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On the road, in Istanbul

On the road, in Istanbul
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  • On the road, in Istanbul

    Post #1 - August 28th, 2009, 2:55 pm
    Post #1 - August 28th, 2009, 2:55 pm Post #1 - August 28th, 2009, 2:55 pm
    I'm on a last-minute decision trip to Istanbul, a vacation of about 10-days which started last night. Had it not been for a unbelieveably low airfare (of less than US$475 r/t) I'd not have made the journey. My memory of the Ottoman Empire is lacking, not having thought about it since high school - and I haven't gone out of my way to frequent restaurants featuring Turkish food in Chicago (though I'm now realizing I've been influenced by it without understanding why, until now).

    Much of food and restaurant information I quickly researched came from the Istanbul Eats website (

    This trip falls within the Ramazan period - and restaurant patronage by locals is for the most part - speaking of meals - taking place after sunset. Being here during Ramazan gives me the opportunity to participate in and/or witness the nightly Iftar - the breaking of the fast. I'm lodged for the first half of the visit in the historic Sultanahmet neighborhood where - on the Hippodrome grounds - 50+ food stalls open in the evening to serve food. It's a lively atmosphere - happy - and people have brought food from home, are buying from the food stalls - and they and their children are taking photos in front of the mosques, etc.

    My first non-snack meal of the visit (I arrived last night and just snacked) was at Restaurant Kasap Osman, on a pedestrian-only street lined with small restaurants close to the Sirkeci train station - where the Orient Express would disembark its passengers.

    Restaurant Kasap Osman


    A report in Istanbul Eats drew me here for a meal of Iskender. That website describes the meal better than I could, "Iskender . . . (Döner- lamb stacked in a manner reminiscent of al pastor) the cooked meat is laid over a bed of chopped flatbread in a clay dish and garished with peppers and tomatoes and dressed with a thin tomato sauce. The dish is then quickly fired in the oven crisping the saucy bread on the bottom and softening the garnish. Finally the whole dish is doused with butter browned in a skillet and a quick dollop of thick yogurt is added to one side."

    I'd taken along a copy of the Istanbul Eats article, with a photo of the man who cuts the Döner and when one of the waiters who was working hard to get me to sit down at the restaurant (now knowing I'd made the walk there with that very intention) was pleasantly surprised when I pulled-out the article and showed it to him. He called over the guy who cuts the meat to show him he was a "star" and the guy couldn't believe his photo appeared in an English-language article. The staff wasn't certain I'd like the Döner so the man doing the cutting sent-over a sample for me to try.





    I've not eaten something like this before, and I enjoyed it. The meat was well-flavored and the tomatoe sauce and green pepper gave the dish a stew-like consistency - with the not-too-soggy bread on the bottom adding some texture. I particularly liked the yogurt set to one side and though the dish wasn't spicy the yogurt helped with the mild acidity of the tomato sauce.





    This meal took place following my visit to Topkapi Palace, from which I took the photo below - of the Taksim Neighborhood.


    The Istanbul Eats article which drew me to Restaurant Kasap Osman can be read when you click on the link which follows:

    Kasap Osman: A Cure for Döner Fatigue

    I'll have more to contribute as the visit progresses.

    Restaurant Kasap Osman
    Address: Hocapasa Sokak 22, Sirkeci - Istanbul
    Telephone: 212-519-3216

    Note: I've made several edits to correct spelling and to more properly link the Istanbul Eats online article.
    Last edited by Bill on August 28th, 2009, 4:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.
  • Post #2 - August 28th, 2009, 3:01 pm
    Post #2 - August 28th, 2009, 3:01 pm Post #2 - August 28th, 2009, 3:01 pm
    Bill, just skimming but I will be back shortly to read in depth; thank you for posting. Looks beautiful, what a terrific vacation opportunity - I look forward to hearing more!
  • Post #3 - August 28th, 2009, 3:43 pm
    Post #3 - August 28th, 2009, 3:43 pm Post #3 - August 28th, 2009, 3:43 pm
    It was an 9.5 hour direct flight from Chicago to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines - which afforded excellent service en route - and I didn't get to my hotel (via Metro and tram from the airport) until after 6 p.m., and I wasn't too hungry and I was a bit disoriented - so I chose to join the tens of thousands of people who'd congregated near Sultanahmet Mosque to worship and for Iftar and I opted for a light supper of a Döner sandwich. The line-up of food stalls reminded me of what I'd seen at one of the large Midwestern USA state fairs - food stall after food stall selling cotton candy, ice cream, corn on the cob, etc., . . . but no corn dogs!

    Hippodrome – Sultanahmet


    Döner "Naturally" Cooked


    Sandwich with Döner


    The sandwich was "okay," nothing special. Most of the gyros sandiwches I've eaten in Chicago have been better - more flavorful. I did search-out a food stall that used the natural method of cooking meat, though, with the charcol. Most of the food stalls are usiing the Kronos-like contraptions to cook their meats - but there's still a strong, but smaller, representation by the naturally-cooking folks.

    Sultanahmet Mosque


    I've only been here in Istanbul slightly longer than 24-hours but I have a very welcome feeling and reaction from people when they learn I'm from the USA. Standing 6'2" tall, with red hair and with freckles . . . there's no mistaking except for being a tourist. I've, thus far, most often mistaken as a German, though - not as an "American." There's strong anomosity against the French, however - so I should be grateful I don't have to identify myself as having come from France!
  • Post #4 - August 30th, 2009, 3:21 am
    Post #4 - August 30th, 2009, 3:21 am Post #4 - August 30th, 2009, 3:21 am
    Yesterday's highlight, in addition to touring Hagia Sofia, was a visit to a candy shop continuously operated in an off the beaten path (for tourists) neighborhood of Istanbul, a 15-minute walk from the Egyptian Spice Market (a 15-minute walk that took me about an hour to accomplish because I couldn't find the place at first).

