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Aug 08
Reviews (Eats)
Heyamola Ada Lokantası: Island Time

(Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by “Meliz,” an intrepid explorer of Istanbul’s culinary backstreets who would like to keep her anonymity.)

While the Princes’ Islands make for a great escape from the city, it’s been hard to think of them as a culinary destination. Until now. The new-offshore-kid-in-town, Heyamola Ada Lokanatası, is a perfect storm of inspired food, chill ambiance, and small-label Turkish wines, all at ridiculously low prices. Heyamola is reason in and of itself to plan a day trip to the Princes’ Islands, and if you are already organizing your island adventure, this place is a compelling argument for ditching the ferry at Heybeli Island, often overlooked in favor of the more popular Büyükada. So let’s get to the nitty-gritty…

The meze tray rolls twenty deep, and shifts with the season; during a first visit, in May, the meze selection revolved around the herbs and greens chef Semra Hanım was foraging on-island – a wild fennel sauté and a nettle and black-cumin-seed salad being the two that truly blew my mind.  Semra Hanım ran one of the best places on the Datça Peninsula for years, and she has a genius for innovative takes on Aegean standards. Her partner in the kitchen, Esra Hanım, worked for years at Bi’ Lokma in Kaş, and her touch can be tasted in the slow-cooking side of the tray. For example, in the richness of the cevizli kabak (walnut and zucchini) meze and in the exquisite creaminess of the patlıcan salatası (eggplant salad) – usually a meze tray workhorse, but here something much, much more profound. The cold meze cost between 7-10TL a portion. If you go for lunch, I recommend that you ask very nicely if Semra and Esra could put together a tasting selection – small portions of each of the day’s meze.

The hot meze are (as always) more expensive than the tray selections (17-21 TL), but again, for what you are getting, the prices are more than fair. We tried the grilled ahtapot (octopus), a perfectly marinated tentacle of octopus driven up from Cunda Island the night before. One rarely finds a place that does octopus like this, let alone does it well – here they nail it. We also tried the sardalya güveç (fresh-caught sardines stuffed with fresh herbs and stewed in a small terracotta dish with lemon). Clean, flavorful, divine. They do a fish soup that is similarly delicate and delicious.

The main courses are a short-list of great uses of fresh fish. We made quick work of a grilled iskorpit (scorpion-fish) kebab, and I would expect to see bonito and red sea bream showing up on the menu, as they come into season! Whee!

Semra and Esra make desserts to suit the season: all I am saying is, save room, people. For the more mature of us, they do a baked smoky saganaki cheese with a thin cinnamon crust to it…and this brings us to the wine list.

The owner of Heyamola is a well-traveled epicure, and a true gentleman. He also knows his wine. The wines available at Heyamola are primarily from two Turkish lines: Melen and Ganohora, and on both sides of the list, you get to choose from a number of wines that are a) NOT all basically the same and b) NOT much more expensive than they would be at your local supermarket (if Turkish supermarkets stocked wine this good). I am not kidding. We had to ask the waiter if the prices listed were for a glass or a bottle. Most bottles are between 30 and 40 TL, with only the tip-top of the line at 70 TL – which, I just want to point out, is the usual restaurant charge for a bottle of the Turkish equivalent of Almaden. Again, go ahead and ask for a recommendation or a taste of the ones you find intriguing.

And not that this is the most important thing, but it does seem worth noting that Heyamola is the exception to the rule that exceptional food and cool décor are mutually exclusive. The indoor space is clean and bright; the outdoor space is dotted with bougainvillea and hydrangea, the location is ideal for people-watching and the tables and chairs are sturdy and comfortable, and well-spaced.

In every way that matters, a great spot to spend an extended afternoon that will easily melt into evening and beyond!

Address: Yalı Caddesi (on the ‘kordon’), opposite the İDO (hydrofoil ferry) iskele, Heybeliada
Telephone: (216) 351-1111


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11 Responses to “ Heyamola Ada Lokantası: Island Time ”
  1. Haftasonunda arkadaşlarla -tavsiye üzerine- Heyamola Ada Lokantasina gittik. Adada olmanin keyfi bir yana; muhtesem bir mekan karsiladi bizi. Ince bir zevkle ve detayla dosenmis (somineli) ic mekan, disarida ahsap masalar ve sandalyeler, masalarda papatyalar, dortbiryanimizda salkimsacak petunyalar, ada/ege mezeleri, zengin bir monu, mutesem bir guleryuz ve servis; zaman durdu orada. Sait Faik’lerin, Orhan Veli’lerin zamanindaydik sanki.

    Mekan sahibi Basir Bey bizi genis bir gulusle ve ada sicagiyla karsilayip ugurladi. Yolumuzu mutlaka yeniden dusurecegiz buraya. Cektigim birkac resimi yukluyorum; keske o guzelim duygulari da yuklemenin bir yolu olsaydi.

  2. Thanks so much for the report Umit bey. We can’t agree with you more about the place- the level of hospitality, the old “adalar” vibe, and quality of the food. It is a singular culinary experience on the Islands and one we like to repeat, often. We hope to see you there soon.

    Icten saygilar,

  3. We would love to visit but cant seem to find opening times.

  4. Heyamola is open weekdays 10am til midnight, and on weekends they roll out a fab breakfast spread, starting at 8am, and stay open til midnight.

    these are the in-season hours; excludes snowy months, includes Ramadan…

  5. alison baker

    Aug 14, 2012

    Thanks for the info. Do you know the best way to make a reservation for an evening.

  6. calling them is the best way.

  7. Shellbeibei

    Sep 1, 2012

    We had dinner there tonight. The meatballs we ordered were not cooked in the middle that both of us got food poisoning. They bought us a “hot cake” which appeared to be not baked through that the entire “cake” appeared to be liquid. They bought us a bottle of red wine that was clearly 10 degree too cold and when we asked the waiter, his reply was “oh, it would warm up”. We went to the restaurant because of the previous good reviews. This was very disappointing. I do agree that the baked octopus was pretty good. However given the other bad things that had happened during our meal, I would not recommend this place.

  8. Thanks for the report. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience here. We’ve had nothing but good experiences here in the past, so we hope this was just an off night. Either way, we’re keep our ears open for any other similar reports.

  9. I`ve been there 1 week ago with my friends, after reading all the good reviews. After our own experience in that place, all I can say is:
    – very expensive,
    – rude waiters,
    – they`ve tried to decieve our trust by introducing more things to the bill and after we`ve told them, we`ve heard just a mumble (no excuses)
    – they have brought us a tiny tiny breakfast for 25 turkish liras (14$) and the “unlimited tea” listed in the menu for the breakfast plate, wasn`t so unlimited, because we`ve found it on the bill.
    I certainly wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone.

  10. Thanks for the note – we’re very sorry to hear about your bad experience. We’ve always had good experiences at Heyamola, but we’ll go back to check things out.

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