Istanbul Restaurant Guide

Istanbul night life, Pera district

Turkish Raki and Mezes ready for an Istanbul night

This guide is a collection of the restaurants which were reviewed on our monthly newsletter . Almost all restaurants and food tips are from Istanbul with a few exceptions. These no-frills, blunt reviews are done mostly by Istanbul residents who have dined in Istanbul for decades. Below you will also find a restaurant review from one of our American subscribers.

Hamdi Restaurant

A famous and old restaurant located in Eminonu, serving kebaps and mezes since decades. It has in recent years gained international fame after going through renovations.

It is a good restaurant in everything it serves but service and pushiness and we are already famous attitude is annoying. You can also buy delicious sweets and kahkes on the ground floor.

The fast service section also located at the entrance of this multi floor building with lower prices but without the view of the top floors is suggested for food enthusiasts.

TWARP rating: 7 on a scale of 10.

Haci Baba

Haci Baba is located on the busiest pedestrian street of Istanbul, Istiklal street in Beyoglu. Another great place to "see" and taste, Turkish cuisine. Packed with tourists it is a place also visited by affluent Turks, journalists etc... You can have lunch and dinner, and in summer time you can have the garden side tables overlooking the garden of the Greek Church next to it.

Unfortunately this has become another overrated restaurant with good food but with high prices and pushy service personel. Handling fame is difficult.

TWARP rating: 6 on a scale of 10.

Ciya

Ciya has become famous, yet still good. Located in Kadikoy it is the favourite restaurant for travelers who would like to taste different meals mostly from Southeast Turkey. A little high on the prices compared to the size of their servings.

There are three Ciya restaurants a few meters from each other. Two are for traditional cuisine and one for the kebaps.

TWARP rating: 9 on a scale of 10.

Niyazibey Iskender

If you are going to taste Iskender, a doner (gyro type but taste different than the Greek ones) with special sauce, pita bread and yogurt, this is the place! Located in Kadikoy the restaurant is not attractive in its old style design. It is just off Altiyol boulevard, only 5 minutes walking distance from the Eminonu boat station located in Kadikoy.

There are many many Iskender kebaps in Istanbul but here you can eat nicely for less 10 euros person and the best one Istanbul.

TWARP rating: 10 on a scale of 10.

Pidenem

Pide is a cousin to pizza, Turkish answer to eat cheap and well. If you would like to taste lahmacun or pide, one of the best in Istanbul is certainly Pidenem. High quality with a low price, in a nice and pretty shop located 5 minutes from Kadikoy bazaar, it is worth a try. Address: Haci Sukru sokak. No 3.

TWARP rating: 10 on a scale of 10.

Asir Restaurant

Asir formerly know as Hasir is one those restaurants without any signs, even at the entrance ! But don't go thinking that this is a really expensive one, in fact it offers cheap and nice food ! The restaurant is about one meter (3 feet) below the pavement level. Located about half a kilometer (0.3 miles) off the major pedestrian road in Istanbul, Istiklal Caddesi, Hasir offers a casual atmosphere, really nice meze (hors d'oeuvre in Turkish), fish and meat dishes.

The nicest mezes are Topik, an Armenian meze, Bomba (meaning bomb in Turkish, the name is irrelevant) extra large beans served warm, mussel salad, fava, seasoned raw fish. You can also choose the mezes from a very large selection displayed down the hall. In Turkey, if there are mezes in a restaurant that means you may consume alcoholic drinks as well, and vice-versa. Fish selection depends on season and the day, since they are bought directly from the fishermen.

Location: Parking may be a problem in the immediate vicinity. The restaurant is not in a good neigboorhood, but only 10-15 meters (yards approx.) from the Police Station and the major road crossing Taksim, making it safe.

Around USD 8-10 for a meal excluding alcoholic drinks.

TWARP rating: 7 on a scale of 10.

Pafuli Restaurant

Pafuli, is the other restaurant we have reviewed but were very frustrated about. It is the most famous restaurant in Istanbul for Black Sea regional cuisine, and it is located on the Bosphorus. The food contains too much fat, the hors d'oeuvre is not the best, except a few exceptions and the prices are quite high. The service was pretty bad as well.

TWARP rating: 3 out of 10

Kasibeyaz Restaurant

As our long time subscribers will notice, we have not talked much about kebap restaurants in Istanbul , a popular specialty of the Turkish cuisine. This time we have visited Kasibeyaz a restaurant facing the airport. A very famous stop for Istanbul dwellers, this restaurant attracts also many travelers staying in the hotel near the airport.

The hall is scaringly large and crowded: almost a few hundred visitors having their dinner in the huge dining hall. The first two things that comes to mind are the quality of service and level of noise: Surprisingly the service is excellent and the level of noise is low.

There are many appetizing starters from the Southeast region of Turkey, where the kebabs originate: cig kofte (raw meat minced many times with spices), tulum cheese, white cheese (a cousin is known as feta cheese in the US), and watermellon. Raki, wine and other drinks may accompany the starters. Then come the kebaps: Alinazik (with mashed eggplants), Adana (the basic with red pepper), Urfa (mild without hot spices), Lamb shish and many more...

The suggested desert is Kunefe, a delicious sweet with cheese served hot.

All of the above including drinks around USD 15-20 per person.

TWARP rating : 9 out of 10.