    Hagia Sofia


    84-year old Abdulla Altan carries on the candy-making tradition his grandfather began in the same store in 1865, now assisted by a daughter Mustafa and son Hakan. Abdulla has known no other trade and continues to work in the store daily. The family hand-makes it's version of Tukish Delight and Ottoman-style hard sugar candies on the second floor of the building in a workshop dating back to the beginning of the business.

    Ottoman-era hard candies


    I learned of the candy business as I did my quick pre-trip research, from an article appearing on the Istanbul Eats website and was there following a visit to the Egyptian Spice Market. The waterfront neighborhood of Kuçuk Pazari is one of the oldest, historic merchant areas in the city - dotted with electrical and mechanical repair shops, tool and other hardware stores, hotels costing less than backpackers would be comfortable staying at, bars, etc. A rough-and-tumble old dock area.


    Not long after my entering the shop son Hakan approached me and spoke in English, far better English than my very limited vocabulary in Turkish. Hakan began speaking of the business, of the varieties of candies available and made on-site and when I said I'd learned some of this from reading an Istanbul Eats web article, and showed the article to him - he quickly called to his father who walked over to where I was standing in the small shop, looked at the article himself . . . and teared-up. The son explained the article to the father, who quickly took the article from the son's hand, walked across the street and returned to announce he was having it framed to hang on the wall.

    I was invited to have tea with the family in the shop and the son interpreted for his father, various stories about the business' history, present-day challenges of mass merchandisers and ingredient costs, etc. Customers darted in and out making small purchases. An hour passed as if only 5-minutes.

    The family packed my gift box purchases of candy to take back to Chicago with me and wished me well, inviting me back for a visit and tea before returning to the United States.

    Hakan Altan in front of 144 year-old family candy store


    To read the Istanbul Eats article which drew my attention to Altan Sekerleme:

    Altan Sekerleme
    Kantarcilar, Kiblecesme Cd. No. 96
    Eminonu, Istanbul
    Tel: (0212) 522-59-09
  • Post #5 - August 30th, 2009, 4:01 pm
    Post #5 - August 30th, 2009, 4:01 pm Post #5 - August 30th, 2009, 4:01 pm
    Another interesting day in Istanbul. Combine the fact that many businesses are closed in the "old" section of the city with stricter than typical eating restrictions for Ramazan (especially so at restaurants away from the tourist haunts) and one challenge after another line up daring you to supersede them.

    After sleeping late and hanging around my hotel room until after noon I set-out to visit yet another of the historic mosques - that of Suleyman the Magnificent . . . which was, for the most part, off-limits due to major renovations. The walk to the mosque was a couple of miles, after which I walked maybe 3.5 miles to locate a restaurant that features Uighur food, but to my dismay, after finally locating the community center housing the small restaurant I found it closed.

    So, off I was for an additional mile or so walk until, like finding an oasis in a desert, I found my “Plan B” - the pocket of the city where its Kurdish community centers itself –Kandinlar Pazarii, a lively plaza and surrounding neighborhood off the beaten path enough for just about all foreign tourists to be uninterested. The search was worth the effort, though.

    Kandinlar Pazarii


    People moving back and forth at the busy plaza marketplace - maybe one of the busiest Sunday markets in the old section of the city - were more surprised to see someone such as I than I was to see such a beehive of activity as they created. I was warmly welcomed with broad smiles, children and some adults trying-out the few words of English they knew, some joking at my expense by teen-aged boys, etc.

    Because ofRamazan, restaurants were not going to serve any meals until 8 p.m. I was there at 4:40 p.m. and since I hadn't had breakfast, or lunch, I was hungry after all of the walking. I didn't even see anyone drinking tea. Folks were either shopping or sitting and waiting for the next call to prayers at the mosque, or otherwise killing time until evening Iftar. An ambitious restaurant waiter spotted me, though, and speaking reasonably good English asked me if I wanted to have something to eat at his restaurant. I asked if I could sit at a sidewalk table and he said "No" because passersby would get angry if they saw me eating (and the restaurant serving) before 8 p.m. Not to worry, though, because the restaurant has a second floor dining area where meals are served out-of-sight. I considered waiting until 8 p.m. and walked around some more, but there's only so much one can do to kill time and I went back to the restaurant to have my meal.

    Restaurant Sur Ocakbasi –at the heart of Istanbul’s Kurdish Community


    I'd learned of this neighborhood from an article appearing on the Istanbul Eats website. The restaurant featured in that article didn't interest me after seeing the upscale nature of the place (new location, new building, very modern, slick, etc. and not serving until 8, under any circumstance they told me). There must be 30/40 restaurants with sidewalk seating bordering the narrow, rectangular park. The entire square is probably only 1/4 mile long.

    Perde Pilav



    I'd never heard ofperde pilav before this trip. Rice pilaf with nuts and chicken and spices baked in a thin pastry shell - an unusual addition to my prior selections of "pot pie." Though the pilav lacked moisture, I enjoyed it. The meal included large chunks of what appeared to be chicken breast.

    Büryan Kebap


    Büryan kebap is what draws the Kurds to most of these plaza restaurants - you see them (Büryan) advertised throughout. Restaurant customers eat them like people in Chicago eat hot dogs, tacos or White Castle hamburgers. The Istanbul Eats article ( describes the meat and cooking process better than I could/can and what I experienced was similar to the description therein.
    A nice relish tray, including sliced onions, pickled cabbage, a tomato/cucumber salad and an eggplant relish accompanied the meal.

    I had little if any idea of what Turkish food consisted of prior to this visit. But thus far I've learned that it's something as difficult to define as contemporary American food is - a great mixture of many cultures and regions. Today I tasted the Kurdish side of the equation.

