Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today what I love about living in Istanbul:

Beautiful 70 F weather. I took a 10-minute ferry boat ride across the Bosphorus - suddenly crossing from the European side to the Asian side of the city. I could have stayed on the boat all day. However, I had plans. I met up with a group of American women and had a lovely potluck lunch with them.

Later in the day, I took the ferry boat back. Admired the city’s nighttime skyline with all its twinkling lights. Watched the lights of the first bridge change from yellow to green and to blue.

For once, I slowly walked home so I could take in all that I could from the day. I stopped at the outdoor fish market  in Beşiktaş and bought a levrek (sea bass) for dinner. The fish, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with fresh lemons, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper, is roasting in the oven.

Ahhh….this is why I love living by the sea!

Now onto what I miss:

I miss plates full of homemade spicy pork tamales with pico de gallo served on the side.

I miss eating pollo en mole rojo with its intense dark chocolaty, smoky flavors.

I miss the gooey, so-not-good-for-you cheese enchiladas.

I miss ordering tacos de puerco al pastor from the tiny, family-owned restaurant down the street from our house in Baltimore.

Although I really enjoy the food in Turkey, I can’t help but miss some of my favorite things from back in the states.

Mexican food is one of those things I miss.

There are only a handful of Mexican restaurant in the whole entire metropolitan city of Istanbul. Oh sure, a few restaurants offer fajitas or nachos on their menus. Others have tried to replicate guacamole and offer it as an appetizer, but it’s never the thick, chunky style that I like. One time it was soupy. Another time it just lacked in flavor.

But then, we heard about El Torito, founded in 1954 in Encino, Calif., from one of my husband’s colleagues. The restaurant, located at Nispetiye Cad. No. 12, Etiler, has three locations in the city. According to the company’s website, El Torito currently is the largest Mexican restaurant brand in California in terms of number of restaurants and operates franchise locations in Japan, Turkey and the Middle East.

Last weekend, we decided to check it out. The menu features the traditional Tex-Mex fare of burritos, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, etc.

To start, we ordered guacamole. The menu said the guacamole was prepared tableside, but it wasn’t.

However, the funny thing is that the guacamole was served with nacho cheese Doritos instead of tortilla chips! The guacamole, made with either jarred or canned jalapenos, was the best we’ve tried in Istanbul.
Jason ordered a huge combination platter. I think it contained a beef taco, a chicken burrito, a cheese enchilada and a chicken enchilada.
I ordered the chicken enchiladas. They were cheesy and delicious!
Of course, we had to order a margarita to go with our dinner.
The margarita was the only downside of our dinner. It was way too sour – almost like it was made with lemon juice instead of lime juice. Yuck! We find most restaurants rarely use limes because they cost much more than lemons here.

If you need a Mexican food fix in Istanbul, El Torito will fit the bill. We were satisfied and overly stuffed.

Next month, I can’t wait to eat my beloved Mexican food back in the states. I think I’ll stock up on some Latin-inspired cooking supplies too.

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serkan said...

El Torito is the best one, but you should try "Ranchero" as well.

Joy said...

This is still a popular post. Can anyone let me know how they found this? Thanks!

Esma Laz said...

Hi Joy, I found this by looking for mexican groceries in Istanbul through Google. My name is Sonia, I am mexican and live also here in Istanbul. I wonder if you know if there is any place where I can find chile ancho in the city... I want to prepare tortilla soup but I dont have the proper chilis to cook it. Miss so much mexican food!!! My mail is, please if you have any ideas I would like you to write me back. Thanks!

Joy said...

@Sonia, I'll reply back to you more extensively through an email. I honestly have always brought those chilies with me from the US. I have seen chipotle peppers and canned jalapenos at several of the Macro Centers here and sometimes Sutte. Welcome to Istanbul!

Anonymous said...

We too adore Mexican food, is one of the things we miss about living in Turkey. Getting limes here is almost impossible, as is cilantro which we are trying to grow.

Peri said...

I have been finding cilantro at the vegi section in Carrefour and at the 'pazar', the outdoor markets....Macro and Sanlik (ciftehavuzlar on the asian side) carries plain tortilla chips. As to mexican restaurants there used to be a good one called Marmit in Yesilkoy....Yes, just called them and they are there...would have to try it and see if they are still good.