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Reviews (Eats) - Category Archive

Feb 17

Semolina: Convivial in Kadıköy

Filed under Reviews (Eats)

(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. Continue…

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