    Sur Ocakbasi Restaurant
    Itfaiye Caddesi No. 27
    Faith, Istanbul
    Tel: (0212) 533-80-88
  • Post #6 - August 30th, 2009, 5:06 pm
    Post #6 - August 30th, 2009, 5:06 pm Post #6 - August 30th, 2009, 5:06 pm
    Wonderful, indeed fascinating, stuff. Thank you! We've been enjoying your posts so much that we have begun to seriously consider going to Istanbul later this fall. It hadn't been on the radar, but given the price of airfare and of hotels, it's now a real contender. We're enjoying reading everything, whether food-related or not (and, of course, the great pics). The food and shopping both sound truly worth the trip. Keep it coming!
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #7 - August 30th, 2009, 10:51 pm
    Post #7 - August 30th, 2009, 10:51 pm Post #7 - August 30th, 2009, 10:51 pm
    We've been debating where to go for a trip at Christmas time, and had just started considering Istanbul when I ran across your posts! Looks fabulous. I look forward to hearing more of your experiences!
  • Post #8 - August 31st, 2009, 10:05 am
    Post #8 - August 31st, 2009, 10:05 am Post #8 - August 31st, 2009, 10:05 am

    Thanks for sharing your experiences in such detail.
    And I will add a few of my own:

    Hocapasa in Sirkeci- paradise for traditional Turkish lunch grub. As you enter the street immediately on your left you will see a small restaurant with a horizontally oriented spit. This is cag kebab from Erzurum. This shop does a good job of it but my favorite is in Karakoy. See this review ... ucho-grub/
    Also on Hocapasa street is a great place for beans called Kardesler. They do an Erzincan-style of baked beans similar to the ones you find around Suleymaniye Mosque, but Kardesler does is a bit better in my opinion. I prefer Black sea style beans for their richness and tender chunks of meat. for more on beans check: ... ve-report/
    Finally, if you haven't made it over to Ciya in Kadikoy on the Asian side, well, you must. This is about the best place to eat in the city. The Gaziantep specialties challenge any preconceived notions about what Turkish food is.
    If you feel like splashing out on an unforgettable Iftar (breaking of the fast) go over to Asithane next to the Church of Chora museum. They have all sorts of hard to find Ottoman specialties.
    Enjoy your time here. I am happy to here it's going well.
  • Post #9 - August 31st, 2009, 12:41 pm
    Post #9 - August 31st, 2009, 12:41 pm Post #9 - August 31st, 2009, 12:41 pm
    One of the things a tourist must do when visiting Istanbul for more than several days is to ride the Bosporus River ferry from Istanbul to Anadolu Kavagi a journey stopping just short of where the river enters the Black Sea. It’s a good way to get some fresh air (in the Sun, or in the shade), do some riverside sightseeing of various small towns/villages along the way and at the half-way point of the round-trip ride - Anadolu Kavagi – have lunch before the return home. In all, the trip (lunch included) takes about 5 hours. Transit cost on the ferry is the US$ equivalent of approx. $7 – one of the better travel bargains in town.

    There’s a lot of Istanbul/Turkish history dotting the Bosporus and it’s a target rich environment for photographers.

    Along the Bosporus


    Anadolu Kavagi draws not only foreign tourists but Istanbul residents as well – looking to spend a day away from the big city (est. pop. 12 million). This is probably a village more than it is a town and aside from a few small-operator fishermen tourism is the economic mainstay. Ahhh . . . location, location, location!

    Disembarking in Anadolu Kavagi


    Though a much smaller scale, when one disembarks at in Anadolu Kavagi the feel is as if you’ve just stepped-off a cruise ship in a Caribbean port – the ferry boat is met by a gaggle of restaurant waitstaff and other touts who know they have just minutes to get your attention . . . and money. The first couple of streets in front of and on each side of the dock area are lined with restaurants – most all of which specialize in seafood.

    Anadolu Kavagi Waterfront Restaurants


    Menu and Prices – Pretty-much standard in town


    Most of the small restaurants offer a menu of the day, a set menu for which the charge seems to be fixed at 15 Turkish Lira (about US$10).

    Before or after eating many of the day-trippers spend 30-minutes climbing a relatively steep hill to reach a former fort in disrepair – not to see the fort but to gaze at the point nearby where the Bosporus River meets the Black Sea. Rather than make the hike before lunch I did so before.

    Yoros Castle


    Before the hike in the heat I did walk about the village, listened to the various pitches from the touts, etc. I was attracted, why I’m not certain, by a man, his wife and daughter who operate a very small (9 seat) restaurant (Eve - I believe the restaurant is named, but I'm not 100% certain) into which none of the other day-trippers were entering. There was no outside seating, and maybe that was the turn-off for folks – but as I’ve said I found something about the place inviting and returned to have lunch before boarding the ferry for the ride back to Istanbul.

    My Meal at Eve


    At first, when I sat down in the postage stamp sized restaurant I was uneasy – it seemed hot in there and I was alone – feeling like someone had locked me in a closet, or basement. I thought, too, that the service was lazy, slow and inattentive. I can be impatient so I bit my tongue and went with the flow. I’m glad I did.

    I’ve been eating so much lamb the past four days I welcomed the opportunity to have some chicken, and I ordered that over the fish – and I think the restaurant owner was surprised with my choice. The kitchen is outdoors, in front of the restaurant and I watched the wife slice a chicken breast into thin filets and start to cook them. I watched, too, as she sliced potatoes from which she would prepare my French fries (as she also prepared french fries sold by other restaurants, the waiters from which ran back and forth with the orders). I watched the daughter grate fresh vegetables for my large salad, and also prepare the rice pilav. Yes, I could have had a meal more quickly at one of the waterfront restaurants everyone else was eating at, but I doubt those meals were as freshly prepared or prepared with such care as was mine.

    My chicken was seasoned lightly with garlic and though the French fries weren’t the best I’ve tasted – not commercial-style, they tasted good. The salad was the surprise of the meal – varied vegetables topped with a small amount of vegetable oil. The pilav was served at room temperature. I allowed the daughter to select by beverage – a sparkling water with lemon taste, and a small bottle of water on the side.

