Best Bites 2011: Heyamola in May
(Editor’s Note: As 2011 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 (or Turkey) eating moments with us. This submission comes from “Meliz,” an intrepid explorer of Istanbul’s culinary backstreets and a frequent Istanbul Eats guest contributor this past year.)
In May, a few friends and I hopped the ferry in a spur-of-the-moment dash for Heybeliada, to visit a very dear friend at his yet-unopened restaurant. We settled in at Heyamola around 1:00 in the afternoon, positioned ourselves for optimal people-watching, and spent the next 10 hours sampling some of the best food and wine any of us have ever had in Turkey. Semrah Hanım, Esra Hanım and Başir Bey spent the whole time flitting back and forth, sitting and talking with us about each new plate, debating slight changes to the dishes they were perfecting ahead of their “official” opening. Is this balık çorbası rich enough? Was the spicing too heavy for the midye pilavı? Here, try this version: it is done the way my mother does it. Can you taste that the carrots are roasted first? Yes, I foraged the baby fennel from the back of the island this morning, and the eggs are from my chickens.
Before we knew it, the sun had set, the “kordon” had filled with promenading families, and my friend’s two-year old daughter had sweet-talked Esra out of 10 pieces of homemade baklava. There is some sort of special magic that happens with these sorts of unplanned plans in Turkey – somehow everyone you love takes time for a meal that meanders over the full course of the day, conversation is broken only by hushed appreciation of the dish just placed in front of you and, in the end, you are neither full nor drunk, though you should be. Heyamola in May was just such a day, with the added richness of companions who took such glowing delight in including us in their excitement over every recipe, every ingredient, every subtlety of flavor and texture. We just barely made the last ferry, but I think each of us felt a pang, and would not have minded had we been stranded, “forced” to remain at the table together.