Walking around the hotel in Istanbul, my wife and I spotted a restaurant called Dardenia. The logo and signboard seemed interesting and as you walk inside you feel like you're entering an upper scale McDonald's, only here fish and sushi is served.
Dardenia is a rectangular shaped restaurant with a terrace. A long mirror gives the place a bigger feel, while a series of wooden tables and wooden benches welcome guests to sit together, eat and leave quickly. The ceiling is decorated with wooden sticks pending, one corner hosts a fridge and food boxes and cans for sale are available on shelves like in supermarkets.
The menu proposes sushi and fish. Sandwiches, meals, wraps as well as dynamite shrimp, fish burgers, fish and chips and mussels. They sell everything fish! A loaded sushi menu prepared by the chef standing next to the entrance and another of fish specialities, salads, gourmet seafood, desserts, starters and fish with bread.
Everything is disposable around here except the metallic cutlery. A carton box lands on the table as you walk in. Chips and dip that tastes like hummus. Refills are made when the plate finishes. Geneorous of them.
All tables host an olive oil bottle, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Soft music plays in the background, while a waiter cleaning the cutlery makes loud unpleasant noises from metal. This is not what I endure with my dinner.
Waiters wear polo shirts, some are dirty and others are oversized. Until now I still didn't understand the concept. I believe it is a fast food place serving what's known as expensive at reasonable prices.
Things started to become interesting. Dynamite shrimps in a carton box, glazed carton plates and good food. Crunchy dynamite shrimps with a light faded sweetness and a smooth spiciness. Shrimps with crunchy batter and sprinkled with sesame. Orange in color, a generous portion, clean and enjoyable. Loved the packaging, the portion size and the taste. Honestly; better than we had yesterday at ZUMA.
Sushi were being prepared. Tempura shrimps sent fresh from the kitchen.
The Nordic salmon wrap served in another shaped carton box made of tender bread wrap, loaded with salmon and filled with lettuce. That's a good sandwich indeed! $6 for a full filing sandwich of fine salmon, juicy salmon, lightly crunchy warm lettuce and a sweet sauce. I surely didn't expect it to be as good! Bravo for an innovative concept which is surely an idea worth franchising around the world.
The sushi is good for a fast casual sushi place. Good rice, not sweet, not chewy, flavors you can taste and understand, beautifully presented, fresh, small sized rice that's not uncooked and not sticky. The only problem is the quality of crab sticks that's clearly very cheap. The dragon roll is very good; it looks good and it tastes good. Served warm and beautifully designed, this is something I'll come back for.
Bravo for a concept that sells good food, making high quality fish affordable. $30/person worth every penny. Professional and very welcoming staff. If only the concept has a clearer identity, I'm sure it's going to be envied by the world's franchises. I'm happy to have discovered it.