Diners in Istanbul are spoiled with options for fresh seafood. But most venues are mere caricatures of places like İsmet Baba, where traditions have been kept sacred for more than 50 years. While many other such restaurants are kitschy, İsmet is gritty and authentic. Located in Kuzguncuk, a charming neighborhood on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, it may not be the best restaurant in the city, but it’s got something most of the others have lost: old-school Istanbul charm and character.
The soft yellow light, rakı-fueled laughter and whiff of grilled fish emanating from İsmet Baba seem to pulse out over the Bosphorus, like a flashing neon sign reading “locals eat here.” Stepping inside, you can’t miss the framed panel by the door memorializing Orhan the Butcher, Mahmut the Bear, Blind Mustafa, Forty Lies Selim and other regulars who look from their pictures like they could be characters from a Turkish mafia movie. From the VIP table under the portrait of İsmet Baba, these Turkish goodfellas hold court over this simple, traditional fish restaurant as if it were their own clubhouse.
The rest of this previously featured review can be found on CulinaryBackstreets.com, here .