Typical Daily Breakfast at Hotel Anadolu – Sultanahmet – Istanbul
“Breakfast” is included in the price charged for most hotel rooms in areas where tourists frequent. The offering is more European than American (or Canadian). It’s a buffet that typically includes, at my hotel, sliced meat (one type), a couple of cheeses, some tomato wedges, slices of watermelon or chocolate cake, hard-boiled eggs, a basket of bread and some tea. The meal is offered between 8 and 10 a.m. and has been more than sufficient for me. In addition to the breakfast I eat one other meal between traditional lunch and dinner times.
Today was my last full day in Istanbul so I took it easy, in preparation for the long airplane ride back to Chicago tomorrow (estimated to be between 10 and 11 hours). One last major tourist attraction I’d yet to visit was the Archaeological Museum
, so off I went to wander about the museum for several hours.Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great
I was a bit disappointed with the museum and thought that given the rich history of Turkey and the region it would have been better maintained and presented. The highlight for me was the room containing a collection of various sarcophagus – including that of Alexander the Great
, which is one of the finest carved works I’ve had the good fortune to view.Another Restaurant on Hocapasa Sokak – Remember the Name: Cevahir Sofrasi
I’ve eaten dinner three times previous to today on Hocapasa Sokuk
(Street) not far from the railway station and have presented those comments already. After completing one of those prior meals I was walking back to my hotel in the Sultanahmet
neighborhood and I saw a hotel, at one end of Hocapasa
(Hotel Turvan) and I stopped-in to check on room prices, facilities, etc. At that time the front desk clerk, who spoke pretty-good English, made the comment that there was a good restaurant directly across the street from the hotel – and that it was good because an “old Turkish woman” did the cooking. “Home cooking,” he said it was. I’d been meaning to try the restaurant since he made the comment earlier in the week but it wasn’t until today that I took advantage of a last-day opportunity to do so.Caught my attention – and whetted my appetite‘Old’ Turkish woman in kitchen making these . . .And these . . .And there were several varieties of kebabs available, as well
I’m learning – now that I’m at the end of this journey – that it ‘pays off’ for a restaurant patron visiting a small restaurant in Istanbul to stick his/her head into the food preparation and cooking area if possible to see what’s available – because so much doesn’t appear on a printed menu . . . or there may be no menu, or a waiter will, meaning to help you, suggest what he thinks you, as a tourist, will like and what's safe
for your palate. When I approached Cevahir Sofrasi
tonight my interests were someplace other than where the waiter thought they’d be.
Following the thought planted with me by the hotel desk clerk, once I was shown to a street-side table – all were empty at that moment because it was the pre-Iftar
period (breaking of the daily Ramazan
fast) – I stuck my head through the door to where an older woman was grilling (over a charcoal fire) what looked like potato pancakes or latke, eggplant and busily tending to other preparation chores. My waiter, who is studying English best he can – did a good job of explaining each of the items in the kitchen. He explained that they were things “Turkish people eat.” At that moment I didn’t fully understand what the woman was preparing but it seemed obvious to me some “home cooking” was underway and in the land of kebabs I wanted some of what she was working on.
I asked the waiter to have the cook fix me a plate of the “good stuff.” The woman turned towards me, smiled and said something’s in Turkish I didn’t understand . . . she was grinning, ear to ear.And here’s what the woman in the kitchen picked-out for me:
The first plate to appear from the kitchen included: a wafer-thin potato pancake-like preparation, with herbs or some sort of green vegetable; a frittata-like preparation that was also similar in appearance to a latke a 96-year old neighbor makes for me during certain Jewish holiday periods – I’ve some rapid research and it might have been a small omelet referred to as Ispanak ve Patatesli Omlet
; some strips of grilled eggplant and grilled green pepper; and there was, in the center of the plate, a small tomato and cucumber salad/relish. The flavors and seasonings of each of these items jumped off the plate and exploded in my mouth – they were great. Ratatouille / Stew with lamb
The second plate to appear – a bowl, actually – contained what I can best describe (probably improperly) as a ratatouille
(or stew) with lamb, mushrooms, tomato’s, carrots, potatoes, eggplant . . . and some slices of garlic. I didn’t expect the melding of the flavors to be so good and I haven’t eaten anything better – the entire two-plate offering – these past 11-days.
While not presenting the variety of steam table items that heralded Çiya Sofrasi
does, I’ll suggest that Cevahir Sofrasi
is no shrinking violet in comparison and its presence on Hocapasa Sokak
contributes further to the street’s standing as a destination visitors could visit daily in their quest to eat their way through the cuisine of Turkey without leaving Istanbul – if only they’d pass-up the main-thoroughfare joints that snare them as they walk about. As in many destinations we travel to, walk one or two streets above or below the main streets and we'll find hidden gems (maybe not hidden to the local residents, but certainly hidden from people reluctant to wander from the beaten path
of others such as themselves/ourselves).
I’ll send a note along the folks who operate the Istanbul Eats
website (the site which has been such a big help to me in navigating the abundance of dining options here – to see if they’ve had meals at this restaurant and what their experience has been.Of course, the meal ended with tea
Visiting during [i[Ramazan[/i], and especially so when you’re in the Sultanahmet
neighborhood, the timing of when
you eat is important – because some of the restaurants are closed until early-evening or offer only limited service before then, and/or the turnover of prepared foods can be slow and you may be served something that has been sitting on a steam table for hours. I visited Cevahir Sofrasi
as the cook was in the middle of her preparations for an expected onslaught of customers expected at 7:30 p.m. and afterwards (Iftar
would begin at approx. 7:30 p.m. today). My timing, it would seem, was excellent.
Excellent food, good service, and an easy-to-reach convenient location with lots of activity on the pedestrian-only lane made for a very enjoyable dinner. The cost of this meal – including the two plates I’ve spoken about, a bottle of water, a can of Diet Coke and two glasses of tea – was 20 Turkish Lira, the equivalent of approximately US$14.Cevahir Sofrasi
Hocapasa Mahallesi – Hocapasa Sokak No. 47-49A
Sirkeci – Eminonu – Istanbul
Tel: (0212) 526-39-61
And, on the way back to my hotel following dinner, and a short walk along the nearby waterfront:Street scene (seen): Baking Bread in a Restaurant
I head back to Chicago in the a.m. and will post additional material once I sort through it. It's been a wonderful trip that has exceeded my expectations. I've been most impressed by the warmth of virtually every person I've met as I've wandered the neighborhoods and restaurants - not speaking a word of Turkish. I want, also, to say how fortunate I feel for having the opportunity to visit Istanbul during Ramazan
and having been invited to participate in some aspects of the nightly festivals, and I don't know that if I visit again at another time of the year I'd be as satisfied as I have been during this trip. But, in 2010 Istanbul will serve as the Cultural Capital of Europe
and more tourists than ever will be visiting during the 12-month period, many mosques and other historic buildings will have been renovated and re-opened, there will be unending and varying cultural events showcasing Turkey as a whole, etc. That'll be a good time to visit, if there's room in your budget to do it.