Gourmet dining Istanbul – Sentimental meatball for tears of happiness :))
Hi there ;
One of my duties mixed with pleasure as a tour guide in Istanbul offering high end tours is keeping my visitors away from touristy restaurants offering mediocre food. If you care for a gourmet bite as a treat; read on :))
Taking care of upmarket clients I always need special charming restaurants , that doesn’t need be pricy all the times, but charming and special; and below are the ones.
(For the price concern, In a number of them of them one main dish will be in the range of 10$ – 14$ price range for those budget concious who would like to plan ahead. In the list below Buhara is the least expensive, a turkish pizza ( lahmacun ) is around 3,5$, most veggy meals 5$ or so, the beyti mentioned below for 12$ , but it is like 1,5 portion, you may order a half size. )
Here are my comments from my visits to the restaurants mentioned below enough times to give you the good advice. Of course there are tons of others which are also perfect.
To begin with; if you would like a decent bite of lamb kebab ( sish – şiş kebab ) , or lamb ; ask for the most tender, that is rare to get – kulbastı – külbastı; only a real top of the line kebab place will have it, doeas not need to be a decor place.
In central old town ( around blue mosque square ) , there are very good and also but mediocre and touristy places.
In that neighborhood a real treat vegetable dish restaurant like the named Ciya of Kadikoy district ( take a boat from almost across Spice Market to Kadikoy district ; details of this is also another link in my opera.com blog you will find below.
Just outside the Nuruosmaniye gate of the Grand Bazaar, the gate on your left and the mosque on your right walk “3” minutes , and on your right the corner of the first block is Tarihi Subaşı lokantası, that is the right place to dine when you are in its neighborhood.
On Istiklal street in new town, yes there are tons of places, but beginning from Taksim square, past Burger King, on the left , 2 min walking , corner of the first block is Haci Baba, if you like lamb schank, I go there for lamb schank and warm sarma , grape leaf roll with ground meat and rice and spice filling – Greeks (wrongly) call it dolma ; the rest of their specials are a bit like Ciya, and Canak ( in Acibadem district of Kadikoy ( take a minibus or taxi – 7 lira , 5$ ride from Kadikoy ) and I DO PREFER THESE TWO to Hacibaba. For a superior vegetable ( usually mixed with chunks of beef and lamb ) also a turn on Istiklal street is a historical one called Haci Abdullah; this will be superior to HAcibaba for vegetable dishes, same leage with Ciya and Canak for some selections , but this one is full of character of an old business with a tradition, 1950’s or so.
Above the main entrance of Spice MArket there is this sort of historical restaurant, though a bit too pricy.
In the old town a number of very good and not necessarily pricy places can be pinpointed :
My favourite kebab and home made vegetable dish place nearby Blue mosque is Buhara; location is easy 5 – 7 min walking to Blue Mosque , inexpensive, my American clients just liked it so much , and some of them were gourmets. Their Beyti kebab ( ground beef and lamb made into a roll with thin flat bread just warm out of oven , with pistachio crunches , mushroom and pepper on side in it ) is a real treat, the order may begin with a much smaller lahmacun ( turkish pizza ) called bardakaltı ( saucer sized ) lahmacun .
Sentimental meatball for tears of happiness :))
Sentimental meatball is a slightly wrong translation; it is originally called icli kofte ( içli köfte ) içli means there is something on the inside – in other words stuffed or filled in ; literal translation is more like with inside . But in Turkey if you have feelings inside yourself, you have something on the inside . The word is considered too be a gentle touchy word when referring to feelings ; in 2009 a plastic pipe company in its commercials used the metaphoric meaning of the word as in ; so many things go through on the inside, yet nothing is heard on the outside; the reference is to someone with deeper and possibly unrevealed feelings. ( well this was supposed to be an article on dining , I throw in a bit of the culture around it :))
Almost next to Spice market Hamdi Restaurant is also a treat ; but you should go for certain selections only – I do not advice the vegetable starters there, since they are not known for it. But again this is one more a kebab place, and but their baklava is ‘one of the best’ in Istanbul; you may read my recent article on it at my blog, somewhere below also at my :
Bon appétit !🙂
Sightseeing advise: for a Bosphorus cruise google ” bitter or better bosphorus cruise” or scroll down my blog to find about this “better cruise ” option , that is shorter but better than the one offered by the city lines.
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