I’ve visited Istanbul twice…correction – three times after this past summer and this city has countless places where one can eat. There’s something for every budget, in each district and most (if not all) of Turkey’s regional cuisines on offer. Anytime I travel someplace I like to do some homework, which includes finding out which places I should check out fora meal.
My Turkish friends and others who have visited Istanbul supplied me with a long list of places to try out and in fact, the list I was given the last time I visited (two years ago) just grew in size. The same names came up and some new ones popped up. I chose where to eat based on my location at the time and instinct. My food instinct is usually right.
Travel from Thessaloniki to Istanbul is pretty convenient as the two cities are now serviced by daily flights, numerous Greek tour operators offer 2, 3, 4, 5 day packages to the city. Most offer a similar package and price and you have the choice of what category of hotel to stay at. Splurge on a 4 0r 5 star hotel as they don’t cost too much more than the 3 star, mediocre hotels offered by the tour operators.
We stayed in Taksim Square among a cluster of hotels that is also within walking distance of the Beyoglu district and the vast and very populated pedestrian mall known as Istiklal Street. Here, you’ll descend upon a sea of moving people walking down this cobble-stoned street, shops and eateries to the left and right. The clang-clang-clang of the trolley warns you that it’s coming through. The smell of chestnuts, the sound of street buskers, the site of ice cream hawkers toying around customers all vie for your senses’ attention. The aroma of donair kebabs, the sweet smell of Turkish delight and Baklava entice you. What to eat first?
My first night in Istanbul was a Thursday and I followed the advice of Chef, instructor Ozlem who recommended that I check out Antiochia, located in one of the sidestreets of Beyoglu. Antiochia specializes in Hatay cuisine, the region of Turkey wedged between Syria and the Mediterranean. The small restaurant isn’t too hard to find, just down an alley off of Istiklal and parallet to it. It’s a half-flight of stairs below street level with a young, urban crowd, cordial and eager to serve.
The menu and restaurant belong to young, pretty chef Jale Balci and her brother and another partner. What you get here is a choice of dips and array of stylish and tasty kebabs along with a thin, warm flat bread very much like the ones we know in wraps. I opted to choose a sampler of dips from muhamarra, hummus, yogurt and mint and a relish and red and green peppers with some pomegranate molasses swirled in.
When in Turkey (a muslim state) you must be know that many establishments do not serve alcohol while many others still do. There’s no logic to it, a matter of personal choice for the proprietor and thankfully Antiochia serves alcoholic beverages.
- The dessert reminded me of Greek spoon sweet made of baby eggplant but this one was very forward with clove flavouring but the ice cream cut the richness. If you’re looking for a quiet meal away from the din and crowds of Istiklal yet still nearby, check out Antiochia. They say that on any given night there are about 3 million people in Beyoglu at night. Antiochia provides comfort, great food and a chill (relaxed) atmosphere.
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