Monday, January 31, 2011
We went to Istanbul over the holidays. For no reason, except that we had never been before. Which is just plain stupid, since it is so fabulous and so easy to get to from Rome. We only went for four days, which was not enough time to even scratch the surface. But that means we have a good reason to go back, and soon.
Last week I wrote a piece in the Atlantic, about a fantastic Street Food Tour we took. Here follows the list of restaurants we went to and loved. Many of these were suggested by Ansel Mullins, at Istanbul Eats. Most are also reviewed on his web site, which I highly recommend. And I had some great advice from Katie Parla too.
This place specializes in grilled meats, kebabs, and was recommended by Istanbul Eats. It’s located on a tiny street in Beyoglu, and we certainly never would have found it our self (even our taxi driver had a hard time). It’s two stories tall and each floor has it’s own grill station, with the kebab guy carefully rotating bits of lamb and chicken. The smoke heads up the chimney, but the smell of grilling meat is intoxicating. We started out with a big selections of meze, including a wonderful gavur dags salad, which was a mix of tomatoes and greens in a spicy sour pomegranate molasses dressing. Unfortunately they were out of liver, but we did have the grilled kidney and the Adana kebab, minced spiced lamb.
Bekar Sokak 28
The central grill at Zubeyir.
This small place was pure heaven, selling only one thing: Kaymak for breakfast. Kaymak is a sort of clotted cream, and I am drooling as I write this. I’m including it on this list, but will be doing an entire post about it later this week.
Mumcu Bakkal Sok. No: 5 Besiktas
Heavenly Kaymak at Pando.
Everyone knows Ciya, It’s famous for a reason. This restaurant is located in Kadikoy, on the Asian side of Istanbul and now actually has three restaurants on the same street. We went to the original Ciya, (because that is what Katie and others recommended). Ciya is knowns for it’s painstakingly researched recipes that trace back generations. Whatever. The food is fantastic. Don’t worry about not understanding what everything is. Just point to the steaming pots of food, and they will dish it up for you. The offerings change daily and with the seasons. We were there in winter, and it was pretty darn good. But everyone says the time to go is the spring. And don’t miss the wonderful candied olives for dessert.
Buneslibahce Sokak 43
A mixed plate of meze from the buffet at Ciya.
Chickpea and chicken saffron stew at Ciya.
Candied olives and tomatoes, topped with kaymak, at Ciya.
We headed here after our visit to Ciya on the advice of Katie Parla. She specifically told us to save room for their famous kup griye. Even though we had eaten so much at Ciya, and couldn’t possibly imagine eating any more, we wolfed down this huge caramel-riddled cup of creamy ice cream. Chunks of toffee and rivers of sugary sweet caramel. It didn’t seem very Turkish, but it was fabulous.
Muvakkithane Caddesi 9A
The famous kup griye at Baylan.
Finding a good restaurant in touristy Sultanahmet is hard, which makes this sprawling restaurant such a jewel. They specialize in one thing: Kofte. Little patties of perfectly grilled ground lamb. Served with a side of yogurt, and maybe a salad, they were heavenly. Since the place has three floors, it’s usually easy to find a table.
Divanyolu Caddesi 12
Kofte at Tarihi.
Any place that uses pickles as decoration gets an A+ in my book. This place foccusses on Black Sea cuisine and was recommended by Istanbul Eats. The night we went we were the only customers in this huge restaurant.( I think they get a big lunch time crowd, of tour groups. ) The meze were very good, and included a trip up to the pickle bar as well as stuffed cabbage leaves and a scrumptious Black Sea fondue made from cheese, butter and cornmeal. Grilled fish, perfectly cooked and fresh, was our main course. The service was excellent, and our waiter even walked us half way back to our hotel.
Kennedy Caddesi Sahil Yolu 41
Pickles pickles and more pickles at Vonali.
Our friend Semsa Denziel (owner of the restaurant Kantin) took us out for dinner at Asmali, a Meyhane. She explained that Meyhanes are where you go to eat Meze and drink Raki, which is what we did. And I think we must have had so much Raki that I barely took any notes of what we had to eat. But I do know the main course, of grilled sardines, was ethereal.
Asmalimescit Cad. 16/D
212 292 49 50
We had a lot of Raki with Semsa.
This restaurant was the end point of the Street Food tour we took, organized by Istanbul Eats. The place is huge, three stories, and specializes in Buryan Kebab, a pit roasted lamb that is cut in chunks and layered onto pide. Well worth going just for that, but we also had other Kurdish specialties including perde pilaf, a perfumed pilaf or rice, almonds and chicken, encased in a pastry shell. But my favorite were the raw lamb çiğ köfte., ground meat that you wrap in lettuce leaves before popping in your mouth.
Itfaiye Cad. No. 4
Buryan Kebab at Siirt Seref.
çiğ köfte , raw minced lamb at Siirt.