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After visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, we walked around the corner to a very touristic arcade bereft of the food options we’d come to expect as our due in Istanbul! The market was a small passage full of shops selling higher quality handcrafts (for the most part), at very high prices with only a few places worth. We were going to write off the whole market when ….
Towards the end of the passage we came upon a group of men eating some exceptionally yummy looking food, and us being quite hungry at the time, started staring and wondering where did they get their delectable dishes! Not a minute passed when the men, with true Turkish hospitality, asked if we wanted to try it! Of course we did 🙂 After a single scrumptious sample, we got the convoluted directions and after a short walk (and couple of wrong turns) we ended in a closed alley with a few local cafeterias, of which our destination – Karadeniz – was one. Oh how lucky we can sometimes be 🙂
We ordered the kiremitte kebap, a lovely stew of tomatoes, herbs an eggplant; – that dish what we had sampled from the men in the arcade. The Çoban Chopped Salad and a Pide Turkish pizza.
If you are in the area, and wish to eat like locals, then a side bar at Karadeniz is a must.
Located in Kadiköy, on the Asian side of the Bospherous, Çiya is not an obvious place, but is quite renowned. We had the luck of chatting with Yonca Erol manager of the Sekerci (Confectioner) Cafer Erol and after exchanging passionate stories of food, she literally held our hand and walked us up the hill, via narrow streets, all the way to Ciya. There, she introduced as vegetarians to Zeynep Çaliskan (part owner and wife of Musa Dağdeviren) and ordered for us. The exquisiteness and the flavours and freshness of every ingredient were astounding throughout our entire meal.
Opening in 1987, the excllelence quickly expanded. There are now 3 of thier restaurants on the same road – Ciya Sofrasi,Ciya Kebap & Ciya Kebab II (where you can get about 40 different kabob flavours!)
Chef/ proprietor Musa Dağdeviren has amazing knowledge in the various traditions of Anatolian, Ottoman, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Turkish, Seldjukian, Armenian, Ottoman, Syrian, and Jewish foods. He has lectured at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California and written articles in about by every major food publication – worldwide.
Fortunately for many of us chef Musa and his lovely wife Zeynep Çaliskan have decided to share with the world the results of his extensive research in the culinary traditions of this vast region. This is distilled into a seasonal publication called Yemek ve Kültür (Food and Culture) The Magazine is beautifully designed with traditional folkloric illustrations
Highlights for us included:
Eggplant and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses
Cheese and spiced apricot phyllo ‘cigars’
Stuffed dried eggplant
Carrot and pistachio fritters with chili yoghurt sauce
Oregano Thyme tea – as a digestif;
“lahmacuns” – a kind of thin-crust pizza baked with mince, onions and tomatoes
Buda (wheat meze), Sikma Kofte (bulgur onion and yogurt dip)
Sikma Kofte (bulgur onion and yogurt dip), Seaweed, Mahammara (red peppers and walnuts dip), Moa Mara (curry pasta), Risvat otu yogurt bulgur soup
Yonca Erol is foremost a charming woman; she is also a member of the Cafer Erol family, and the manager of the Şekerci Cafer Erol. Founded in 1807 this magnificent confectioner store as expanded to five branches around Istanbul. Yonca was more then happy to chat and lecture us on the different techniques used in the production of their wonderful sweets. After a thorough tasting and aquiring a variety of gifts for friends and family – Yonca walked us all the way to Ciya, her favorite food spot in Kadiköy (but more about that on a different post :).
Cafer Erol is lined with widow refrigerators holding delectable looing chocolates, filo pastries, halvas, honey cakes, marzipan and a 100 other sweets. On top of beautiful large glass jars with brass tops, are filled Ottoman sweets.
One such is the “Akide” pulled sugar. The Erol’s are flavored with honey, real fruit extracts, fresh spices and nuts. To the untrained eye the might seem like ordinary candy flavored with synthetic components and lots of unhealthy corn syrup; but these confections are exceptional due to technique and the quality of the fresh ingredients.
Our favorite Akide was the bergamot. This candy is made according to the old traditions – cooking the sugar in copper cauldrons over wood fire to a specific temperatures. Once it starts cooling and before it fully hardens the flavors are added, and the sugar is pulled. This is what gives the candy it’s outer shine. We brought some home in some of the fantastical gift containers on offer; a fez hat and sultans’ turbans as well as copper bowls
Turkish Delight, or Lokum, is a sweet dating from the 17th century. It was initially made with honey, molasses and flour. Through times eventual erosion, the basic components changed to refined sugar and starch; to help it acquire a silkier texture. Cafer Erol produces about thirty different flavors of this national sweet.
Be sure to swing by, say hello to Yonca and to give a little gift to your sweet tooth!
Below the impressive Bosphorus bridge, within the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul, lays the lovely neighborhood of Ortaköy. One can easily see why in the 16th century, the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent encouraged Turks to move here. Ortaköy is a sun-drenched stretch of sidewalk made for a day of meandering.
A Sunday brunch is a must at the waterside House Cafe. Enjoy a lovely meal with a perfect view of the blue on blue water of the bosphorus and the eponymously named Ortaköy, or Mecidiye Mosque. A beautiful ornate building in the neo-baroque style, the mosque was designed and built in 1854 by Garabet Amira Balyan and his son Nigoğayos Balyan. This duo was also responsable for the design of the Dolmabahçe palace. The Ortaköy is one of the most popular landmarks in all of sprawling Istanbul.
Arrive by ferry, the stop is just in front of the mosque. Then after bunch and a bit of people watching, take a stroll through the weekend flea market in the waterfront plaza and enjoy a hard candy made on the spot. If you happen to stay, at night, besides the medley of cafes and restaurants, Ortaköy hosts the flashiest super clubs along the embankment.
The Yeni Cami or Valide SultanMosque was ordered in in 1597 by the Sultana Safiye, wife of Sultan Murad III, and later Valide Sultan (Queen Mother) of Sultan Mehmed III.
After 1603, the partially constructed structure gradually fell into ruins; and was severely damaged during the Great Fire of Istanbul. In order to cover costs of restoration and upkeep, the nearby Spice Bazaar was created.
With 66 domes and semi domes in a pyramidal arrangement, the New Mosque dominates the skyline as you approach via ferry. Although it is not as high up on the tourist list as the Blue Mosque; Yeni Cami holds a more peaceful and mystic aura.