Day 7: Ciftlik
(Fish shopping with the manager of the Conbaba restaurant in Ciftlik.)
Fish for Dinner
The manager of the hotel caught me sneaking down the hotel's driveway to go to town. He stopped me and insisted on driving me. I typed into Google Translate so he could read it in Turkish, "I don't need a ride. I am going to Ciftlik, only a 10 minute walk."
He insisted on driving. We got to town and he asked where I wanted to eat. I typed the word "fish" into the translator. He made me memorize the name of a restaurant. Canbaba. He spoke into the translator and explained it was the best fish on the whole peninsula.
Mostly I've been eating inexpensive kebabs because I love lamb and they are gluten-free. Not tonight.
I found the restaurant and noted the white linen tablecloths. This was not going to be a cheap meal. I chose a table with a sea view in the shade, because the sun was hot even at 7 PM. There were 6 waiters staring at me. I was confused, was I supposed to choose my waiter?
I waited. They waited,
I smiled and said hello. They smiled and nodded and one waiter stepped forward.
"Do you want fish for dinner?" The only English speaking waiter asked.
I nodded and showed him my gluten-free information sheet that always gets a murmur of appreciation for being written in Turkish. He walked me into the kitchen where the manager, who went to school in London, took over in a perfect Brtiish accent.
He showed me the starters, maybe 25 different dishes, and suggested I order several. I got the broccoli, the seaweed with garlic sauce and the beets. I motioned that this was enough food.
"You are getting fat in your stomach," he said, agreeing with me.
I smiled. Either he'd been stalking me on the internet and noticed a weight gain, or he didn't fully grasp the future tense. I think the latter but am open to the former.
Next they opened the fish case and chose a fish and waited for my approval.
"It was caught 800 meters from here this afternoon." the manager said. I nodded my approval and was sent back to my table.
This was going to be an expensive meal. No menus. No prices. $100, I hoped. Not more than $100 with a tip. If this place catered to the yacht crowd, it could be more.
I squeezed some lemon into my glass while all six waiters watched. One rushed forward to fill my glass with water from the 1.5 liter bottle they had placed on my table. I thanked him and sipped my drink while all six waiters continued to watch me. Were they ignoring the other 5 tables? It's a good thing that as a teacher I am used to being stared at.
A man, impeccably dressed in white linen, walked up to my table with the air of someone very important, and said something in Turkish. A waiter whispered something and the man said in English, "I am John Baba."
I smiled, wondering if he were a movie star or something. I shook his hand and murmured pleasantries and after he walked away I realized his last name was part of the restaurant's name. He must be the owner. I wonder if he knows the meaning of "con" in English?
The appetizers were amazing, I could eat that seaweed every day. The fish was cooked perfectly and they drizzled fresh olive oil from the region over it, which was so good, I debated sipping more oil directly from the bottle. I couldn't swig the oil, because those 6 waiters who were still watching me would be confused.
"I'm finished." I said to my waiter after I had taken as long as possible to eat. My dishes were cleared from the table. I admired the setting sun while I waited for the check.
Twenty minutes later I said to my waiter, "I'm done." He nodded and walked away.
Another 20 minutes passed and I said to a busboy, "check?" The team rushed to get my waiter. He handed me the check and I handed it back with my credit card. No reason to look, I wasn't going to debate the price.
The price of this fine dining experience? 150 TL or $26.56. Really. Turkey is so cheap right now. I left a big tip sticking out from my water glass before I remembered that you must hand the tip directly to the waiter, or the owner gets to keep it. Darn it. There's so much to remember when visiting another culture.
Before I walked out, my waiter shook my hand and said, "See you tomorrow."
I thanked him for taking such good care of me and before I left I shook hands with every waiter and busboy and they all smiled the biggest smiles. Thanks guidebook, you got that one right, shake hands with everyone in the group.
But this was my last night on the peninsula so I wouldn't return the next day. The manager met me at the door and said, "You made a mistake, you should have saved this paradise for the end of your trip. Now Turkey will be sad for you"
"It's ok." I said. I like all the faces of Turkey."