My safe place – The River Cafe, London

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Snowed in and working on my lectures, classes, getting bored, I caught myself going through London photos…. Spending most of my time in my favorite restaurants, The River Cafe photos took me back to last summer. River Cafe is one of … Continue reading

Meat and more meat at Çankaya Lokantası

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Ankara, my hometown makes me wonder around the tastes I am familiar with. One being döner, I can easily say that I had the best döner sandwiches topped with onions and parsley through my school years. Have to mention the … Continue reading

José, the man of tapas!

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Walking down Bermondsey Street, hands full after hitting Borough Market, we were desperatelly hungry and a little bit beaten, just a little. I read a lot about chef Jose Pizarro, been following him from Brindisa days, happy that he got his own … Continue reading

Tarihi Subaşı Lokantası – Istanbul

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All the walls are covered with black and white photographs, news from  international and local press, trophies, all memories with smiling faces… This place is the city’s history, its taste, its smell and its texture. The dishes are prepared with … Continue reading

Dondurmacı Yaşar Usta – Istanbul

You bite into the half lemon, catch that thought, then add sip of lemonade, there, you have the perfect tangy slurp of  the lemon ice cream of Yaşar Usta. It is not a shy from lemon ice cream, it is old school. Like all his  other fruit ice creams.

When we met with Yaşar Usta and his ice cream years ago, the melon was my first love. I felt like I am smelling a melon in a pazar. He brushes the skins of melons one by one before using them, he is a passionate man, Yaşar Usta. He does his job with perfection and love.

The strawberry ice cream is better then eating strawberry, for me.  The mulberry -these days may be you can put your hand on some- is sweet with the crunchy little seed popping between your teeth, the water melon – when in season- is great after a full dinner, like a cool breeze in a hot summer night, the orange -mostly in winter- is well, orange! Not to forget sour cherry, raspberry and fig – again when they are in season-. All fruit ice creams are made with fruit and sugar. No milk, pure fruit. Like eating a frozen fruit only better, thicker and richer.

For his milk based ice creams he uses sugar, salep and buffalo milk. The caramel is one of a kind, it is the burnt flavor taking me away, to my childhood and I want to stay there. I almost cried when I first tasted it!

The walnut ice cream is better then any walnut dessert, he also makes tahin ice cream, which has its own customers, you feel eating a cold spoon of sesame paste, only nicer, smoother.

He experiments and does all sorts of ice cream, he believes it tastes good. For all of his ice cream he neither uses additives, nor coloring, nor preservatives. He does with the best ingredient which is available.

Ice cream is never simpler, tastier, better. A true artisan my Yaşar Usta is!

Address: Prof. Dr. Ali Nihat Tarlan Sk. No:34, Bostancı, – yes that small stall in front…

Service hours: Late spring early summer he opens his stall, then when autumn starts turning winter he closes. Open around noon till midnight, mostly. He makes home delivery, during winter, when his small stall is closed for the season.

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Lades Lokantası – Istanbul

It is calm inside, free from the enormous Beyoğlu clatter. Walk through the dining saloon, on your right you get to blink to the desserts, and before you reach to the kitchen cold olive oil dishes are ready to steal your tummy, all plated looking very  appealing.

On the hot plate, stews, vegetable dishes, soups, pilav and meat dishes of the day waiting to be picked and to be devoured by the hungry ones. Pick yours and do not forget the tandır, lamb meat cooked in its own jus hours, getting crispier outside, while maintaining to be moist inside.

Their milk desserts like kazandibi is worth a try, it has the right amount of sugar and starch, burnt top leaving you with a caramelized-milky aftertaste.

No music just the spoons and forks scraping the food and a lovely murmur hanging in the air. A typical esnaf lokantası – tradesman restaurant – where everyone knows the specialty of the day like ciğer on Tuesdays or döner on Mondays and Thursdays.

It is a fool proof, safe food away from home, you may become a regular like the rest of their customers.

Address: Sadri Alışık Sk. No:14, Beyoğlu, Istanbul

Phone: (212) 251 3203

Service Hours: Closed Sundays, the other days open through the day.

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Şahin Lokantası – Istanbul

Walking down the Orhan Adli Apaydın Sokak, if you see a crowd of suits and white collars, people gathered, waiting hungrily or smoking happily then you are in front of Şahin Lokantası.

