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Nov 15
Reviews (Eats)
Rengahenk Café: Welcome Home

(Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Asher Kohn, one of the creators of Istanbul Altı, a smart new blog that covers developments in Istanbul and Turkey.)

Istanbul has many restaurants promising home-cooked meals or something along the lines of what’s known as “ev yemekleri.” Specializing in various dolmas or pılavs, these places may offer decent food, but it is all too often served in a white, antiseptic-looking dining room. At Rengahenk, just off bustling Moda Caddesi on the Asian side, the mother-daughter team greets you from the kitchen. A real, live kitchen with a fridge, sink, wall clock and wooden paneling. This isn’t a home-style restaurant, but more like a home that serves food to the public.

As we took our seats in the living room on a blustery day, the mother in charge immediately started chatting us up. But upon her discovery that my friend was from Mexico, not Turkey, she smoothly shifted to English and apologized for not being comfortable in Spanish, leading into a few minutes of theatrical apologies as he tried out his Turkish and she refused to accept that he was, indeed, a fluent English speaker as well. After this, we settled down to a bowl of lentil soup. Though a restaurant standard, this version was a bit thicker and more toothsome than most. And the accompanying bread hinted strongly of sourdough, always a revelation.

After the soups were finished we were asked what we’d like for the main course. Every day she offers köfte, various cold zeytinyağlılar (vegetables stewed in olive oil) and mantı that is, in this reviewer’s mind, the finest out there. There’s also a rotating daily special. On the day we went it was ground beef and sautéed cauliflower, which she assured us was a specialty from her Çerkez (Circassian) roots.

The food is all good, and the zeytinyağlılar in particular taste like something stolen out of the family fridge for an afternoon snack. But the mantı. The mantı steals the show. Although she asks whether you’d prefer it with or without garlic, I’ve only once, at a previous visit, seen someone order it garlic-less.

“What’s wrong with garlic? It’s much better with garlic,” protested our matron and cook.

“I have a date tonight,” is the bravest response he mustered.

“Well, I’m going to use garlic. And if she has any problems take her back here for the second date, and she’ll understand.” And back to the kitchen our cook went to bring out plates of garlicky mantı.

Unlike much of the mantı posted here earlier, this mantı comes in triangles folded over a teaspoon-size ball of minced beef. The plate is then covered with garlicky yogurt and a deep, smoky, red chili sauce. It is mantı as mantı should be served.

Because of this mantı overload, we didn’t have dessert this time around. But during Ramazan they serve up a mean güllaç, the milk-and-rosewater tradition of the holiday. And yes, they do deliver. The son of our cook was in and out as he zipped along on his motorcycle bringing mantı to the hungry denizens of Moda. And though he doesn’t look it, he assures us he’s old enough to be driving the thing.

From the strewn magazines to the tiled kitchen, from the chatty mother to the daughter who may sit down and chat if it gets slow, Rengahenk is a home away from home for anyone who finds themselves in Moda. It is, for many expats, the home cooking that is currently thousands of miles away. Except never in my home have we seen mantı like this.

Address: Ressam Şeref Akdik Sokak 11/1, Moda
Telephone: 216-336-6687

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9 Responses to “ Rengahenk Café: Welcome Home ”
  1. Burcu Taskiran

    Nov 15, 2010

    The way you wrote about our restaurant touched our hearts deeply. Thank you for your kind words and we would love to feed you over and over again!:)

  2. I was just about to e-mail you, glad you enjoyed the write-up!

  3. I just returned from a late lunch at Rengahenk. The dishes were all ones I had previously tried during my 3 days in Istanbul, only 10x better. Clearly there is cooking mastery here. Better still, the atmosphere is indeed like a home kitchen, only with a very cheery cafe attached. In the small dining room, it’s like one big conversation. The guy at the table across heard me speak French with the proprietress, so he began chatting with me en français. I had passed by Fenerbache Stadium on the way and saw lots of fans so I figured there is game tonight. Another patron — a friend of the owner — overheard me ask and proceeded to look up the game time for me. Best yet, the owner’s daughter, who works with her at the restaurant, gave me a crash course in contemporary Turkish society: EU membership, how Orhan Pamuk sold out Turkey, the history of emigration to Germany . . . Rengahenk offered food for food and food for thought!

  4. Burcu Taskiran

    Jan 23, 2011

    It was a pleasure to welcome you Greg! I am glad you are still in one piece after Fenerbahçe soccer game:) We all hope to see you in our restaurant again!

  5. Giorgos Milios

    Feb 2, 2011

    What can I say about this place! The moment you step inside you have this home cozy feeling! So worm and so familiar. The owner’s daughter…a treasure! She knows all those things that you’ll would love to know them yourself. She will guide you through the culinary art of the house. Ask her for food recommendations, she will made the best for you!

    The food itself is an art! As much as the way of been served as also the taste! The ingredients chosen one-by-one by this wonderful young lady.

    The restaurant itself it’s a good reason to travel again in Istanbul!
    I wish I had a such a place in my town!

    Thank you for this unique moments that you so generous offered us!

  6. Burcu Taskiran

    Feb 5, 2011

    Dear Giorgos, We r so glad to meet someone like you! I hope the visits will be even more often between Crete to Turkey:)

  7. lady goodnews

    Jun 7, 2012

    Rengahenk is also no longer there.

  8. Thanks for the heads up.

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