When it came to curating eateries for Assembly Food Hall, Kulsoom Klavon VP of Curation at Food Hall Co., wanted to include concepts that not only represented Nashville but also allowed people to discover and experience new cuisines. It was vital to feature and showcase the best of what every community had to offer.
Upon more research, Klavon discovered that Nashville was home to one of the largest Kurdish populations in the United States. It was a no-brainer that traditional Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine needed to be included in Assembly Hall. From the use of savory, aromatic spices to the process of slow roasting meat, Klavon wanted to showcase the thousands of years of tradition behind this enticing cuisine.
Mediterranean cuisine typically consists of whole, fresh meats and veggies and earthy, aromatic spices such as cumin and cardamom. The meat is usually slow cooked for hours on a vertical rotisserie called a doner kebab and cut into thin slices, similar to Greek gyros or Mexican al pastor.
An Uber ride later, Klavon was dropped off in the middle of Nolensville Pike where she began searching for hidden gems. She happened to stumble upon a little restaurant called Edessa where she met the owners Mesut, Mehmet, and Erdal. The owners were Kurdish refugees who immigrated to Nashville and pooled their money to open a traditional Mediterranean restaurant.
“I tried the Gozleme which is a tissue-thin flatbread stuffed with spinach and feta cheese,” Klavon said, “although it was a more simple dish [ingredients wise] I was blown away by the flavors. When I’m curating restaurants and choosing eateries, I want the best of that cuisine and that’s exactly what Edessa offered.”
Mesut, Mehmet, and Erdal’s commitment to authenticity is what sold Klavon on Edessa. In the early stages of opening Istanbul Shawarma they requested a Tantuni pan, which is a large frying pan with a big curved spot in the center typically used in Turkey to cook meat. None of the distributors had one available so they imported one from Turkey. This commitment to tradition and authenticity is what has made them a fan favorite in Assembly Hall.
From their vegetarian options such as falafel and hummus to their slow-cooked doner kebabs, Istanbul Shawarma brings a little piece of Kurdistan to Nashville.