(Editor’s Note: As 2010 heads to an end, we are looking back at our “Best Bites” of the year and are asking our readers to do the same and share their best Istanbul eating moments with us. This submission (after the jump) comes from regular reader and Paris travel specialist  Sally Peabody, whose recent meal at Karakoy Lokantasi reminded her of some of her favorite bistro lunches in Paris.)
On a cool, grey late-October day a lunch for one at Karakoy Lokantasi was memorable for all the right reasons. I tend to favor soulful sofrasi-type restaurants and love zero-atmosphere-but-delicious-food type places when I’m in Istanbul. So Karakoy Lokantasi was a bit of a revelation. This place feels, in the best sense, like the characterful Paris bistros that I frequent. But of course, it is totally Turkish. It offers a warm welcome, classy bistro-y décor and an easy, convivial vibe. I was seated at a long table next to an animated group of women-friends having lunch and just down from two older men who seemed like easy habitués with their friendly banter and newspapers shared over a post-meal coffee. The china and silverware were attractive, there was good bread on the table and a generous carafe of water.
Best of all was the food. The server, who was gracious and attentive, though we shared little mutual language, rustled me up an English-language menu. The choices were varied and abundantly intriguing. I chose a plate of ‘winter vegetables’ poached in olive oil to start. Delicious. Deeply flavored. Slow food in the best sense. For my main, I devoured the roasted, pureed eggplant with the spiced beef atop the smoky, rich puree. Fabulous. Not exactly hungry but not wanting to stop enjoying this delicious place, I had the beautiful Asure pudding for dessert. Made with grain and topped with pomegranate seeds, pistachios and walnuts this was an attractively lovable dessert. Then, a perfect Illy espresso with a real crema… Heaven.
A chic woman who obviously was managing the resto came over to chat with me. She and her husband own Karakoy Lokantasi. They change the menu daily and work hard to serve dishes from diverseTurkish regions. As she said, ‘we have so many good choices from Turkey’s varied regional cuisines’. Indeed. Their customers, many of whom lunch here every day, wouldn’t have it any other way. Dinner menus offer more mezzes and vary from the lunch menus. There is an obvious standard of quality here that assures a very good moderately priced meal in a restaurant with a hip yet convivial vibe. My tab came to $20.50. Astonishing. All the right ingredients!