One of the greatest pleasures of visiting Istanbul is eating Turkish food. Turkish cuisine ranks among the top five in the world because of the variety of ingredients used in their dishes, the inventiveness of the way they are prepared, the exquisite and unusual mix of flavours, and the artistry of their presentation. The origins of Turkish cuisine date back to the golden age of the Ottoman Empire (1453-1566) when Istanbul was the center of culinary culture. This brought new kinds of fruits, vegetables and spices into the territories of the Empire and encouraged top chefs to develop new cooking techniques.
Turkish cuisine includes beef, lamb or chicken, as well as all kinds of seafood. The most common methods of preparation are grilling or roasting, which produce the famous Turkish kebaps. Meals in traditional Turkish restaurants start with a large selection of cold starters named meze. You can choose between fresh vegetables in olive oil, salads, white cheese, yogurt with herbs, sweet melon and many others. Hot appetizers include soups, pastry, and cheese rolls. As a main dish you can choose meat kebab or Doner Kebab (lamb stewed in tomato sauce and served with yogurt). Desserts are irresistible: baklava-type or pastry sweets (flour dipped in rich syrup), and milk pudding. At the end of your dinner it is highly recommended that you drink a Turkish coffee which is very strong and flavourful.
So what are the best restaurants for traditional Ottoman gourmet cuisine in Istanbul? I asked Ugur Ilgar, founder of LuxuryIstanbul, a luxury travel company that organizes tailor-made holidays and special tours (shopping, history, archaeology, art and more) for his tips on where one should go for the very best in Turkish food. Below are his suggestions.
It is located near the Chora Church in Edirnekapi. Asitane lies in the shadow of the mighty Chora Church which is one of the most important and well maintained buildings of the Byzantine era and serves imperial Ottoman cuisine, incorportating Central Asitan, Anatolian, Middle Eastern and Balkan flavours. The restaurant’s dishes reflect the eclectic nature of the Turco Ottoman neighbourhood. I would recommend to try “Gerdaniye, Lor cheese, Mutancana and Helatiye as dessert”
Kariye Camii Sokak No: 6 34240 Edirnekapı, Istanbul
Tel: (212) 635 7997
Once a 19th century Ottoman police station, Feriye constitutes one of the rare examples of 19th century classical Ottoman architecture. The restaurant has fantastic views onto the Bosphorus. The menu is mostly Ottoman cuisine; it was selected as“The Best Turkish Cuisine” by 100 world-famous gourmets.
Çırağan Cad. No: 40 Ortaköy – 34347 İSTANBUL
Tel : 0 212 227 22 16 – 227 22 17 – 236 25 22 – 236 25 23
(3) CIYA SOFRASI
Located in the Fish Market district of Kadiköy, Çiya like its name, brings to mind high mountain peaks and mountain flowers. The creators will take you on a journey rich in “dishes from a broad geographical space, spanning from Mesopotamia to the Ottomans, from the Balkans to the Caucasus and from Asia to the Arabian Peninsula.”
Caferağa Mah.Güneşlibahçe Sk. No:43 Kadikoy(Asian Side Istanbul)
Tel: (216) 330 31 90
[Editor’s Note: Mapplr reviewed the amazing Ciya Sofrasi on a trip to Istanbul.]
(4) HACI ABDULLAH
The adventure of Haci Abdullah Restaurant started in 1888 and still survives as culinary knowledge has been passed down through the decades from master to apprentice. Haci Abdullah Restaurant is a great symbol of Beyoglu’s history, and Ottoman hospitality still survives here. Visiting Beyoglu (a delightful neighborhood in Istanbul) without stopping at Haci Abdullah is to miss the heart and soul of Beyoglu. Haci Abdullah recalls the memories of place, food and culture, many of which are fading. The menu is vast, so first-timers are advised to try the Special Haci Abdullah Plate, which includes four separate hot dishes. Haci Abdullah is the ultimate culinary destination for foodies wishing to satisfy their curiosity about authentic Turkish cuisine.
Aga Camii, Atif Yilmaz Cad. (Old Sakizagaci Cad.)
No: 9/A 80070
Beyoglu / Istanbul
Tel: +90212 293 85 61 – 293 08 51
(5) KONYALI TOPKAPI PALACE RESTAURANT
Konyali has been serving celebrity royalty for more than 100 years. They reflect traditional Turkish cuisine with a wide selection of appetizers and desserts. Some of the specialties of the house are low temperature oven baked tandir lamb, aubergine caviar, borek and orange baklava. The Bosphorus views are priceless.
In the Topkapi Palace Museum
Sultanahmet / Istanbul
Tel: 0212 513 96 96
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Suggested reading: Mapplr’s Travel Guide to Istanbul