anything, the taste is a little too clean and joyless. Still, sitting outside under Ottoman’s red and white awning is a pleasant diversion, and its baklava (B80/3 pieces) is some of the best we’ve tasted in Bangkok —perfectly sweet and nutty.