    The cost of my excellent meal: 11 Turkish Lira . . . less than US$8. A good, healthy meal prepared with care for just one of about 100 passengers who stepped off the boat.
  • Post #10 - September 1st, 2009, 12:18 pm
    Post #10 - September 1st, 2009, 12:18 pm Post #10 - September 1st, 2009, 12:18 pm
    I followed Istanbulac's suggestion - to try a Cağ Kebab dinner at Sehzade Restaurant (on Hokapasa street today. I'd planned to try the restaurant anyway, but yesterday's suggestion prompted me to do it sooner. Hokapasa is less than a 15-minute walk from my hotel in the historic old-town Sultanahmet neighborhood and was, today, situated between my hotel and a trip I made to Taksim - the modern section of Istanbul, across the Golden Horn.

    The festive mood of Ramazan has surprised me, I've not been in such an environment before and I'm enjoying it . . . though it has caused me to alter my meal plans because of the mostly late-night dining by so many of the city's residents.

    Hokapasa street (like so many others in this old section of the city) has been turned into one large banquet hall to accommodate the nightly Iftar.


    Erzurum Cağ Kebabi Restaurant was my stopping point. It's very easy to locate, at one end of Hokapasa, the end nearest the rail station.


    Cag Kebabi on the Spit, cooked with wood-fueled fire


    Cag Kebabi Dinner



    The waitstaff spoke almost no English, and I speak no Turkish - but thanks to menu's with photos of most of the selections and at the urging of my waiter I ordered a dinner of Cağ Kebab with a tomato and cucumber salad, a large serving of yogurt and a relish the name of which I don't know and with a taste I can't describe well - other than to say it tasted good. Accompanying the meal, also, was a paper-thin bread (which folded like a napkin) the name of which I don't know (maybe someone reading this can view the photo and tell me what the name is). The meat seemed lightly seasoned not surprisingly so due to the unobjectional spacing of small portions of fat every inch or so on the long fork-like skewers. I added no seasonings to the meat, but did find myself treating it and the paper-thin bread, as sort of a taco made of the meat, relish and yogurt.

    No meal, or passing of time, in Istanbul is complete without some tea:

    Turkish Tea


    Price tag for the dinner was: 20 Turkish Lira (about US$14)

    There are so many different variations of kebab it's becoming difficult to recall those differences as I see the kebabs offered in so many restaurants here in Istanbul. A few of the kebabs are as intricate as the Cağ and others resemble sliced hot dogs - very unappealing to me.

    A surprise for me has been the good-tasting Turkish yogurt - it's served with most if not all meals I've eaten thus far . . . and the helpings are large.

    Also interesting to watch has been the popular street foods - including corn on the cob . . . I thought for a minute I'd been transplanted to N. Clark St. in Rogers Park or to 26th Street's Little Village.

    Some Istanbul Street Food



    The nightly Ramazan festival of food, music, some dance and lots of playing by children . . . and meals in parks with families . . . has been an enjoyable part of the trip, too. Think of a huge carnival or state fair with lots of food stalls - maybe 100 - outside one of the largest churches in your community - in this case the Blue Mosque in Sultanahmet - and you can start to get the picture of what's it like here nightly until about Midnight.
  • Post #11 - September 2nd, 2009, 3:13 pm
    Post #11 - September 2nd, 2009, 3:13 pm Post #11 - September 2nd, 2009, 3:13 pm
    After a rainy day yesterday, and cool overnight temperatures - it turned-out to be an excellent day in Istanbul today.

    Beautiful Day in Istanbul


    The day started with a delayed visit to the Grand Bazar - said to be one of the most over-rated destinations on the planet. Aside from the slightly off-putting shopping-center environment, the bazar does possess lots of history (Silk Road destination) and it was fun to play games with the agressive pitch men and enjoy the architecture and some of the hidden-away nooks and crannies where goodness still occurs.

    Entering the Grand Bazar


    For the kitchen – from the Grand Bazar


    After the Grand Bazar I headed across the Golden Horn to the "modern" section - the more European looking area known by most travelers as Taksim. For a day (yesterday) I'd considered relocating to a hotel in Taksim but after looking at what the lower cost hotels looked like (those charging less than US$50/day), and witnessing the sometimes carnival-like atmosphere the decision to stay-put in the historic Sultanahmet neighborhood became an easy one.

    Street Food – Chestnuts - on Istikial Street, Taksim Neighborhood


    About 4 p.m., having had no lunch, I headed for a fish restaurant touted in Istanbul Eats - a place situated near the Galata Tower. I found the restaurant but didn't like what it offered so, disappointingly, I headed back down the steep hill to the waterfront looking for another place to dine. I had nothing mind but I did want to steer clear of Hocapasa Street because I've eaten there enough in the past week and want to see some other food areas.

    Restaurant Akin Balik


    I made what I thought was a wrong turn at one point, another at another, and did eventually end at the waterfront - a seedy-looking street/section of the waterfront that serves as the marketplace for marine equipment - servicing the many fishing boats and people who work on them. As I walked by one section of not too well maintained waterfront I saw people rushing to get aboard one of the river ferries and out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of tables and umbrellas . . . several waterfront restaurants were tucked over there, almost out of sight unless you know what you're looking for beforehand. I had a look at the menu of Akin Balik, and also at the refrigerated case with a couple of dozen of fish and thought this would be a good enough place to have dinner. There was a vibe that said, "Choose me!"

    View from where I sat


    Sea Bass for Dinner


    I selected the sea bass, grilled (over charcoal I'm suspecting) on a small set-up nearby. No salad or sides this evening - though they were offered. I'd not had a beer since arriving last week and when I asked the waiter if the restaurant sold any he whispered "yes." The beer was served in a large paper cup, probably so that nobody wandering by would be offended (Ramazan) or maybe because the restaurant doesn't have a proper license (said to be expensive to obtain in Istanbul). The beer tasted wonderful, activating my taste buds. If the fish was seasoned with more than a simple oil dressing when cooked I'll be surprised - it was fresh though, and seasoning wasn't needed. I enjoyed the break from many meals of lamb (and one of Chicken thus far).

