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Sep 21
Monday
Reviews (Eats)
Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı: Gaucho Kebab Rides Again

Like a surgeon -- photo by Yigal Schleifer
We were alarmed to recently discover that one of our favorite spots, Erzurum Cağ Kebapçısı in Karaköy, had closed down. Turns out the owner returned to his former job – being an electrician.

Istanbul has plenty of kebab joints, but places serving cağ are sadly hard to find. Originating in the eastern Anatolian province of Erzurum, the kebab looks like a horizontal döner, but tastes otherworldly. If South American cowboys somehow found themselves in Erzurum’s grassy Turkish steppe, they would surely be struck down with déjà vu at the sight of this carnivores’ fantasy, turning slowly over a hardwood fire. The way we see it, cağ is the Turkish equivalent of Argentina’s asado or the Brazilian churrasco, a kebab for serious meat lovers.

Fortunately, we’ve found an excellent place to keep getting our cağ fix, Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı, not far from the Sirkeci train station and the Sultanahmet area. The restaurant’s location, on the pedestrian-only Hocapaşa Sokak, is a winner. Lined with restaurant after restaurant serving superb traditional Turkish food (and home to Kasap Osman, an Istanbul Eats favorite), we like to think of Hacapaşa Sokak as a foodies’ fantasy food court. One could easily spend a half day there, working their way through the street’s restaurants.

Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebapçısı, at the entrance to Hocapaşa Sokak, has only a handful of tables, all within whiffing distance of the spit, where cuts of lamb expertly marinated slowly cook over a wood fire. As the horizontal spit slowly turns, the meat continuously bastes itself, occasionally flaring up with a sizzle and a pop that chars an outlying corner of meat. Unlike döner, where the dönerci saws and hacks from his vertical spit, leaving the meat he has cut off lying in a puddle of grease, the cağ man carefully selects each morsel of meat from the spit with a sharp knife and a small, thin skewer. A dönerci’s work has more in common with that of a lumberjack, but doing cağ right requires the patient and steady hands of a skilled surgeon (or, come to think of it, a good electrician). When he’s done, he’ll present you the skewer, threaded with a precious collection of tender yet crispy bites, served on top of a toasty, warm piece of lavaş.

Compared to the now-defunct spot in Karaköy, which served up cağ and nothing but, Şehzade has a slightly more expansive menu. Along with our kebab, we had a hearty red lentil soup to start our meal and a small plate of piquant ezme (a salad of finely chopped tomatoes, onions and parsley) to go along with the meat. The restaurant even serves a very tasty dessert: the state-fair-worthy kadayıf dolma, a fat torpedo made out of shredded wheat wrapped around a core of chopped nuts and then deep-fried and doused with a sticky sweet syrup.

With its prime location and steady clientele, it would appear that this cağ kebab place is not in danger of closing down any time soon. Just to make sure, though, before leaving we asked the spit master if he had previously worked as an electrician. His answer, an emphatic “no,” left us feeling at ease.

Address: Hocapaşa Sokak 3/A, Sirkeci
Telephone: 212-520-3361

(photo by Yigal Schleifer)

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13 Responses to “ Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabı: Gaucho Kebab Rides Again ”
  1. I have eaten previously at that place, the place and its cağ kebap is not as recommendable as it is mentioned at the review in my opinion. Finding good cağ kebap in Istanbul is difficult but there are some good places at Kartal, Pendik and Avcılar and very few good ones in central areas. This comment is valid for several other recommended places as well. Kasap Osman is definetely not such a good iskender place in town, could not be even among top 10 in Istanbul.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Would you be able to supply us with some names or addresses for these other cag kebab places you mention? We would love to try them out.

  3. Büyük Erzurum Sofrası at Kartal. Their website at http://www.buyukerzurumsofrasi.com.tr/ has the address and contact details.

    Erzurum Cağ Kebabı at Mecidiyekoy. http://turkiyevedunyadanlezzetler.blogspot.com/2009/06/erzurum-cag-kebabi-mecidiyekoy.html has a review and address for the restaurant, it’s in Turkish though.

    Erzurum Sofrası at Maltepe. Tel: 0216 442 89 17 Address: alı Rıhtım Cd. No:53 Maltepe

  4. Thanks for the information! We will definitely check them out.

  5. dear KIBRIT,

    I am a huge fan of doner/iskender and often eat it at the Bursa Iskender Kebab in Beyoglu. i think it is on either sakiz agac street or sadri alisik, just a couple of streets from istiklal. i thought this was one of the better Iskender Kebabs in Istanbul but i tried it at Kasap Osman and was impressed. maybe not better but equal to me. I am very curious to hear your top ten for doner/iskender. please share!

    -Marc in Istanbul

  6. Dear Marc,

    I think it is fair to categorize doner to 3 main types (the content and the taste are slightly different in each category): One is doner for sandwiches, typically served in pita type of bread or thin wraps called durum,this type doner typically contains more fat. The best places for this type of doner in Istanbul are Donerci Sadik Usta (based at Aksaray just next to tram station) and Karadeniz Pide Doner Salonu at Besiktas Carsi. Second type is plain doner served on plate typically together with a simple salad and rice. The best places for this type of doner are Cevahiroglu Restaurant at Caglayan, Divan Hotel Restaurant (there is one at Mecidiyekoy next to Ali Sami Yen stadium), Gelik at Bakirkoy next to ferry station, Beyti at Florya and finally Kasap Osman at Sirkeci. For iskender type of doner, the best places I know are Kebapci Iskender that is at Kadikoy and on Bagdad Street and is a descendant of original iskender founder, Niyazibey Iskender that has branches at Kadikoy, Uskudar and Maltepe and Uludag Kebap at Florya.

    http://turkiyevedunyadanlezzetler.blogspot.com/search/label/doner address covers some of the places mentioned.

  7. Hehe, I also tried a Cag Kebap at Kadikoy! And I tried with my turkish boyfriend from Erzurum, which is fantasic !

  8. http://chowpapi.com/wordpress/wordpress-2.8.6/wordpress/?p=151

    Getting a few more reviews up. Here’s a link to my take on Sehzade Erzurum Cag Kebabi . This is where I had the best bowl of soup of my 13 days in Istanbul. I tried to replicate it for my http://www.scrumptiouschef.com cooking site and never even came close. Can’t wait to get back to Istanbul for two weeks in December.

    RL Reeves Jr.

  9. This place is fantastic, as is Kasap Osman down the street. In a sea of truly uninteresting tourist restaurants, I can’t imagine why anyone would complain about these GREAT places to get an inexpensive, and truly delicious, lunch. The service is very friendly, and the wood fire is in the flavor of this Cağ Kebab. I am interested to try these other Cağ Kebab places listed and see just how much better they could possibly be, but, with many visitors coming to Istanbul this year to see the sites of Sultanahmet, I know I will be happily and repeatedly eating at Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabi. Thanks for the great tip.

  10. Sid Mewara

    Dec 10, 2010
    Reply

    After reading the reviews, I hopped across to Şehzade Erzurum Cağ Kebabi, less than 75meters from my hotel. Infact the attendant from the hotel walked with me, to talk to his friend the Usta. The meal was fantastic with 2 extra skewers ordered…. Got some pics and a video of the Usta working his magic.

  11. Hi Marc,

    I believe that you can it best iskender in Cemal and Cemil Usta (master)
    http://www.uludagkebapcisi.biz/eng/

    Best meat and doner in Beyti Restaurant/Florya
    http://www.beyti.com/en/


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