Serving since 1967, Ismail Şahin, known as Şahin Usta or Baba, holding his business together, cooking, talking to customers and sitting on his small desk to cash the bills. The chef is working with him for 32 years, and doing a great job.

When you enter the restaurant, you go directly to the kitchen counter, where you can see a colorful layover of the dishes like çoban kavurma, rice pilaf, lentil soup, chickpea stew, big tray of Izmir köfte topped with hand cut potatoes, tavuk kapama, fırın makarna, kadınbudu köfte and many more. Most of the dishes are cooked in oven. The chickpeas are melting in your mouth, you do not need to add any salt or pepper, the taste is perfect. İzmir köfte, the köfte is  a little spicy, soft, leaving you with a mouthful of flavor. All the ingredients are top notch. He even did not change his butcher for 30 years, nor the  grocery.

You feel you are eating at home. Food from the heart.

Save some space for kadayıf, if it is on the menu that day. The kadayıf is like falling from a grandmother’s hand. Thick, crunchy on the top, moist and silky and soft in the middle with a layer of walnuts, then the bottom is a little burnt, the Golden brownish color. The syrup is just right amount and right sweetness. You can have a whole – believe me the smallest portion is even big- piece of it, yet you continue living.

If you want to have a morning soup, you should go there till 10.00am, or you will be left empty belly. Mondays işkembe – tripe soup, Thursdays paça – trotter soup. The trotter soup is to die for, smooth, silky, well cooked, texture wise perfect.

One important reminder, you may not find all the dishes after 1.30pm, so act up.

Prepare to wait, share your table and eat hearty home cooked meal.

Address: Orhan Adli Apaydın Sk. No:11/A, Tepebaşı, Beyoğlu, Istanbul

Phone: (212) 244 2543

Service Hours: Opens early in the morning for soup service till 5.00-5.30pm. Closed on Sundays.

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Anadolu Lokantası – Istanbul

This family owned restaurant is a big escape for the white collars from their busy work schedules. The menu changes daily and you can enjoy home style cooking, hot, delicious, flavoursome. You chose your remedy from the glass display that separates you from the colorful trays of food. Pot meals, stews, olive oil dishes, pilaf, puddings, meat and chicken dishes are all good. The portions are generous. And believe me you never feel full after all these plates.

They use the best ingredients available. When you bite through their house special köfte wrapped in phyllo dough, you taste the  veal meat, lean, spicy, tasty and sticks in your mind for the next visit. Or you order another one right away!

The restaurant is clean, the food is very good, the service is fast. What is there not to like?

Address: Değirmen Sk. Şaşmaz Sitesi C Blok, No:9/A, Kozyatağı, Istanbul

Phone: (216) 463 1872

Service Hours: Food begins to be displayed around 11:00, 11:30am – around 2:30pm daily menu finishes, so you may order from the grill till 6:00pm. They do delivery. Closed on weekends.

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Çiya Sofrası – Istanbul

Imagine a place where you find all those beautiful regional, Anatolian ingredients cooked ingeniously that create explosions through your senses.

The moment you lay your eyes on the small place you are surrounded by great tastes, on your  left the big hot pots and pans laying all colorful meals, and on your right you see the freshest salads and spreads on the salad bar, far from the salad bar the desert window winks at you, seduces you…

You start your chat with the chef, asking him the dishes of the day, after you make up your mind, if you can that is!  Then you pay your visit to the salad bar, you fill you plate with dried eggplant dolma, kısır, muammara, zahter salad, Kürt köftesi, eggplant salad and many more delicacies.

You may feel like you are dining through the lands of Anatolia, escorted by the obscure vegetables, roots and edible herbs, and you are amazed by the sour cherry dish, green plum with lamb, stuffed artichoke, casseroles made with all those different ingredients, then dishes even sometimes I do not know or pronounce the names. Every dish is delicious, just it depend on what you want to eat that day, that is how I cope with it.

There is always some sweet or sweet sour sherbet, according to season, rhubarb, tamarind, green almond, plum, rose, cactus fruit, melon, liquorice, mulberry, bitter almond and many more, always something to learn, to taste.

You drink your zahter tea and want to start all over again, but some other day. At Çiya there is always something new to try, and something you always want to eat again and again and again…

Address: Güneşlibahçe Sk. No:43, Kadıköy, Istanbul

Phone: (216) 330 3190

Service Hours: opens noon – 10:00pm, everyday

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