    Waterfront Dining


    There are several restaurants grouped together in this same location, along the sidewalk cutting through the park - abandoned property - to the ferry boarding point. It's an area easy to miss for tourists of other folks unfamiliar with the neighborhood. The environment is odd enough to be attractive. There are no frills here and I have the impression it's an operation Russian-Turk owned. There's a good view across the river to the historic section of the city, and river traffic is frantic at times . . . offering a great floor show at no additional cost. A ballet on water . . . or, maybe it's break-dancing. Though I was there prior to sundown, the view is probably spectacular after dark and tables are equipped with candle-holders allowing for a riverside lovers lane so far removed from the metropolis but at the same time enveloped by it.

    Cost of my dinner: 20 Turkish Lira. 10 Lira for the fish, 5 Lira for each of the 2 beers. Equivalent in US$ is about $14.

    To find Akin Balik look to the right-side of Galata Bridge if you're in Karakoy, and if you're coming from Sultanahmet it'll be on your left side as you cross Galata Bridge- a short walk from the Karakoy tram stop . . . or a nice and safe walk across the bridge.

    Now, a p.s. of sorts: After writing the report about Akin Balik I searched the internet to see if it had been mentioned and/or if I could locate an exact or better address. And what did I learn? I learned then that Istanbul Eats has reviewed/mentioned the same place ( We both stumbled upon the same place and I had no idea before today the restaurant had been mentioned on that website. It's an almost unbelieveable coincidence.

    The food options are overwhelming numerous - I feel sometimes like closing my eyes, spinning around with my arm, hand and fingers outstretched . . . and sitting down at the place in front of me when my eyes open.
  • Post #12 - September 3rd, 2009, 11:50 am
    Post #12 - September 3rd, 2009, 11:50 am Post #12 - September 3rd, 2009, 11:50 am
    The ‘Asian Side’ of Istanbul - Kadıköy


    I made my first visit today to the Asian side of Istanbul - Kadıköy. All it took was 20-minutes to change continents, from Europe to Asia. The river traffic in Istanbul is hectic and it wouldn't surprise me if there weren't a couple of traffic cops out there on the waterways.

    Market Street - Fish


    I felt the cultural/lifestyle difference immediately once I stepped off the boat. It's a different world - youthful energy abounds, clothing styles are more with it, etc. Unfortunately, most travel guidebooks seem to almost completely ignore Kadikoy and that's unfortunate. There are several market streets close to the docks, and one is lively with sellers of fish and produce, coexisting almost side by side.

    Çiya Sofrasi Restaurant


    I've been wearing myself out with all of my walking/exploring and though I planned to do even more exploring in Kadıköy . . . I nixed that plan upon arrival and walked around just a little bit and then headed to highly-touted Çiya Sofrasi Restaurant for a late-lunch/early-dinner. Some people have crowned Çiya Sofrasi Istanbul's best restaurant - or the restaurant offering the best food. The best of anyting is difficult to get majority agreement on but I was game to give it a try . . . not that I'll be a good judge of Turkish food in Istanbul.

    Let me jump to the end, first: my impression of the waitstaff is that it's the worst I've experienced in Istanbul during this past week, and worse than I've encountered in Chicago in a very long time. I didn't let inattentative and arrogant attitudes by the waitstaff mar my meal, though. So if you're headed this way - be prepared for service issues - but good food.

    I sat at an outside table for about 15-minutes and wondered during this period why none of the waitstaff had approached me - no greeting, no instructions no queston would I like some water, tea, etc. Then I remembered I had the Istanbul Eats review ( in my camera bag and I pulled it out, re-read it and saw then the instructions on how to order the food.

    When you arrive at the restaurant you arrange for seating, then walk to the steam table, point to or speak which of the dozen or more items (vegetarian and meat) you want, the attendant manning the steam table writes them down on a piece of paper and hands it to you, you return to your table and a person on the waitstaff comes by and picks-up the paper and retrieves the items and brings them to your table and you eat.

    I opted for small orders of five of the featured items, choosing a yoghurt soup which had some herbs and/or green leafy vegetables I could not identify; "stuffed bread" (strongly recommended by the steam table attendant) which was like a big dumpling (but with a baked shell consistency) filled with minced meat, spices and somthered with a yoghurt sauce; sour cherries with small meatballs and diced bread; Ramazan kebab - a lamb stew with tomatoe's, pearl onions, pine nuts (I think they were pine nuts); and eggplant stuffed with cooked grain, herbs and spices.

    The cooking at Çiya Sofrasi is indeed complex and there are varieties of spices, textures, etc. The food was very aromatic - smelling as good as it tasted - and it seemed obvious that a lot of love goes into its preparation. There was a lot of character and I cleaned each of the four plates, and my soup bowl. My strongest reaction - positive - was to the "stuffed bread." I can't identify the herb/spices used with the minced meat but I could easily become addicted to it. Sour cherries are popular in many restaurants in Istanbul, and the sour cherry drink is a well-enjoyed refreshment. The plate of sour cherries with cherry-sized meatballs was unusual to my palate and at first I thought what turned out to be diced bread was tofu; further investigation, though, revealed it was bread. I loved the Ramazan kebab - stew - and found it, overall, to be the most flavorful for me. The lamb was wonderfully tender and the dish worked well with the tomato and small onions. Though I ate it all, I thought the stuffed eggplant was the weakest amongst this collection of dishes.

    I struggled to get the attention of someone on the waitstaff, to get some water to accompany my meal. If any other beverages were available I was unaware. When I finished my meal and my table was cleared I continued to sit there for more than 20-minutes with nobody from the restaurant staff asking if I wanted more, wanted a dessert, wanted tea, coffee, whatever. Maybe the place is totally self-service and I wasn't aware of it. I did get the attention of someone to bring me the check, though.

