FridayFiled under Reviews (Eats)
These days, writing about Istanbul’s old-school restaurants can be heartbreaking work. No sooner do we find out about a classic lunch spot than it turns out the place is about to be closed down to make way for yet another development project. Meanwhile, Istanbul’s relentless drive to modernize and “clean up” its streets has meant there is less and less room for traditional food vendors to operate. We weren’t surprised to learn that one of our favorite street food sellers, the bespectacled man who provided freshly peeled cucumbers by the Galata Tower, recently gave up his iconic perch after being relentlessly squeezed by the municipal authorities.
We were fully prepared, then, to be heartbroken yet again when we found İstiridye Balık Lokantası, a venerable fish restaurant, no longer at its decades-old location on Mumhane Caddesi, a street in the waterfront Karaköy area that has so many good restaurants along it that it acts as a kind of a culinary vortex, radiating a magnetic pull that we find hard to resist.
Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm. Rather than closed, the 80-year-old İstiridye had simply moved down the street. While the new space is smaller and brighter, lacking the clubby aura that the previous dark-wood-paneled location exuded, the dedicated clientele remains the same: a lunchtime crowd of local office workers and executives with exacting tastes. Karaköy, once a busy port area, remains a mostly commercial zone (though one that’s increasingly home to new galleries and hip cafes), with elegant buildings housing shipping and holding companies. The people who come to İstiridye expect the restaurant to serve food whose quality is consistent, because, it would appear, many of them seem to come here every day.
Read the rest of the review on Culinary Backstreets. The original review was published March 8, 2010, and has been updated.
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1 response - Posted 10.17.13
We generally regard the Grand Bazaar as a place of punishment, a den of aggressive, wolf-like hustlers and innocent, lamb-like tourists wearing novelty fez hats. When we have to go, we like to think of ourselves as members of a prison SWAT team, sent in to search a cell for ...continue
no responses - Posted 09.18.13
Southeastern Turkey’s culinary mecca of Gaziantep is best known for its baklava and kebabs. But lately we’ve been thinking that it's soup that may actually be the city’s real crowning glory. Not just any old soup, mind you, but beyran çorbası, a stupendously delicious lamb-based broth that is usually slurped ...continue
no responses - Posted 09.04.13
In 1922, reporting for the Toronto Daily Star from the borderlands of the Thrace region, Ernest Hemingway wrote of a “Silent, Ghastly Procession” of Christian refugees fleeing the advance of “the Turk.” The literature and art of the Christian Anatolians exiled in this period – from the films of Angelopoulos ...continue
no responses - Posted 08.13.13
In Istanbul, if all you have is a street address for a restaurant, you are as good as lost. It’s all about proximity to landmarks, as in “postanedeki kokoreççi” (the kokoreç vendor near the post office) or “Süleymaniye’deki kuru fasulyeciler” (the bean eateries at Süleymaniye Mosque). This is the way ...continue
2 responses - Posted 07.15.13
One of the great joys of spring and summertime in Istanbul is the chance to get away for a day to one of the Princes’ Islands, the car-free and forested archipelago that is a short ferry ride away from the city. The only downside to an island hop is actually ...continue
no responses - Posted 07.02.13
In our imaginary primetime lineup, a reality show called “Pimp My Kebab Salon” transforms a drab kebab shop into a grill palace suited to the tastes of the latter-day sultans. Surfaces are suddenly gilded in gold, fountains appear and everything is reupholstered under the watchful eye of the boisterous host ...continue
no responses - Posted 04.30.13
Though it may seem bewildering or even exotic to outsiders, Istanbul’s commercial life is actually organized according to a very old, guildlike system that assigns different neighborhoods to the sale and sometimes manufacture of different types of products. If you bottom out in a pothole and need a rot balans, ...continue
no responses - Posted 03.18.13
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Meg Ryan’s big moment at Katz’s Deli in When Harry Met Sally, but a low-register, guttural moan of pleasure was detected from our table when we tasted the shredded celery root in yogurt, a house specialty meze at Çukur Meyhane. And we weren’t faking ...continue
no responses - Posted 02.25.13
Where we come from, flipping burgers is a time-honored tradition among pimply teenagers looking for a summer job and troubled short-order cooks looking for a place to land in between firings. It’s work that promises mobility, not stability. But don’t tell that to Ziver Usta, who’s been turning the köfte – ...continue
1 response - Posted 02.04.13
One of the big downsides to Istanbul’s otherwise great food scene is the lack of a credible Mexican option. We’re not asking for anything special, just a place that serves simple, tasty tacos or burritos. But when the craving for Mexican gets strong, we don’t despair; we just head down ...continue