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Zübeyir: The Meat is On

Smoked out: diners sitting around the grill at Zubeyir

Finding a kebab restaurant in Istanbul is not hard. There must be thousands of them. But finding the right kind of place, especially if you want to make it a bit more of a meal, can be surprisingly difficult.

Most kebab joints tend to be no-frills, in-and-out places. Some are very good (and we will review a few in the future), but they don’t make for a night out. On the other hand, some of nicer places – where you can find a more extensive menu and, more importantly, drink booze with your dinner – take things too far. Tuxedoed waiters serving kebab? Griller, please! At the end of the day, we’re still talking about meat on a stick cooked over a fire.

Which is what makes Zübeyir – a fantastic grill house in Beyoğlu that always seems to be packed with large groups having a very good time – such a refreshing find. They serve seriously good food, without taking themselves too seriously.

The restaurant, which occupies two cozy floors in a historic building near the pedestrian-only İstiklal Caddesi, is dominated by an ocakbaşı, a long hearth topped by a copper hood, where the meat is grilled over hardwood coals. It’s a bit like Turkey’s hot and smoky answer to the sushi bar, with a few seats available grillside, where you can watch the chef do his thing.

Meals at Zübeyir usually begin with a round of mezes, brought to your table on a large tray to choose from. Particular standouts are a subtle spread made out of mashed pumpkin and yogurt, as a well as a sublime warm salad made from freshly grilled eggplant, tomato and onion.The gavurdağı salad – a mix of greens, herbs and tomatoes in a piquant pomegranate molasses dressing – is also worth ordering.

From there, it’s on to the kebabs. The standard grill items are all outstanding. Their Adana kebab – spicy minced lamb – has just the right combination of meat, fat and red pepper. Chicken wings (kanat) and lamb chops (pirzola) are also superbly grilled. Zübeyir also serves up some cuts of meat not found at most kebab joints, such as the tasty tarak (lamb spare ribs) and, for the more adventurous, the koç yumurtası, or ram’s testicles (which, we must admit, we have yet to try).

It’s not easy to stand out in a city filled with kebab restaurants. Zübeyir does it effortlessly.

Address: Bekar Sokak 28, Beyoğlu
Telephone: 212-293-3951
Web: www.zubeyirocakbasi.com

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