    The cost of the meal, as pictured above, was 38 Turkish Lira - about the equivalent of US$25. The food was good, well worth the price IMO. I left 2 lira as a tip. Go for the food, but don't expect much help once you get there . . . you're mostly on your own (if my experience was typical - and I think it is judging by the staff/customer interactions when I was there).

    Is Çiya Sofrasi the best restaurant in Istanbul? Not likely. It's good enough to warrant the trip across the water from the European side, though ... that's a judgment pronounced by others I'll concur with. A 20-minute boat ride, a 15-minute walk, dinner, drinks someplace and then the boat ride back to the other-side is a nice journey to another part of the world.

    Çiya Sofrasi Restaurant
    Guneslibahce Sokak 38
    Kadıköy, Istanbul
    Tel: 216-330-3190

    Some additional food/travel notes: As in Chicago and other cities, Istanbul has it's street food favorites. One such item popular with residents is mussels:

    Istanbul Street Food – Mussels, in Kadıköy

  • Post #13 - September 4th, 2009, 4:31 am
    Post #13 - September 4th, 2009, 4:31 am Post #13 - September 4th, 2009, 4:31 am
    This restaurant has one of the best views in Istanbul. It is a casual, typical Turkish fish restaurant
    located in Salacak right across the Boshporus from Topkapi Palace. As you may guess the sea of Marmara,
    the Old town, Topkapi Palace with its grandeur stands out in this scenery, especially at sunset.

    Reservation is needed to get the front tables facing this view. The view is not all this old restaurant has
    to offer. You can taste delicious mezes (hors d'oeuvre), and fresh sea food. The menu lists also meat
    dishes but the place is rather known as a Meyhane (where you consume alcohol with mezes) and fish is recommended.

    A nice dinner costs about USD 15 per person, quite reasonable compared to other restaurants in the
    same league without views.
    “The perfect Wedding Planning with perfect Wedding Favors
  • Post #14 - September 4th, 2009, 7:58 am
    Post #14 - September 4th, 2009, 7:58 am Post #14 - September 4th, 2009, 7:58 am

    Wow, terrific series of posts! I feel like I just took a vacation in Istanbul. Thank you ever so much for sharing your trip with us.

    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #15 - September 4th, 2009, 9:33 am
    Post #15 - September 4th, 2009, 9:33 am Post #15 - September 4th, 2009, 9:33 am
    Thanks Bill. For those of us who know in their heart that they will probably never travel to Istanbul, you have broadened my life experience!
  • Post #16 - September 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm
    Post #16 - September 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm Post #16 - September 4th, 2009, 12:03 pm

    really good posts. I've been to Istanbul 30-50 times, and I have really enjoyed your posts. thanks for the work.
  • Post #17 - September 4th, 2009, 4:47 pm
    Post #17 - September 4th, 2009, 4:47 pm Post #17 - September 4th, 2009, 4:47 pm
    Thanks for the compliments. Only two full days left now, before I return to Chicago. The time has passed quickly.

    Today’s activities were directed toward the city’s Balat neighborhood – which has served as home to the city’s Jewish community, the Greek Orthodox community and now as home to immigrants from other parts of Turkey, and Europe. It’s an area in disrepair, but the government – and various United Nations agencies – are applying financial resources to preserve and improve the neighborhood.

    At or very close to Balat is the former Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior which now serves as the Kariye Museum – preserving Byzantine-era mosaic murals of substantial import. I took the Metro to a nearby area and walked the 15-minutes to the Church, thorough some rough-and-tumble neighborhood reminding me of post-WWII photos I’ve seen of bombed areas of Germany. Very depressing, it was. Through the neighborhood, and past the Church, is a large section of the wall which enclosed the city in ancient times.

    Church of the Holy Savior – Kariye Museum


    The Church/Museum had a greater impact on me than Agia Sofia, the historic church/mosque/museum in the Sultanahmet neighborhood. The mosaic murals are powerful when viewed up close. Click on the link that follows to learn more about the Church/Museum:

    Kofteci Arnavut


    After leaving the Church/Museum I wandered through Balat and the adjacent neighborhoods, destined to find Kofteci Arnavut, a restaurant specializing in Turkish meatballs (köfte) about which I read on the Istanbul Eats website.

    The restaurant has been operated by the same family for 62-years. When I entered the one room restaurant I felt as if I’d been transported back in time – calling the room rustic would be an appropriate description. I was directed to a seat at a common table where two men were scarfing down plates of meatballs.

    Here’s the menu


    Suddenly, a half-loaf of bread was plopped-down in front of me and a young man waived me over to one corner room where the “kitchen” was located – and he said in broken English, “Menu.” There is no printed menu - you have a look at the prep area and make your choices, if you don't already know what you want when you walk through the front door of the place.

    Meatballs are grilled


    There wasn’t much choice, some soup, some potatoes and string beans . . . and, off to one side, there was a grill on which a dozen or so small, rectangular-shaped “meatballs” were cooking (about three-quarters of an inch by an inch and a half in size). I walked all that distance for meatballs so I wasn’t about to change my mind then.

    It’s all about the meatballs at Kofteci Arnavut


    The meal is simple: meatballs and a wedge or two of tomato and a small helping of sliced onion in a bowl. I ordered, also, a separate salad. As my plate was placed in front of me the toothless owner picked up a small bowl of crushed red pepper (I think that’s what it was!) and in very broken English told me, “Good!” Who am I to argue?

    There was a char on the meatballs, and my first couple of bites into the meat gave the clear taste and impression that the fire under the grill was charcoal. I got up from where I was sitting and walked over to the grill to have a look, and, yes, there was charcoal under the grill. Eating these meatballs was like having tiny hamburgers from Patty’s Diner – that good. Char on the outside, moist meat inside and full of flavor.

    If I lived in Istanbul I think I’d become addicted to the meatballs – and I believe the regular customers of the restaurant are. Also too, what makes the restaurant so inviting is the contageous laughter of the owner who seems on a non-stop joy ride of life.

