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Kale Cafe: Escape from Beyoglu

With its outings along the Bosphorus, one thing that the recent Istanbul-centric episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” [2] television show made us realize was how much we tend to get stuck in our own little Beyoglu bubble. Granted, Istanbul’s “downtown” zone has enough restaurants to keep all but the most jaded eater happy, but it’s never good to get into a rut.

We were particularly intrigued by one of the places featured in the show, Kale Cafe, a cozy-looking spot in the Bosphorus-side Rumeli Hisari neighborhood, that specializes in serving up a bountiful Turkish breakfast. The images of kaymak – the Turkish clotted cream that is the crack cocaine of dairy products – being scooped up with pieces of steaming fresh lavash left us drooling in front of our TV set. A trip up the Bosphorus was certainly in order.

So, on a recent morning, we got over our fear of traffic jams along the narrow Bosphorus coastal road and of being drowned in a sea of Ugg boot wearers and made our way up to the swankier side of town. We knew we made the right decision as soon as we arrived in Rumeli Hisari and saw the sun reflecting off the waters of the Bosphorus, as an endless procession of ships and smaller boats sailed by.

Outside of Kale, located in a house-like building right on the coastal road overlooking the Bosphorus, we found a line of people waiting for the next available table (the popularity of the cafe, which started as a small bakery in 1982, has forced it to expand into the restaurant next door, while an annex is being opened some 200 meters away). Once we sat down, we ordered the upgraded serpme kahvalti (“breakfast spread”), which turned out to be a table-breaking bounty: along with the standard items – olives, tomato, cucumber, etc. – there was an assortment of cheeses, including fried helumi (a pleasantly rubbery and salty cheese from Cyprus), several types of börek and gozleme, fried eggs with sausage, and, of course, the very tasty kaymak, topped with honey.

Along with the food, one of the joys of Kale is the service, with a team of roving waiters who always seems to show up just at the right time with a fresh glass of tea. After finishing our leisurely breakfast, we repaired to one of the Bosphorus-side benches across the street, where one of the waiters graciously brought us a Turkish coffee.

Kale’s menu also features other items, including manti and the usual grill dishes like kofte and kebab. But it’s that breakfast, combined with the view of the Bosphorus, that just might get us out of that Beyoglu rut.

Address: Yahya Kemal Caddesi No: 16, Rumelihisari
Telephone: 212-265-0097
www.kalecafe.com [3]

(photo by Jonathan Lewis)

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