September 2015

We ate out for every meal other than some breakfasts while in Istanbul.  We went to three high class restaurants, others that were very good even excellent but the cuisine was not so fancy and the surroundings often less so.   I also had kebabs from fast food places. I think I got a good sample of what Turkish cuisine or at least the Istanbul version has to offer.

The cuisine of Istanbul is largely influenced by that of the Ottoman Empire, generally subtly spiced,  with more rice than bulgar, although I experienced the opposite.  You can get lots of veggie stews (türlü).  There are many versions with eggplant.  Also there are various meat dishes featuring eggplant, which obviously the Turks really love so right there they had me.  I had an eggplant stuffed with meat and others with bits of meat in a stew.

Savoy is a fancy place up the hill from us  – very up the hill.  Like many places, it was as much outdoor seating as indoor, the walls removed to allow unfettered access to the cool night air.  They offered sea bass and a variety of other fish, all excellently prepared.  One of us had a sea bass. They had a special on blue fish, which I ordered.  It came as several smaller fishes, grilled, with a nice smoky flavor.

In a place owned by a Kurdish family and many of them work there, including the parents, most of the nine brothers, but not the two teen girls.  It is not far from Hagia Sophia on a restaurant row.  I ordered a meat stew.  It came out atop a charcoal burning container.  It was boiling when they sat it down.  They had to remove the charcoal under the dish so I could approach things without getting burned.  It was totally fabulous.  I can not begin to describe the subtle blend of flavors.    It might have been a Kurdish dish.  It looked something like this:

turkish meat dish

turkish meat dish

We had lunch with Debbie and Kelly, whom we met in Panama.  We were all in the Peace Corps.  I hope they will share their memories of this lunch.

 Appetizers, called mezes when accompanying an alcoholic beverage, are the best part of any meal.  On one of the three fance places we visited, up the hill towards  a nice selection ran as $40 including wine at $7 a glass, by far the most expensive spot we chose on this trip.  It is up the hill towards the Savoy and across the street from a small stand selling tacos.  Tacos?

Mezes include hummus, baba ganoush, yogurt sauces, dolams and a few other common things you can get in many places in the US and Europe.  Not so easy to find in the West:  a tomato/cilantro combo that’s a bit spicy, white goat cheeses, various other eggplant dishes with or without tomatoes. The possibilities are extensive.

Wine is generally expensive in Turkey.  The bottle at Savoy ran about $25.  Beer was generally inexpensive.

Olive oil is most commonly used in cooking.  There are a variety of olives available in the grocery stores.

Kepap /kepabs are everywhere.  You can get them in pita bread or a baguette of some sort.  They have chicken as well as ‘duram’ (wrap) kepaps. I did not have any that were worth writing home about.  Unlike what I have had elsewhere, these were plain, lacking sauce, lettuce, or tomato.   They were less than $2 (4 lire).  Kebaps as in shish kebaps are another matter.  Skewered meat, always succulent and super tender, they came with veggies and rice or bulgar.  I never went wrong with one of those.

Our favorite place was just up the street steeply from us.  It was run by a couple of guys and someone’s mom, who mostly just sat there sternly.  We sat outside on a level spot they’d hacked out, inside a small wall separating us from the sidewalk.   They have a wood burning oven.  After you order they put in some bread. It’s huge, impressive both in appearance and texture.

 

Turkish appetizers

Turkish appetizers

Turkish appetizers

Turkish appetizers

Turkish appetizers

Turkish appetizers

Wine is generally expensive in Turkey.  The bottle at Savoy ran about $25.  Beer was generally inexpensive.

Olive oil is most commonly used in cooking.  There are a variety of olives available in the grocery stores.

Kepap /kepabs are everywhere.  You can get them in pita bread or a baguette of some sort.  They have chicken as well as ‘duram’ (wrap) kepaps. I did not have any that were worth writing home about.  Unlike what I have had elsewhere, these were plain, lacking sauce, lettuce, or tomato.   They were less than $2 (4 lire).  Kebaps as in shish kebaps are another matter.  Skewered meat, always succulent and super tender, they came with veggies and rice or bulgar.  I never went wrong with one of those.

Our favorite place was just up the street steeply from us.  It was run by a couple of guys and someone’s mom, who mostly just sat there sternly.  We sat outside on a level spot they’d hacked out, inside a small wall separating us from the sidewalk.

They have a wood burning oven.  After you order they put in some bread.  It’s huge, impressive both in appearance and texture.

Turkish puffed up bread

Turkish puffed up bread

They serve up a pide that is out of this world!  Reminds me of a pizza, but never a tomato sauce on one of these.  They come with cheese or meat, usually with veggies on top too.

 

Pides

Pides

 

Turkish pizza is a rather limited affair but certainly you can’t go wrong.  It’s a light and inexpensive meal.

Turkish pizza (lamacun)

Turkish pizza (lamacun)

We went down the hill for breakfast several times.  There’s a small place that sits below ground level, as did the one up the street; I wonder how they keep the water out when it rains.   Three steps down and you’re in this modest restaurant run by two women.

 A  Turkish breakfast consists of white cheese (probably goat), olives, bread, hard boiled egg, tomato, cucumber, and bread.  Tea is typical and probably included in the modest price.   I always got the coffee, not being a tea fan.  It was the only thing I tried that I did not like very much.  I am not talking just about Turkish coffee (here’s a photo I took in the restaurant):

 

 

My emply cup of Turkish coffee

My emply cup of Turkish coffee

They certainly do not skimp on the coffee grounds- that’s a toothpick you see standing up!  As you see here they brew it in the cup.  The ground sink to the bottom so you never get any in your mouth as long as you are reasonably careful.   You can add sugar or mils and stir.  The grounds are gone in a few seconds.

Turkish breakfast

Turkish breakfast

You can order scrambled eggs and omelettes.  Breakfast here did not cost more than $3 or so, and always very good.  Here’s another item you can order for breakfast.  My pals really liked it at this place:

Menemen, an egg dish

Menemen, an egg dish

 

I’d go back to Istanbul just for the food.  And I’ve not gotten to the desserts!  That’s next.