    Finishing touch to the meal – cloves and toothpicks


    I was so in love with the meatballs that I forget how much the check was (I'm suspecting they were made from beef). I do know it was 10 lira or less, though – about the equivalent of US$6. Very satisfied with my meal I exchanged some few words in English with the owner and snapped some final photos and I was on my way “home,” back to my hotel . . . it had been a long day of walking in the heat up to that point.

    My ride home


    I crossed the busy street in front of the restaurant and past the Jewish hospital (still in operation after so many decades of service – and staffed, mostly, I’m informed, by doctors in the community who are Jewish (and serving the community as a whole), and I hopped aboard a river ferry boat (at the Ayvansaray stop) that took me back down the Golden Horn close to where my hotel is situated.

    Köfteci Arnavut
    Mursel Pasa Caddesi 139
    Balat, Istanbul
    Tel: 212-531-6652
  • Post #18 - September 4th, 2009, 8:13 pm
    Post #18 - September 4th, 2009, 8:13 pm Post #18 - September 4th, 2009, 8:13 pm
    bill, go to a bathhouse. not to be missed
  • Post #19 - September 4th, 2009, 8:57 pm
    Post #19 - September 4th, 2009, 8:57 pm Post #19 - September 4th, 2009, 8:57 pm
    Boy, am I upset. I was in Istanbul in mid-July and really wish this thread had existed then! I missed out on so many great places. I tried searching on some other sites but not a lot came up--certainly nothing concentrated like this. Stumbled upon a few good places for lunch near the large Bazaar. For dinner, mistakenly went to a place recommended by the hotel concierge--disaster because it was a total tourist trip.

    Thanks for the report! If I go back, I'll print it out and take it along.
  • Post #20 - September 4th, 2009, 10:39 pm
    Post #20 - September 4th, 2009, 10:39 pm Post #20 - September 4th, 2009, 10:39 pm
    DutchMuse wrote:Boy, am I upset. I was in Istanbul in mid-July and really wish this thread had existed then! I missed out on so many great places. I tried searching on some other sites but not a lot came up--certainly nothing concentrated like this.

    Well, there's your problem -- you searched on other sites. ;-)

    There have, in fact, been a few threads on dining in Istanbul on LTHforum, including this one:

    Different foods, different restaurants, so the above definitely adds depth to what was previously posed about Istanbul. Makes me want to go back again.

    But when you start printing, there's lots more to print.
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan
  • Post #21 - September 5th, 2009, 5:36 am
    Post #21 - September 5th, 2009, 5:36 am Post #21 - September 5th, 2009, 5:36 am
    Ditto - we are going back this fall, and will def. print this out!!

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog.
  • Post #22 - September 5th, 2009, 5:14 pm
    Post #22 - September 5th, 2009, 5:14 pm Post #22 - September 5th, 2009, 5:14 pm
    It was a hot day here in Istanbul, and a lazy one for me - a bit unfocused . . . but that's okay, because it's a vacation. . . no place to be at no special time. I did make the effort to walk into the Sirkeci Train Station – where the Orient Express passengers disembarked for so many fabulous journeys over the decades.

    Sirkeci Train Station


    The Orient Express Restaurant - Sirkeci Train Station


    And I did make a special effort to visit a non-kebabi restaurant in the "modern" and "hip" Taksim neighborhood on the other sidee of the water from where I'm staying. I was PO'd, however, to get to the restaurant only to find the place highly disorganized and unable to take care of customers . . . and I wasn't the only potential customer to arrive at the doorway only to walk away shaking the head. It was getting close to the time for the Iftar and I didn't want to return to Sultanahmet and face the crowds at restaurants and the possibility I wouldn't get to eat until late in the evening. Taksim has an entirely different atmosphere/personality and restaurants abound . . . and it's not as orthodox, religiously, so eating there at just about any time is an easy task to accomplish.

    I wandered about and stumbled upon Marko Pasa, which caught my eye and interest.

    Restaurant Marko Pasa


    What First Got My Attention



    The women sitting at the front of the restaurant, in the window making food is what caught my attention. There'd be no question that some or most of the food was made on the premises. In addition to the small pockets with meat inside, the women were making many orders of gozeleme - which is simiar to a Mexican quesadilla, only three or four times larger. It was fun watching the woman on the other side of the window from me as she rolled the dough, insterted the filling(s) and cooked them there - and she made the effort to demonstrate to what she was doing and how.

    Little Purses / Dumpling / Ravs / With Meat Filling


    I don't recall what these little purses filled with meat are called, and I'm too lazy at the moment to search for the information. I've read of them though and have tried variations a couple of times back in Chicago. Before sitting down at the restaurant I'd made up my mind I was going to have an order of them for dinner.

    Table No. 1 – In the Middle of All of the Action


    My arrival at the restaurant was timed well - a table in front of the window, and in front of the women making food, was available and I snatched it. Not only would I have my meal but a "show" as well! Not only was there a show inside the restaurant, but the area is known for having somewhat of a carnival-like atmosphere - with so many pedestrians wandering about (thousands upon thousands milling around).

    Meze – the Cold Starters


    Stuffed grape leaves, small round balls of what I thought was a bean paste, white beans in a light red sauce, a stuffed green pepper, green beans sliced lengthwise and yoghurt with fresh dill . . . oh, and a slice of red bell pepper.

    My Own Little Purses / Dumpling / Ravs / With Meat Filling


    The meze's were followed by the order of the small, pinched purses with minced meat (lamb, I believe) inside which I'm assuming had been boiled, covered with yoghurt topped with a red pepper oil. They were light, and delicious. I couldn t taste much of the meat, apart from the rest of the dish - but the blend of the yoghurt and red (spicy) pepper oil and the small dimples of dough combined to make a flavorful meal. I alternated between the cold meze's and the hot dish of the small purses.

    The restaurant seemed to be very popular, probably 15 people walked into the interior - including upper two floors - and another half-dozen to additonal outdoor tables/seating diagonally across the street and staffed by the restaurant's waitstaff. Everything tasted fresh.

