It feels like a lifetime ago that I was preparing to go to Istanbul. Both my sister and my friend Jess happened to be going at the same time, and I figured such a lucky coincidence must mean I should book a ticket. Jess and I are both foodies and thus began frantically compiling lists of various reviews about restaurants all over the city. Overall, I wouldn’t say that the Istanbul restaurant scene knocked my socks off, but there were definitely some great highlights that are worth mentioning.
Hunkar Lokantasi– Mim Kemal Oke Caddesi No:21 Nisantasi
Despite the language barrier, the staff at Hunkar went out of their way to ensure we understood what we were eating and had a great meal. While the white tablecloths might suggest otherwise, this is a home-style restaurant with simple, relaxing atmosphere and comforting food. Standout dishes included the manti- Turkish ravioli stuffed with ground meat and topped with yogurt, paprika and spicy chili oil and the bulgar wheat salad wrapped in anchovies.
Munferit– Firuzaga Mahallesi, Yeni Carsi Caddesi No. 19, Beyoglu
Munferit is an upscale version of a Turkish meyhane (small plates) and while it was the most expensive meal of our trip, I thought it was worth the price tag. We shared a variety of savory meze including: fried aubergines with tahini, squid ink cous cous with calamari, cucumber salad, roquefort and pear dolmas, bread with anchovy butter, duck mousse with balsamic and the group favorite- turkish white cheese en papillote with porchini mushrooms and truffle oil. The ice cream trio we got for dessert was incredible, mostly for the sage ice cream, which was absolutely mind-blowing, though the tahini and salep (a type of flour made from orchids).
Ciya Sofrasi– Guneslibahce Sokak 43, Kadikoy, Istanbul
We took a ferry to the Asia side to visit Ciya Sofrasi. It’s settled in a market in Kadikoy, and even with the help of Cenk Sonmezsoy of Café Fernando to decipher the menu, (see here) there’s really no point trying to know what you’re eating. Take a plate, pile on everything that looks good from the cold bar, let them weigh it and dig in. Do the same with the dishes from the hot bar and just enjoy.
Baylan Patisserie– Muvakkithane Caddesi No:19 Kadikoy
If you make it to the Asia side for Ciya, you would be remiss to leave without going to Baylan Patisserie. The Kup Griye is an ice cream sundae consisting of vanilla and caramel ice creams, caramel sauce, toasted almonds and pistachios, topped with crème chantilly and a cat’s tongue biscuit. We ordered one to share between the four of us and loved it so much we got another order! It was ice cream perfection and well worth the ferry ride.
Haci Bekir– Hamidiye Cad. No.83 34110 Eminönü
Hands down, the best Turkish delight in the city and some wonderful halva too. I took tons of it home for gifts.
Karakoy Gullugoglu– Mumhane Street No:171 Post Code :34420 Karaköy
Karakoy Gullugoglu is well known for having the best baklava in the city. Unfortunately, it was closed for the holiday when we tried to go. We had a Gullugoglu imposter baklava, but it was still pretty darn good to me. Luckily, they have several locations in the Tri-state area that serve baklava and other treats shipped in from Turkey- listed here.