" A Gem of a Restaurant in Sultanahmet "- by Joe Switz

Having just returned to the U.S.A. from a month in Turkey, I'm happy to report that all you may have heard about the excellence of Turkish Cuisine is true! In general Turkish food is tasty, varied, fresh, easy to like, amply portioned and above all moderately priced. There is, however, a noticeable similarity in the dishes prepared by many of the restaurants. A marvelous exception to this sameness can be found in the CENNET RESTAURANT. Located on the street that the tram runs on about 6-7 small blocks west of the Hippodrome. (I was told that the old building that the restaurant occupies was once a Turkish bath, perhaps part of the historic Cemberlitas Bath that is still in operation and a must!)

As you enter the restaurant linger in the doorway for a few moments and soak up the visual joys of the place: The lucious assortment of meze/appertizers/salads on the table to your left; the profusion of pillows, carpets, low tables and stools scattered about the place; the three chatting ladies in their typical Turkish/Anatolian attire on the raised island in the center of the room busily preparing Gozleme the speciality of the house (the best crepes you've ever eaten!); and if your timing is right the exotic sight and sounds of Turkish music played on exotic instruments by the costumed resident musicians. Definitely not your run of the mill eateries.

O. K. Now your ready to go in. Find a pillow, rug, stool that fits your frame and feast on their simple, delicious food. As I recall there are only three types of Gozleme to choose from so choose all three; they are that delicious! My favorite, favorite was the potato gozleme. Of course chay (tea) must be consumed with the meal!

Linger and continue to enjoy the ambiance. But save room for the greatest pleasure that comes at the end of your evening when you are finally presented with the bill. So much pleasure for so litttle money!

I really can't take credit for discovering this gem of a restaurant. The credit goes to my young friend Adnan, an employee of the charming Hotel Historia where I stay when I am in Istanbul.

A Vegetarian Cafe/Restaurant: Parsifal

Turkish cuisine offers a great selection of dishes for the vegetarians so a dedicated vegetarian restaurant is not really needed for travelers to Turkey. The food is simply great and you may need a diet after you return home :) But if you would like to eat low fat vegetarian and you are on the most famous pedestrian (occasional traffic) street, Istiklal Caddesi, you may try a newly opened cafe in a side street, Parsifal for a change.

The menu is small and international dishes are majority. In most of the small, family run restaurants in Turkey, a menu does not mean much since the food selection may change daily. So check the small chalk board.

Salads are very refreshing and the soup is great. Main course include one or two non-vegetarian dish selections just in case. After you ask the bill you will be brought small gravel-like thingies in a very small cup. You may eat them, in fact you'll love them. They are "Marmara Cakili", a candy made of fruit in the inside.

TWARP rating: 8 on 10.

Konyali, located in Topkapi Palace

Konyali offers a wonderful view of the Bosphorus which separates the two continents and superb specialties of Turkish cuisine. This restaurant is packed with tourists as the tour guests are offered lunch at Konyali. It is expensive by Turkish standarts, about USD 25-40 per person for a good meal but may well be worth the extra money. If you can't afford it you still can buy sandwitches and contemplate the view while eating.

Konyali has also a great sweet shop located right next to the railway station in Eminonu. If you are into sweets, this is the place to taste some of the finest in Turkey. The walls are decorated with the pictures of famous figures who have visited Konyali, from heads of state to Kings and Queens.



Restaurants in other cities:

Restaurants in the Aegean

North and Central west Aegean is the most important place for fishing farms. In addition to the crop collected by fishermen out in the sea, there is a big supply of fish from the farms. One can spot these farms especially along the coast of Cesme peninsula.

The first thing you will notice in most of the fish restaurants is that the fish price is negotiable. And you should bargain before you walk into the restaurant. "Karagoz", "Mercan", "tekir", are moderately priced, while "Barbunya", "Swordfish", "Sinarit" and big size "Mercan" are high price items. Please note that the higher prices are mostly for fish caught by fishermen.

Most of the fish restaurants are also by the sea and offer great views, and a beautiful sunset. So if you would like to follow the Turkish dining tradition, get a table before the sunset, order a wine or even more typical, a raki (an alcoholic drink very widely consumed in Turkey) and some hors d'oeuvres. There are many cold and warm hors d'oeuvres you may order, among them squids (kalamar), octopus salad and shrimps.

Salads are dressed by olive oil, characteristic of the region, and lemon juice, the most typical, and probably the best dressing.

Depending on where you are, a busy tourist district or calm village the cost of a meal will change from USD 12-18 per person excluding drinks.

A Fish Restaurant in Ayvacik (near Assos) : Hasanaki

Hasanaki, the most famous fish restaurant in the whole region is on the beach, among the camping sites around Ayvacik. The name Hasanaki is a Greekized Turkish name Hasan. The restaurant is on the highway running parallel to the sea. If you are in the area it sure is worth a visit and for directions just ask anyone, almost everyone in the area would know it. People even drive 5-6 hours from Istanbul just to eat there.

Why this place is so famous ?

It is on the beach, tables are placed at the sunset on the sand beach, a few feet from the waves silently licking the shore. The fish is fresh out of the water, daily catches of local fishermen, the hors d'oeuvre made with octopus, squids, shrimps are delicious. Vegetables grown in neighbooring farms. Salads are dressed with the classic Mediterranean beauty, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

Very highly recommended.

TWARP rating: 10 out of 10.

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