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Feb 17
Reviews (Eats)
Semolina: Convivial in Kadıköy

(Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Jeff Gibbs, a denizen of Istanbul’s Asian side and author of the very engaging blog “Istanbul and Beyond.”)

On a dark and deserted street in January covered in swirls and swirls of snow, a bright pool of light shines from a ground-level window. You open the door and are wrapped the scents of hot espresso and fresh basil, of parmesan cheese and spicy puttanesca sauce bubbling in a pan. A woman calls a hearty “Welcome!” and you pass into the friendliest Italian bistro this side of Sicily.

Semolina is an enticing new addition to the culinary landscape in the Asian side’s Kadıköy neighborhood, which is working hard to pull in Istanbul’s eaters. Within the last year, the area has witnessed the opening of a Cuban restaurant, a German sausage shop, an Iranian café and a Lebanese fast food joint. (Sadly, the Lebanese place folded in months – nobody but foreigners came to feast on the wonderful falafels and babaganoush, and so now it’s been transformed into a lackluster ciğer venue on a street already swarming with them. The sausage shop, unfortunately, is also no longer in operation.)

The restaurant sets things off with a basket of bread served with a side sauce of basil, olives and olive oil. The basil leaves are freshly crushed and full of flavor – bought just that afternoon from Kadıköy’s nearby market. It is brought as soon as we sit down by our charismatic waiter, Fevzi, the co-owner and husband of chef Hülya.

“Our pastas are all handmade,” he explains, “by two Italian brothers who own a small company here in Istanbul.” And while the entrées are limited to pastas, these are not the guesses of some clueless someone hoping to make bank off of Italian cuisine’s popularity, but the real deal. The fettuccine is flat and thick, cooked al dente, and the carbonara sauce made with egg yolk and fresh, grated parmesan cheese. Chef Hülya knows what’s what. I order the fettuccine alla puttanesca. Hülya uses real anchovies in the sauce, with capers and red peppers to give it a little kick. “Tonight I went with cherry tomatoes,” she explains. “Regular tomato season is long gone, and the cherries pack a lot more flavor.” Hülya’s food is thoughtful – the same consideration goes into every dish she makes. For breakfast, for instance, they offer pancakes and she insists that the syrup be pure maple, brought direct from Canada. And I must gush about the mushrooms in the mushroom and chicken fettuccine – these fungi did not slide oozily out of a can. They were crisp and meaty, and like the basil, fresh from the market.

“My wife puts love into this place,” Fevzi says. “For years she worked at a bank – and hated it. So we made a decision. We pooled all the money we got at our wedding and put her through the Academy of Culinary Arts – she had always been a good cook. After she graduated, it was difficult to find a job so we decided to open our own place specializing in Mediterranean cuisine, her favorite.” (In addition to Italian, Semolina sports a few French and Greek dishes as well.)

Hülya’s enthusiasm is palpable in all the little details that make dining here such a pleasure. This place is well crafted, from the little dishes of grated Romano that come with every meal to the fresh ground pepper from the pepper mills, from the soft sofa and chairs perfect for an after-dinner espresso, to the warm wine-red of the walls.

We top off dinner with a chocolate soufflé – again, the genuine article. Crowned with a crisp crust, the inside is light and warm and gooey – the ideal antidote to Istanbul’s coldest winter in 30 years.

Don’t think I haven’t noticed the preponderance of words like “fresh,” “genuine,” and “real” I’ve used in this article – and I know what you’re thinking. Imports! Expensive! Yikes! Yet despite the glut of authenticity, there is none of the usual Istanbul price-gouging for foreign fare. Pastas range from 12 to 17 lira with most things hovering around 14, and the portions are generous.

With wonderful salads, bruschetta and mezes, Semolina’s single culinary lack is alcohol, specifically wine – they don’t yet have a license and it may prove difficult to get under the increasingly draconian laws. The location is also a bit of a disadvantage. The street is rather quiet, although it also hosts the excellent Rengahenk, so it may have a bright future if both these restaurants can stick it out. As it stands, follow Kadıköy’s famed Bar Street to the end, cross the road past the bakery and then turn right at the tattoo parlor. Or else come up Moda Caddesi and hang a left past Tek Büfe.

Buon Appetito!

