Best Bites of 2010: Our Take
(Editor’s Note: Although the new year is already upon us, we had so many memorable Istanbul dining experiences in 2010 that we wanted to take one last look at the past year’s culinary highlights. So, before we get to the work of further exploring Istanbul in 2011, here’s our top 10 bites of 2010.)
For us, the best bites are often the ones that are most reliable. Before we review a restaurant for this site, we try to return several times to make sure that that best bite wasn’t a fluke.
1. Pera Sisore was always a reliable favorite of ours. However, after a shakeup in management we’ve noticed a dip in quality and consistency. Luckily, half of the Sisore team, including the kitchen staff, recently opened a new place in Beyoğlu called Hayvore. We are happy to report that all of the Sisore favorites are on offer at Hayvore. Perhaps one of our last bites in 2010, Hayvore is definitely among the best.
2. Just down the street from Hayvore is another standard in our playbook, Çukur Meyhane. Excellent meze and fried liver aside, this is always one of the first places we head to when the hamsi, or Black Sea anchovies, start swimming. A plate of these tiny fish – skewered and grilled – help us understand the hamsi mania that envelops Istanbul every winter.
3. Another unforgettable fish was set before us just last week at the Arnavutköy favorite Adem Baba. We aren’t sure how many times we’ve eaten sole at Adem Baba – rolled, skewered and grilled with wedges of tomato and peppers, fried or grilled whole – but every time feels like the first time. After a double portion, we considered abandoning Beyoğlu for the restaurant’s Bosphorus-side neighborhood just to be able to eat here everyday.
4. Along with the reliable best bites, there were also transcending moments when we felt we’d stumbled on something Bigger than a great meal. Smearing creamy fava puree on toasted bread, munching fried fish and drinking beer from a can dangerously close to the lapping Bosphorus at Suna’nın Yeri in Kandilli was certainly one of these moments.
5. The first time we walked into Fatih Karadeniz Pidecisi in Fatih there was such intense pide-worship going on we thought we’d stumbled into the temple of a secret cult. But we were heartily welcomed into the ritual taking place and it was very special. This too was one of those out-of-body best bites.
6. If a few years ago you told us we’d be craving liver for lunch everyday, we would have laughed in your face. But the truth is that we can’t stop thinking about the Arnavut Ciğer – aka “Albanian liver,” tiny morsels of calf’s liver that are dusted with flour and red pepper flakes and then fried and served with thin slices of raw onion – at Beyoğlu’s Şahin Lokantası. We really would be eating this dish for lunch seven days a week if it were not for the fact that Şahin – perhaps in an act of kindness to the other restaurants in the area – only serves liver every other day.
7. The Beşiktaş-based bistro-like Meyhane Sıdıka was one of our most satisfying finds of the year, with a great out-of-the-way location and lovingly prepared food. One of the restaurant’s meze specialties is a chunky, light green spread that turned out to be an utterly delicious mash made out of feta cheese and chopped pistachios. Nothing fancy – just good, honest food that was completely memorable.
8. In years past, the exceedingly short growing season of loquats always seemed to pass us by, which meant we usually missed our chance to have “Yeni Dünya Kebabı” – a springtime specialty made by wrapping pitted loquats around minced meat and then grilling them on a skewer (shown in the background in the picture above) until the fruit turns tangy and jam-like, serving as a perfect counterpoint to the fatty meat. This year we made a point of catching this unique and delicious kebab’s limited-run at Samatya’s Develi kebab house and we’re already counting the days until the first loquat appears this spring.
9. We’re all for culinary innovation, but there are some things that need little improvement. Take, for example, grilled ribs – a dish that has changed little since our earliest ancestors started putting meat to fire. Over at Taksim’s Zübeyir Ocakbaşı, the kaburga – lamb ribs – are the kind of thing that awaken our inner caveman, an unbelievably satisfying mix of meat, fat, smoke and bone that always finds us ordering a second round.
10. There are several good spots to try dürüm – kebab wrapped in flatbread – around town, but this year we finally had a chance to try Aynen Dürüm, a superb joint just outside the Grand Bazaar that we had been eyeing for a long time. While the dürüm there was great, what we truly loved about this microscopic place was the vibe and the crowd of hungry bazaar locals chowing down with a kind of reckless abandon rarely seen in other places around town.
Post Tags: alcohol served, Arnavutköy, Asian side, Beşiktaş, Beyoğlu, Black Sea cuisine, Bosphorus, Fatih, fish, grill, Istanbul Eats, Istanbul restaurants, kebab, meze, places with a view, seafood, Southeastern cuisine, specialty foods, Taksim