Dine out in the Turkish capital and you’ll find that every dish has its own neighborhood, and an address at which to enjoy it.
A tradition shared by Turkey’s neighbors, mezze is a state of mind: that of several people gathering around a table covered with little dishes, taking time to make the most of it. Lunch can become dinner, through sheer inertia. A favoured spot is Agora Meyhanesi 1890, in the old Jewish neighborhood of Balat, on the Golden Horn.
Try eksili Antakya, a spicy tomato and walnut dip hailing from near the Syrian border. Meanwhile, Asmali Mescit Caddesi is a street brimming with places for small plates. Yakup 2 (21/B Asmah Mescit Caddesi), a vast, old-style meyhane (traditional restaurant/ bar) has wonderful aczh ezme (a spicy salad).
Street food is part of Turkey’s cultural heritage. Expect to find everything from grilled meat and fish sandwiches to pizzas, chestnuts, juices, stuffed mussels and the little mountains of pilav rice with chickpeas on sale at any time of day. A lahmacun (Turkish pizza) devoured at, say, 8pm, at Abusta 33 Mersin Tantuni (in Begiktag, at 7 Kazan Sk), does not rule out a 2am islak (`wer) burger, best eaten on Taksim Square’s main street, Istiklal Caddesi. Kumpir Sokak (`Baked Potato Street’), in Ortakoy, only sells kumpir (potatoes stuffed with everything); and perhaps the city’s best doner is to be found at Karadeniz Pide Ve Doner, in Begiktag (6 Mumcu Bakkal Sk, Sinanpaga). While balik ekine (a fish sandwich) is traditionally eaten near the Karakoy Fish Market, at stands along the water’s edge.
Neighbourhood of Note
Cihangir is the artists’ neighborhood — a little bohemian, a little bourgeois and very charming, with narrow, tree-lined streets, views of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, and many cafes, organic food shops and chic grocers. A compulsory stop, Asri Turgucu (9/A Agahamam Caddesi), was opened over a century ago by the grandfather of the current owners. Offering approximately 40 different types of pickle, it’s hard to pass up the cabbage leaves pickled in lemon juice.
Make It At Home: Turkish Coffee
INGREDIENTS: 2 tsp Turkish coffee per person Granulated sugar to taste
METHOD: Mix the coffee and sugar in a cezve coffee pot. Add cold water (125ml per half pot), and mix. Wait for coffee to swell over a low heat. Take off the heat, spoon the top foam into the bottom of two cups. Return to the heat, wait for the coffee to rise again. Half-fill the cups, carefully pouring the liquid over the foam. Return pot to heat: when coffee rises a third time, serve by topping up each coffee cup to the rim.