Sunday, September 4, 2011

We certainly are not strangers to drinking the Turkish anisette-flavored rakı when we eat balık.

On more than one occasion, I’ve woken up the next day and regretted having that last glass of rakı. It seemed like a good idea at the time and we were having fun, I always say to myself after the fact. (Has anyone else ever felt the same way?)

Our first destination during the şeker bayramı was Ayvalık, or actually the small island of Cunda Adası (also known as Alibey Adası). This island to the north of Ayvalık is connected to this Aegean coastal city by a two-lane paved causeway where we watched the sunset. With an area of 23 km², it is by far the largest island in the Ayvalık group that dot the surrounding seawaters.
We were in luck because two friends from Istanbul were staying nearby in Dikili, so we planned to meet up near the marina and have dinner together on Cunda Adası. Another Turkish friend, Altuğ, recommended dining at Bay Nihat Restaurant so we could try papalina (sprat) - a small, popular fish similar to fried hamsi.
The restaurant was packed and so were the other dozen restaurants located along the marina. All the Turks were on holiday. This area reminded me of our trip to Dalyan, a small, quaint fishing village in Çeşme, last year.

While we waited for a free table, the four of us popped inside the restaurant’s kitchen area so we could check out the vast meze selection. Inside the large refrigerated display case were about 30 different mezes we could chose from for our dinner! The Turkish mezes always amaze me, and I think I generally like them even more than the fish.

The highlight of the mezes turned out to be deniz börülcesi - (marsh samphire) a strange-looking, but delicious Turkish sea plant that grows along the coastline. While we’ve eaten samphire before, we’ve never had it served with this scrumptious, garlicky Hollandaise-like sauce! All four of us were using the toasted bread to soak up any last bits of garlicky, juicy goodness.
The other mezes included two types of patlıcan yoğurtlu (eggplant with yogurt), izgara ahtapot (grilled octopus) and palamut (bonito), which was smoked and I disliked it immensely.
My favorite izgara ahtapot was garnished with lots of fresh Turkish kekik (oregano).
For our main course, we took our friend’s advice and each had a plate filled with heaps of lightly fried papalina (sprat). Jason later said his plate looked like a small graveyard as it was filled with the tiny heads and tails of the papalina.
After dinner, we wanted something sweet and went for a stroll to explore our options. My girlfriend’s Turkish husband, Murat, recommended we try the meşhur ada lokma (famous island fritters - sort of like a fried doughnut hole). We waited in line at one of the more popular stands along the waterfront called Zeytindali Cafe where a tall Turkish man donning a white tanktop and a totally '80s haircut was loudly calling out orders for the ada lokma.
The fritters, soaked in a sugary syrup, were served hot, dusted with a bit of powdered cinnamon and dried coconut flakes. We greedily surrounded the plastic packet and skewered the ada lokma with the provided toothpicks.
Fried, sweetened dough balls - a perfect way to end the night!

But wait, we didn’t. Somehow we wandered into a nearby open-air bar, ordered some Efes, played with the street dogs, chatted for another hour or two and finally stumbled back to our hotel around 3 a.m.

I blame it on the rakı!
  • Bay Nihat Restaurant, Sahil Boyu, Cunda Adası 0266 327 1777
  • Zeytindali Cafe, Cunda Adası, 0532 405 4324

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Sheryl Sparks said...

So do you really like raki?

Joy said...

Why yes I do! I love that anisette/black licorice flavor. My grandma always made german-anise flavored desserts as a kid so I've grown up with it. Yum!