The imam bayildi (the imam fainted) is one of the most fittingly named dishes in the world. Legend has it that a Turkish imam fainted with pleasure when he was presented the dish, and at the newly opened Kiyi, I almost followed suit. My first bite of the aubergine baked with garlic and tomato brought with it much pleasure, and it didn’t stop.
We had a platter of starters, and the stars were ahtapot salatası, an octopus salad; zeytinyagli pirasa, braised leeks, carrots and potatoes; and haydari, a thick dip of yoghurt, garlic and mint. While you can choose your own favourites — the Turkish versions of hummus, muhammara and moutabal are very popular — pay heed to the suggestions.
Kiyi is unique in that most members of the serving and kitchen staff are Turkish, and they make ardent ambassadors for their food. Over the course of a long and leisurely dinner, we were proffered explanations, descriptions and even some recipes.
There are three choices in main courses — seafood, meats and grills — and we had one from each. The slow-cooked lamb shank is a serious recommendation, while seafood lovers must try the coriander-marinated grilled swordfish, when it is in season. The flat-bread pide comes in many variations, and the künafa at dessert has a twist.
The true test of a Turkish restaurant lies in creating the classics of its legendary cuisine in such a way as to transport you to another table, from another time. Kiyi pays homage to the Ottoman Empire with subtle but stylish touches in the decor. A Turkish dancer provides much drama. And the fare certainly is faint-inducingly fine.
It gets my vote as worthy of the drive to Ajman.
Kiyi Turkish Restaurant, Fairmont Ajman; Fairmont.com