    The owner/manager asked me if I'd like a beer, or some wine with my dinner. Because we were in Taksim I wasn't surprised by the offer. But I was a little surprised when the beer arrived in a U.S.A-sized stainless steel coffee cup. Obviously, the restaurant wants to serve its patrons but not anger people observing stricter dietary laws or Ramazan traditions of abstaining from alcohol.

    The dinner was fine, not what I expected when I set-out for the evening . . . . but the indoor and outdoor shows made the 34 Lira price tag acceptable (the equivalent of approx. US$23) - and I enjoyed what I ate. I think, however, that the 5 lira charge for each of the two cups of beer I had is a bit expensive for that volume. I enjoyed the beer though.

    Marko Pasa
    Istiklal Caddesi Sadri Alisik Sokak No. 8
    Taksim - Beyoglu - Istanbul
    Tel: 212-252-80-80
  • Post #23 - September 5th, 2009, 5:50 pm
    Post #23 - September 5th, 2009, 5:50 pm Post #23 - September 5th, 2009, 5:50 pm
    the purses are manti, its great to find them handmade on premises.
  • Post #24 - September 6th, 2009, 11:00 am
    Post #24 - September 6th, 2009, 11:00 am Post #24 - September 6th, 2009, 11:00 am
    Beautiful series, Bill. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.
  • Post #25 - September 6th, 2009, 1:19 pm
    Post #25 - September 6th, 2009, 1:19 pm Post #25 - September 6th, 2009, 1:19 pm
    Thanks for the posts Bill - they brought back very fond memories of my visit to Turkey. I am eager to to back and your posts will be very helpful.

    A meal, with bread and wine, shared with friends and family is among the most essential and important of all human rituals.
  • Post #26 - September 6th, 2009, 2:57 pm
    Post #26 - September 6th, 2009, 2:57 pm Post #26 - September 6th, 2009, 2:57 pm
    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 and where 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.
  • Post #27 - October 4th, 2009, 12:23 am
    Post #27 - October 4th, 2009, 12:23 am Post #27 - October 4th, 2009, 12:23 am
    One of the food items I enjoyed most when in Istanbul recently was Künefe.


    Künefe starts as string-shaped dough dropped onto a large circular plate which half-bakes it (over a fire). A usta (master) controls this process. The half-baked strings are placed into a large circular baking pan and mixed with walnuts or pistachio, melted butter and then cooked over a separate fire until one side is reddish-brown. A hone-based syrup is added after the final cooking process and crushed pistachios are sprinkled on top before serving. The post popularly/famously prepared Künefe in Turkey is said to come from the town of Antakya. During the period of Ramazan in Istanbul one shopkeeper who produces Künefe in Antakya sets up a small stall outside the Sultanahmet – Blue – Mosque to sell the dessert – which I observed during my visit was the most popular food stall in that area.







  • Post #28 - October 26th, 2009, 11:15 am
    Post #28 - October 26th, 2009, 11:15 am Post #28 - October 26th, 2009, 11:15 am
    We're in Istanbul now, and enjoying all the food! It's Monday, so lots of things are closed, so we've been going to look at Mosques (they don't close :) )

    So far have been to Ciya (same good food, similar disjointed service - they were so taken aback by the fact that we only got one bowl of soup to share between us that we never got our green salad) and for dinner Refik last night. We went to Erzincanli Ali Baba for lunch today and had good beans. The kids next to us were from Denmark on a University-sponsored trip, and were completely flummoxed - from the fact that they had to share a table to how to order (the whole going inside thing, etc). We had great beans, and a tasty pumpkin dessert, they had some unsatisfying grilled meat and fries wrapped in bread.

    Saturday night we were jetlagged, and just wandered around and around and saw everyone else in Istanbul doing the same - and no one walked in a straight line! Sports bars next to Metal bars next to Strip Clubs. Then suddenly ahead guys frying veggies on one side of the street, then a bunch of fish restaurants (pick your fish, they'll carry it in back and cook it).

    We saw a lot of places with the ladies in front making dumplings and thin sheets of dough for things. Haven't been yet, but it's on the list. Tomorrow we plan to wander around and eat street food - carts!

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog.
  • Post #29 - October 26th, 2009, 1:01 pm
    Post #29 - October 26th, 2009, 1:01 pm Post #29 - October 26th, 2009, 1:01 pm
    leek wrote:We're in Istanbul now, and enjoying all the food! It's Monday, so lots of things are closed, so we've been going to look at Mosques (they don't close :) ) ... Saturday night we were jetlagged, and just wandered around and around and saw everyone else in Istanbul doing the same - and no one walked in a straight line! Sports bars next to Metal bars next to Strip Clubs. Then suddenly ahead guys frying veggies on one side of the street, then a bunch of fish restaurants (pick your fish, they'll carry it in back and cook it).

    Thanks for the first of your reports! I still can't believe how much I enjoyed my time in Istanbul. Reading the "Saturday night" quote above, it sounds to me as if you're at a hotel in the Taksim district - a lot livelier than the Sultanahmet side of Istanbul where I slept soundly. Have a great time!
  • Post #30 - October 26th, 2009, 4:48 pm
    Post #30 - October 26th, 2009, 4:48 pm Post #30 - October 26th, 2009, 4:48 pm
    tonight we started by having a drink at a place that had bad wine and could have been easily called La Maison de la House of la Casa - Ada cafe, bistro and Bookstore on Istikial Cad. Beautiful decor and soul-less food. Sigh.

    Dinner, though was really good - style meets substance, at Antiochia (also recommended at - really tasty food, nice wine, and charming waitstaff (plus you coulc buy soap, if you wanted). Right around the corner from our hotel, very convenient!

    Minare Sokak, Asmalimesict
    Phone: 212-292-1100

    Yes, Bill, we are over almost in Taksim, not far off Istikial Cad. We decided we'd rather travel a little more in the day for touristic things than at night for dinner :)
    Last edited by leek on October 28th, 2009, 11:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog.