Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Since I have Istanbul on my mind this week, I thought I would write another foodie post involving my last two trips to this magical city.

Though our travels always revolve around food, Turkish food is something that I miss and was more than happy to indulge in with our willing (and missed) friends. So here’s a rundown of some of the tasty places we tried for the first time or revisited for the umpteenth time in Istanbul.

Midye Dolması
In March, we introduced our skeptical American friend to eating midye dolması (stuffed mussels) off the streets in Beyoğlu. “Is it safe?” he asked us. To us, it’s just one of those things you MUST do in Istanbul, especially after you’ve had a few drinks. The street sellers will keep giving you more mussels until you tell them to stop. Then, you pay based on how many shells you emptied.
Turkish Etli Ekmek
Now, you don’t have to travel all the way to Konya to try this meter-long flatbread pizza. My friend’s Turkish husband, Kartal, treated me to a delicious etli ekmek at Ikonium in the Levent neighborhood. Of course, when I’m back in Istanbul, I must have an Efes beer too! Grab a friend or two because you’ll need them to help share this flatbread pizza!
Location: Aytar Caddesi Dilek Apartmanı No:28, Levent. 5-minute walk from Levent metro stop.

Turkish Grilled Meat
Our Turkish friend, Huseyin, loves good food as much as we do, so we had to try one of his favorite meat-centric places in Etiler. Before taking a seat at Nusr-Et Steakhouse, be sure to look in the meat showcase near the grill. Try the lokum (Turkish delight), spaghetti (thinly sliced beef) and sliced-to-order lamb ribs. The meat used comes from the Marmara Sea region. Accompany your meat with unlimited crispy fries and a salad. This fancy, crowded steakhouse is a place to be seen so don’t be shocked by your 100tl per person bill. (Note: we didn’t have any alcohol that night because local elections that day forbid it.) However, I think the experience is worth trying at least once!
Some of the best grilled rack of lamb I've ever had in Turkey!
And for dessert, don’t skimp on the pistachio baklava that is flown in fresh every day from Gaziantep and served tableside with a generous scoop of Maras dondurma. My mouth is just watering thinking about this heavenly baklava!
Location: Nispetiye Caddesi No:87, Etiler

Bosphorus Views on the Asian side
Once again, Kartal and his wife, Nicole, treated me to a special dinner at Del Mare. Half the fun was taking a free ferry boat from the Kuruçeşme Iskelesi (Pier) to the Asian side of Istanbul. This seafood restaurant is housed in a former 19th-century factory and features a splendid, canopied outdoor terrace with beautiful Bosphorus views. 
The menu features the typical Turkish mezes and fresh seafood. And for dessert, don’t forget to order irmik helvası, which is semolina cooked with butter and sugar and served with vanilla ice cream in the middle. Delicious!
Location: Kuleli Caddesi No:53 / 4, Çengelköy

Literally next door to Del Mare, you’ll find an unique concept at Tapasuma Restaurant where Turkish and Mediterranean food is served as bite-sized tapas in a modern setting. It’s definitely worth checking out if want to dine by candlelight away from the hectic crowds of the city. The restaurant is housed in a luxurious boutique hotel (a restored former raki distillery) in case you want to stay the night and wake up to these beautiful Bosphorus views as well.
Tasty mini versions of Turkish and Mediterranean food at Tapasuma.
Last year, we even got to peak into the kitchen and meet the friendly Executive Chef Gökay Çakıroğlu and his cooks at Tapasuma.
Location: Kuleli Caddesi No:43, Çengelköy

Beer Break under the Galata Bridge
After you’ve been sightseeing for several hours, you’ll definitely want to enjoy a break under the Galata Bridge. Sure, this area is touristy. However, I still love sitting under the bridge right by the water, sipping my Efes beer and people watching. Just make sure the café you sit at actually sells alcohol as several of them now have signs that say “alcoholsuz” (no alcohol).
Turkish Breakfast at our Hotel
The Turks are well known for their Turkish breakfasts! Luckily, we had breakfast included at the Anemon Galata Hotel where we stayed for 3 nights for about $100 per night. The hotel offers a fantastic location right by the Galata Tower and a lovely view over the Golden Horn where you can enjoy your breakfast or a glass of wine later at night.
Group Dinner with Friends
Sometimes, it’s simply easier to organize a group dinner with friends when we’re back in Istanbul. We met our friends at Yüzevler Kebap, a restaurant originally based in Adana, that features traditional Turkish kebabs and meze dishes. We enjoyed a good dinner and even better conversation catching up with our friends. But at 100tl per person, we don’t think we’ll be coming back here as the food didn’t live up to its reputation.
Location: Nispetiye Cad. No:10, Etiler

During my last three trips to Istanbul, I’ve made it a point to dine at Çiya. This last time, we tried a unique bulgur meatball soup and perde pilavi, a special rice dish from southeastern Turkey. The “curtain rice” as it is so called features a seasoned rice with raisins, pine nuts, almonds and chicken wrapped inside a crispy baked phyllo shell. It’s an uncommon dish, but one that I highly recommend if you find it on the menu.
Another Asian-side place we like to return to again and again is the yogurt shops in the small neighborhood of Kanlıca. Again, half the fun is taking one of the water taxis from Emirgan, especially after visiting the Turkish lale festival in the spring, to Kanlıca. Pull up a chair outside, order some of the best Turkish yogurt with a side of powdered sugar and a glass of tea. Enjoy!
Turkish Staples
You’ll find several locations of Günaydın Restaurant throughout the city. The restaurants feature well-made Turkish kebabs and meatballs, but last time, I thought the prices were a bit more hefty then what they used to be. Still it’s a good place to enjoy some typical Turkish dishes and a sinful künefe for dessert.
Location: Suadiye Mahallesi, Kazım Özalp Cad.

After reading about all these Turkish dishes and restaurants, I hope you’re ready to visit one of my favorite cities!

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Julia said...

Wow, you certainly tempted our tastebuds there. Can't believe we've still not been to Çiya. We always seem to run out of time. Next time it's a definite. :)

Alyson said...

Mmmmm, the baklava at Nus-r-et is probably one of my favourite, but I almost never had room after a meal there!

Taste of Beirut said...

This post is so helpful! I plan on returning to Istanbul soon, and I will refer to your reporting for my food excursions there!

Joy said...

@Julia, Hope you get back to Istanbul soon! Çiya is always a good idea! :-)

Joy said...

Agreed b/c Gaziantep baklava is THE best in the world!

Joy said...

@Taste of Beirut, can't wait to hear all about your foodie adventures too!

Ozlem's Turkish Table said...

What a fabulous foodie trip it must have been, loved your photos and the post dear Joy :)Cok sevgiler xxx

Danielle said...

These photos look SO good! Istanbul is probably going to be our next long weekend -- definitely going to bookmark this.

Unknown said...

@Ozlem, Teşekkürler! I still miss all this wonderful Turkish food!

Unknown said...

@Danielle, I can definitely recommend even more Istanbul places if you need them. :-)