This is the sixth of eleven posts on Istanbul. Check out our other posts here:
- Introduction to Istanbul
- 4 Nights at the Magnificent Park Hyatt Istanbul
- Hagia Sophia: Church, Mosque, and Now Museum
- Cheap Eats in Istanbul!
- Istanbul’s Magnificent Mosques
- Turkish Food is Quite a Delight!
- Suleymaniye Hamami: A Mixed Gender Turkish Bath
- Shopping at the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar in Istanbul
- Istanbul’s Other Sights: The Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern
- Crossing the Bosphorous Strait: A Day Trip from Europe to Asia
- Lounge Deathmatch: Turkish Airlines vs. Cathay Pacific
I already went over the delicious cheap eats we had while in Istanbul. This post will go over some of the “fancier” food we had.
Zubeyir: The Best Adana Kebabs Ever!
I know I said in the last post that Turkish food was much more than kebabs, but we had to sample some while we were in Istanbul. After some Internet research, I discovered that Zubeyir (located at Şht. Muhtar Mh., 34435 Beyoğlu) is reputed to have some of the best adana kebabs in Istanbul.
When we walked in and saw the grill in the middle of the restaurant, I knew that we had made the right decision. Mr. Selfish and I usually order different things when going to a new restaurant in order to diversify and try more than one dish. We didn’t do that here. We both ordered the adana kebabs, and I’m glad we did.
While we were waiting for our food to cook right next to us, we also enjoyed the “special salad.” It had parsley, tomatoes, and onions in some kind of amazing dressing. It was quite tasty but it wasn’t why we were there.
By the time the adana kebabs came out, we were salivating.
They didn’t disappoint. The char was just right. The meat was flavorful and perfectly cooked. It was certainly the best adana kebabs I’ve ever had, and I also enjoyed the pitas that were charred up a little as well.
Hayvore: Give Me a Little of Everything Please
On our first night in Istanbul, we visited Hayvore (located at Turnacıbaşı Sok. No:4 Beyoğlu). Although I usually shy away from places that serve pre-made food, this type of restaurant is quite common in Istanbul. Plus, it’s a good way to sample a little bit of everything. All of the food is behind a glass counter, and you can just point to whatever strikes your fancy.
Mr. Selfish and I pointed to four dishes – chickpeas, anchovies, stuffed grape leaves, and kofte with pilaf.
Everything was very good, but I enjoyed the stuffed grape leaves (sarma), especially in the yogurt sauce, the most.
Casita: Try the Deep Fried Manti
Speaking of yogurt sauce, one of the dishes that I indulged in quite a bit while in Istanbul is manti, which is tiny lamb dumplings in a yogurt sauce. It sounds decadent because it is. We discovered that Casita (located at Abdi Ipekci Cad. Atiye Sok. No:3), which was near our hotel, had great manti. In addition, Casita originated a deep fried version of manti called feraye. Yes, fried dumplings in a yogurt sauce. Bring it on!
I ordered the trio of manti. The trio had three flavors – one was tomato, the other was pesto, and the last one was particularly deep-fried. Mr. Selfish ordered what looked like steak frites but actually had some kind of yogurt sauce on top of the beef.
It was all very tasty but the manti was stellar. I love ravioli but nothing beats manti in a savory yogurt sauce!
Hünkar: Just Average
Another Turkish specialty I wanted to try was hünkar beğendi, which is lamb stew served on top of an eggplant puree. We decided to go to Hünkar (located at Mim Kemal Öke Caddesi No. 21, Nişantaşı) and try it there.
We ordered lentil soup, pilaf, the mixed grill, and, of course, the hünkar beğendi.
I was a little disappointed by the hünkar beğendi. Although the lamb was good, I didn’t think that the eggplant puree had much flavor. It was only okay. Plus, the mixed grill was nothing to write home about either. We’ve definitely had better mixed grills in Winter Park, FL. The service was also quite lacking at Hünkar.
Ciya Kebab: Eat Everything
Another more successful meal that we had was at Ciya Kebab (located at Carsi ici Kadikoy) on the Asian side of Istanbul. Although we probably mis-ordered and didn’t get the kebab, everything we had was very tasty.
Mr. Selfish and I ordered nani dolmuk (minced beef cooked in a pastry with dill, parsley, spring onions, mint, and cinnamon with a yogurt sauce), stuffed eggplant and tomatoes, and falafel.
It was all delicious. I can’t even say which dish I liked the most. Honestly. If you go to the Asian side of Istanbul, I would definitely visit Ciya.
Acik Mutfak: Like Mom Used to Make
Finally, we also visited Acik Mutfak (located at Tımarcı Sok. 6/B, Beyoğlu), because we heard that it was a small restaurant with an ever-changing menu cooked by one woman.
It was an adorable restaurant with the kitchen right next to the entrance. The menu was on a chalk board that clearly changed every night. We had the mezze platter and, for good measure, the manti.
We sat at a table with very red lamps, so the photos don’t do the food justice. The mezze platter was delicious. I especially liked the hummus and lentil kofte. The manti (although not deep-fried) was perfectly cooked and drenched in yogurt, olive oil, and paprika (in a good way of course).
I would recommend all of the restaurants that we visited, with the exception of Hünkar. You can probably find better hünkar beğendi elsewhere. It also didn’t help that Hünkar was the most expensive restaurant at which we ate as well.