Günaydin Dubai might boast one of the city’s most iconic settings – right on the water promenade of Souk Al Bahar in Downtown Dubai with views of Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Fountain – yet the menu will transport you straight to Istanbul with its distinctive Turkish flavours. The restaurant, with roots that stretch back to a humble butchery in Istanbul’s Bostancı neighbourhood, was co-founded by chef Cüneyt Asan, a legendary chef renowned for his speedy butchering skills and for being the former mentor of ‘Salt Bae’, aka Nusret Gökçe.
Was it always your dream to be a chef?
I got into the industry at a very early age, working as an apprentice at the Bostancı Butcher’s Market in Istanbul. I immediately felt a connection to the world of butchery and it ended up becoming my greatest passion. By the age of 21, I had grown from an apprentice into a master of the craft. At this point, I had to delay my dream of being a chef in order to join the military. After I had served my country, I returned to the butchery, where I eventually became a partner. Today, I’m the owner of Günaydın Dubai, and I try to visit the restaurant regularly.
What is the best part of being a chef?
It is very rewarding to do a job that speaks to my heart. As a chef, I get to meet lots of people from all walks of life, and it is so satisfying to see them enjoying my food.
What is the food philosophy at Günaydın?
Our main concept and focus is meat, explored through the lens of Turkey’s flourishing culinary diversity. Our dishes are inspired by both the Far East and the country’s Mediterranean regions.
Tell us about being ‘the fastest butcher in the world’.
That’s a title that was given to me by my fellow chefs. They watched me play around with meat and they just couldn’t match my skill or precision, hence the title.
Do you have any tips for people who want to improve their own butcher’s skills at home?
The first step in basic butchery is to understand the anatomy of the livestock, to know what cut of meat comes from which part of the animal. Then there are the cutting skills themselves to master: slicing the meat, trimming the sinews, deboning the meat, and so on. I recommend using a medium-sized counter and a cutting board at all times. It’s also imperative to have a good knife – this is key to working with meat.
What makes Günaydın different from other restaurants in Dubai?
We bring a taste of authentic Turkish culture and hospitality to Dubai. In fact, our kitchen team is made up predominantly of Turkish chefs, some of whom have been with the Günaydın brand for up to 25 years.
“We bring a taste of authentic Turkish culture and hospitality to Dubai”
Which steak would you recommend ordering?
Order the rib-eye steak cooked medium, which is the best way to enjoy a steak. Our rib-eye is specially sourced and rested in a special chiller for 28 days. It’s seasoned simply with salt and pepper to let the natural flavours shine through, then cooked on a chargrill.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
The alinazik kebab is one of my favourites. It combines minced lamb with a mixture of yoghurt, eggplant and garlic puree.
What is the one dish on the menu that everyone should try?
I am biased so I want to recommend everything! The adana kebab, which is chopped lamb kebabs with Turkish spices and herbs, is an absolute classic. For dessert, katmer is our most popular dish: a crispy pastry filled with pistachio and served with mastic vanilla ice cream.
What is the one ingredient that you can’t live without?
Definitely salt. Not only does it enhance the flavour of our dishes, but our ancestors used it to preserve meat.
What’s the secret to a perfect meal?
While fresh ingredients, presentation and delicious aromas and flavours are important, when a meal is prepared with love it makes all the difference.
If you could escape to anywhere in the world for a culinary holiday, where would you go?
Japan for sure. I love its culture and history, and the fact that the chefs use fresh, seasonal ingredients to create truly authentic flavours.
You’re known for your skills as a butcher, but are there any vegetarian dishes that you love?
I really like lentils. They’re nutritious, balance your blood sugar and are simply delicious.
As a busy chef, what do you cook for yourself at the end of a long shift?
My favourite dish – for a romantic meal or just for myself – is a Tomahawk steak.
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