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Jaymes

Istanbul

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Between here and Taksim square I can get today's turkish delight, fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, kaymak, burek, kokorec, doner, simit, turkish ice cream, fresh black sea or Mediterranean fish, kelle paca, excellent kebaps, transgender whores, and who knows what else, most major US and European brands, and it's not even 2 miles.

 

 

 

 

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Istanbul is huge. You can read as much on wiki, but when you drive from the airport along the coastline on a Sunday, and you pass more or less 200,000 people grilling, and when you see a couple of miles of Istiklal Caddesi packed with people from 10am to 10pm daily, you know it's serious.

 

In fact, you know it's very serious when your taxi driver looks at your detailed driving instructions in Turkish for a second or two, says "Otel", "Taksim", "Ok", and starts you off on an Indiana Jones class adventure that includes going the wrong way on a one way street chock full of pedestrians, running into traffic going the right way, going the entire length of the street in reverse four times, then meeting a masked biker who leads us down an unpaved road into a terrible climb to the hotel, with me recalling my judo moves and Sivan hysterically telling the hotel what's happening.

 

Anyway, once you get there, in this case to Hotel 5oda that I couldn't recommend more (five full floor rooms, foodie owners who make your breakfast, ideal location right off Tunel, very reasonable price), you figure out the biker is the hotel owner, the unpaved road is being renovated, the taxi driver is a typical Istanbul driver, and all is well.

 

Food and so on to follow shortly.

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First time?

 

I remember arriving and having no idea where the cab was taking me, although it seemed to travel by unnecessary, surprisingly muddy backstreets, forever getting trapped behind wagons and stalled trucks. It's not an easy city to negotiate, although probably easier than Tokyo. But the food seemed fresh and good just about everywhere.

 

I suddenly remember I was stuck in the hotel for the first couple of days with a choking cough. Managed to read most of Vanity Fair.

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The first dinner was at Zubeyir, a kebab house off Istiklal Caddesi (in general it seems to be the case that the places on the block just off the main drag are more touristy, but once you walk another block out, or take a turn, everything is sweet). Zubeyir is not a super high end place where they turn the kebab experience into a major production, nor a casual kebab joint where you just go for a snack - rather middle of the road in terms of service, prices, and ambiance, but the meze (eggplant salad, pepper spread, tzaziki, and a couple others) and kebabs were top notch. I especially appreciated lamb liver kebabs that were perfectly cooked and protected from drying out (and if there's one thing lamb liver does well it is to dry out) by interleaving cubes of liver with fat. This was the first time we ran into the typical level of service in Istanbul - if you are not dealing with the owner or the cook, expect trouble - the waiter recited our order perfectly, then came back with a random set of dishes :lol:

 

(Got the reference אם Zubeyir from istanbuleats.com, a very good reference for Istanbul dining with something of a chowhound/anti-elitist bent)

 

 

I wanted to snap a picture of the makeshift fish restaurants I mentioned to trillie, but was surprised to see they've been fancied up overnight:

 

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Turns out it was only a film shoot:

 

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It was business as usual at the fish market nearby, where they seem to sell a mixture of local catch, black sea catch, and farmed salmon. Note the presence of black sea turbot, which Vedat Milor might tell you competes with the turbot caught off the north shore of Spain. It does not, and it's far more expensive at local restaurants than it should be, but it is a very good fish that you should try.

 

4636751532_b967891f9e_o.jpg

 

A good place to try the turbot is Iskele restaurant near Rumeli Hisari. It's a part of town that houses many places frequented by money new and old, meaning the dining crowd includes its fair share of Russian mafia, excessively altered women, and so on:

 

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A not very good place to try the turbot is Ismet Baba. It has local cult status and a gangster theme, but the fish was not properly cleaned (those warts on the local turbot's skin are not good eatin') and the batter was soggy. Blue fish could have been fresher... a mediocre restaurant in every respect.

 

 

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The best meal we had there was, amazingly enough, in the Grand Bazaar. We were there around lunchtime and noticed waiters carrying trays of food to the workers in the various shops, so we followed one of them to a back alley and a little nook where they were turning out the meals. Although I was frankly quite skeptical about eating in the GB, I was overruled by my traveling companions, and was I ever glad. I had the mixed kabob plate and it was absolutely wonderful.

 

And I loved Istanbul. What a fascinating, fabulous place.

 

We stayed at the Hotel Niles and I can't recommend it highly enough. Terrific location, about a block from the tram and the Grand Bazaar. The rooms were very nice, and really clean. On the rooftop was a lovely small bar and restaurant overlooking the river. Full breakfasts, including homemade Turkish pastries, were included in the price of 63EU. The staff was about as efficient, accommodating and competent as it's possible to be. There was a computer in the lobby with free internet for guests to use. The hotel was obviously very popular with visiting Europeans as we met no other Americans while we were there, but the place was sold out.

 

I can hardly wait to go again, but this time, will plan to stay much longer than our skimpy and completely inadequate three days.

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That's a very touristy part of town, but I'm sure you can find good stuff to eat as some people actually live and work there.

 

It might be a good indication of how volatile things are that I couldn't possibly go to Istanbul or east Jerusalem today :lol:

 

4659882092_1d66a2a5b1_b.jpg

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A good New Yorker article on Ciya Sofrasi a few weeks ago (now archived).

 

There's a photo essay about Chef Musa on The New Yorker's website. Abundant greens, cascades of small fish, steaming kettles, wonderful breads

 

Yes, The New Yorker

 

 

Question - do readers have any comments about moving this thread to the Asia forum, where other Istanbul threads are located?

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Half of the city is in Europe and half in Asia, so obviously we should just move posts according to which side of the Bosphorus we're discussing.

 

:ph43r:

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Of course, there's the existing Istanbul thread. Thirty five pages of fun and excitement.

 

Just to note, so the Admins don't think their lives are too easy, that this now-merged thread doesn't even cover the bulk of the Istanbul commentary on MF.

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It's funny, I just met a Turkish fellow visiting Mexico City and he claims that less than half of modern Turkey now wants to be part of the EU. He personally didn't consider his country European, even though I assumed he was German before we started talking. He seemed to think young Turkey in particular didn't want to be part of the EU.

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It's funny, I just met a Turkish fellow visiting Mexico City and he claims that less than half of modern Turkey now wants to be part of the EU. He personally didn't consider his country European, even though I assumed he was German before we started talking. He seemed to think young Turkey in particular didn't want to be part of the EU.

how would you react if someone rejected you?

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