Address: Ressam Şeref Akdik Sokak 7/A, Caferağa Mahellesi, Moda, Kadıköy
Telephone: 216-330-8606

(photo by Jeff Gibbs)

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18 Responses to “ Semolina: Convivial in Kadıköy ”
  1. Where is the German sausage shop?

  2. great article! but could you tell us more about the “german sausage shp” and the “iranian café” in kadikoy? never heard of them! thanks in advance

  3. Trying to get more on the sausage shop. A review of the Iranian cafe is here.

  4. I am going to the Italian place tonight. Would like to more about the Cuban resto!

  5. Kadıköyde bulabileceğiniz en iyi italyan makarnası ve ege kahvaltısı…

  6. Unfortunately, it looks like the sausage shop has gone the way of the dinosaurs. I went by last night and there is a big ‘Kiralık’ sign on the window and it’s empty. The Cuban restaurant is at the end of fish market street in Kadıköy and has big parties on Thursdays–I’ll find out more details soon.

  7. Going in one month to Istanbul, Kusadasi and Capadoccia. What is worn on the street? Coats? Jackets and scarves like Italy? High boots? Lots of leather? How are the prices? What’s the lira to the dollar? Thought they were on the Euro.

  8. Here I am sitting in one Semolina’s cushy arm chairs. I just found out that it’s Hülya’s (the chef and owner) birthday and I’m trying to come up with some gift idea that will convey just how appreciative I am of her, her husband, her real ceasar salad dressing, her home made ricotta cheese, her authentic chocolate sufle’, . . . the list goes on and on and on. Any ideas?

  9. Just left this most charming eatery.
    Thanks do much for the article… Semolina a much needed breath of fresh air in Kadikoy
    We thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

    1st Class eatery.

  10. I too want to learn more about the Cuban place. I knew about the Iranian restaurant but never heard of a German sausage shop around Kadıköy. Will check out Semolina soon.

  11. We discovered SEMOLINA with delicious SUFFLE via foursquare. And thanks to this day.:) Then we have a chance to try appetizing BREAKFAST and real ITALIAN MACARONI. Additionally, Semolina is just like your home with home made foods and friendly owner.
    You should try if you seach for the REAL taste and friendly atmosphere!!!

  12. Yes, Semolina! I mean this place rocks! Beside their delicious macaronis, their “souflé” is amazing. I was never eat something like this before. With special chocolate flavour and perfectly bloated out cake, that was heavenly great. The only problem is, the souflé has an end 😉

  13. İf you are in the anatolian side, you shouldn’t miss this place.
    The owner, also chef is a magical food artist. She is famous with her handmade pastas.
    But for me, Aegean breakfast is the best. Everyting is fresh and good quality. Don’t pass the traditional marmalade and omlettes. Chocolate addicts must try the suffle with full of swiss chicolate.

    PS: Dont forget to make reservation on the weekends!


  14. lady goodnews

    Jun 7, 2012

    Semolina is my home away from home. I’ve loved everything I’ve had here. The pastas taste just as good the next day – which means everything is made with TLC with fresh quality ingredients. Just a note, the Persian (Gilan Cafe) restaurant mentioned also seems to have either closed or moved to a new location. Also, the Cuban restaurant is no longer a full service restaurant and has moved from its Bahariye location. It’s now a bar offering numerous community events around Spanish language, English language, Cuban music, and latin dancing each evening. Cubaneo is now across from Selale on Fish Market Street.

  15. The best fresh pasta restaurant so far. Bruschetta was pretty delicious even for Italia.

  16. First of all, I was a regular at the Falafel place, (too sad it actually closed) and never saw any “foreigner” there as the article brags in a very condescendent manner; only Turks and Arabs.

    Secondly, I am also a regular at Semolina for like a year now and let me inform you that the two Italian brothers are gone, back to Italy or god knows where, which left Hülya with the only option of crafting her own (underline my words) fresh pasta weekly from fine semolina & eggs.

    Result: Amazing! Best in Istanbul so far, on par with İbrahim Tuna’s former restaurant.

    Really, everyone should enjoy that place while it is not so crowded and the prices are reasonable. Anyone eating there can foresee that Semolina will really become something of a hotspot in a matter of years.

  17. I am proud to announce…Finally we have our alcohol license.

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