This photo taken on Nov. 2, 2023 shows a Turkish dish at Romantic Turkey, a Turkish restaurant in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)
HAIKOU, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Stepping into Romantic Turkey, a Turkish restaurant in Haikou, the capital of south China's Hainan Province, diners are greeted by a cozy Turkish ambiance.
The restaurant is adorned with traditional Ottoman-style décor, creating an immersive Turkish experience for diners. It offers an enticing variety of common and traditional Turkish dishes, including doner kebabs, pide and desserts, as well as Turkish tea and coffee.
"We try to create a Turkish atmosphere to patrons when they stroll into the restaurant, starting with the Turkish colors, designs and lighting," said Mehmet Arif Firat, the restaurant owner. "Two hundred years ago, people were sitting like this, and eating like this."
Most ingredients are directly sourced from Türkiye, ensuring the authenticity of the restaurant, according to Mehmet.
Mehmet has been living in Hainan, his wife's hometown, for seven years. Back in Türkiye, he worked as an electrical and electronics engineer, never expecting to open a Turkish restaurant abroad.
His longing for authentic hometown dishes and a desire for his children to experience Turkish culture led to this exciting change since 2020.
Mehmet Arif Firat makes coffee at his restaurant Romantic Turkey in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province, Nov. 2, 2023. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)
What started with a kebab-making machine in a small café run by his wife has now blossomed into a bustling restaurant, luring in both locals and foreigners.
Though Mehmet's initial aim was to satisfy his own cravings, he knew his more important mission was to introduce Turkish culture to the Chinese people.
"In Hainan, people don't know much about Turkish culture, so I wanted to open the restaurant and introduce this to Chinese people. Türkiye is a romantic country," he said.
He believes that the Turkish culinary style offers a distinctive cultural experience that sets it apart from Chinese cuisine.
With the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port in recent years, the restaurant business booms on the tropical island. Mehmet has opened a Romantic Turkey branch in Sanya, a popular tourist destination in Hainan. "Sanya is a small but pretty city, just like my hometown, Antalya," he said.
Expressing his optimism for the future of the Hainan Free Trade Port, Mehmet said he expects the development will bring more international tourists and businesses to Hainan, thus benefiting his restaurant business.
"If everything goes well, I plan to open more Turkish restaurants in bigger cities, like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing," he said. ■