Wheel of Good Fortune
The H Cuisine mostly lives up to the buzz, as three chefs create delectable Turkish cuisine with a twist.
I often get recommendations for new restaurants. “Have you been to?” and “What do you think of?” rank with “What’s your favorite?” as conversation starters around me. But it’s rare that I get several enthusiastic referrals for the same place in a week.
The area around The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips has its share of high-end eateries: Chatham’s Place, Christini’s, Morton’s. Add to that list The H Cuisine, a Mediterranean steakhouse generating such interest that it’s been recommended from many reliable sources. I’m glad to say that, for the most part, they were right.
Three resident chefs—exec Tolga Mutlu has cooked in Istanbul, Monte Carlo and Dubai; Rifat Altuntas is a veteran of Singapore and Zurich; and Serdar Yaman was executive chef at the Shangri-La Hotel in Istanbul—craft a menu inspired by traditional Turkish cuisine with “European influences,” as co-owner Ahmet Ozhamurkar says. “Everything is made from scratch, including our own bread, pasta, mayonnaise and ketchup.”
The restaurant prides itself on tableside preparation, including a Chateau tenderloin filet for two ($90) carved with a very large knife and seared in butter at the table. Its most flamboyant offering, strozzapreti (meaning “the priest strangler”; $27), is an Italian pasta specialty of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna and unique in Orlando to The H (the appellation refers to two of the owners’ surnames).
Born in the 1800s as a symbolic protest against taxes raised by an all-powerful clergy, the hand-rolled cavatelli are twisted into an elongated shape (that’s the choking bit; the pasta was traditionally made while muttering curses). They are then flambéd in strong spirits inside a massive, carved-out barrel of Parmigiano Reggiano (it has its own cart) with wild mushrooms and bits of ham for a creamy, cheese-abundant dish.
The H Cuisine
It’s an over-the-top presentation that has crossed the boundary between upscale and hipster around the world (one restaurant in Australia has a regularly scheduled “Flaming Cheese Wheel Night”), but at The H could still use some work. The pasta was far too al dente, and by the time the cheese was scraped, flamed and mixed, the entire dish ended up room temperature. Ozhamurkar diplomatically declined to give me a price for the 80-some pound wheel o’ parm, but says it took two weeks to obtain and is “quite expensive”; I’ve seen a good one selling for $1,000 and way beyond. Training and practice would make it a showstopper worth ordering—nonetheless, Ozhamurkar says it is the most popular item on the menu.
Not as spectacular—certainly not aflame—but more pleasing is monkfish ($34), a bowl of perfect fish dressed in broth and accompanied by tiny potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Smoked eggplant soup ($12) is mossy green and delightfully exotic, and grilled octopus ($18) comes off the charcoal beautifully tender, spiced with flavors of Anatolia and a smoked vegetable salad splashed with balsamic.
The H is stylish and bright in presentation, with marble-top tables, bent wood couches and a wall of copper penny-sized discs around the bar. The open kitchen affords views of the charcoal-fueled Josper grill, with a super-hot flame giving a rich sear to steaks and vegetables. One wall is filled with a glass-fronted aging box for sides of meat—vegetarians, look away—the source of ribeye, butter-aged lokum tenderloin, and traditional Turkish Şaşlik ($32), sliced beef cooked with garlic, cumin, Aleppo pepper and cardamom.
Performance is still a work in progress: our server couldn’t tell us what cheeses occupied the charcuterie plate, or what constituted seasonal vegetables, and for what came to a hefty dinner tab, that information should be readily available. But what comes out of the kitchen is worth overlooking a fault or two.
Bring a Crowd
Family meals are a staple of Turkish culture. At The H, dishes suitable for parties of three or more include lamb shoulder ($105, served with smoked bulgur wheat and a dried fruit compote called hosaf); 12-hour braised osso bucco veal shank ($105); and kafes ($110), a full rack of smoked lamb served with pineapple. Order ahead, and say “şerefe” (cheers).