It is puzzling that Istanbul, a city of some 15 million people with an increasingly lavish lifestyle, a world-famous cuisine and a booming tourism industry, has so little sparkle when it comes to fine dining. We’re surprised that the Prime Minister himself has not jumped into the culinary scrum by demanding no fewer than three Michelin stars from every restaurant. The city still has yet to answer with one. Continue »
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Editor’s note: This feature is the first piece in a series covering locally owned neighborhood eateries that offer an alternative to the food courts and chain restaurants in Istanbul’s most popular shopping malls. We’ll be digging into the streets around Cevahir and Akmerkez malls next. Please send us your tips, anti-mallrats!
With the brutally forceful clearing of Gezi Park of its temporary inhabitants by Turkish police, the recent protests in Istanbul have lost the imposing physical presence that, incredibly, lasted for two weeks. Continue »
Editor’s note: While the fate of the Gezi Park occupation is being hotly discussed, we’ve been spending our time sipping deeper into Turkey’s other great debate: what is the country’s national drink? In the spirit of national reconciliation, here is our report.
The recent protests that raged across Turkey may have been sparked by the government’s ham-fisted efforts to bulldoze a precious stand of trees in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, but the country’s eaters and drinkers had already gotten a taste of Ankara’s increasingly meddlesome overreach during the weeks and months before. Continue »
In an opinion piece published recently in the Latitude blog of The New York Times, veteran Turkey correspondent Andrew Finkel’s brutally honest appraisal of the state of “New Turkish Cuisine” called much of Istanbul’s restaurant establishment – down to the customers – into question. We’ve had similar misgivings after meals in some upscale nouveau meyhanes where fussy food and too much attention to interior design ends up spoiling an atmosphere that is supposed to be fun. Continue »
Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of “Spring (Food) Break 2013,” featuring our favorite foods of the spring season in each city Culinary Backstreets covers.
This year’s Nevruz celebration, an ancient welcoming of spring, may be remembered for its political significance in which a peace deal was struck between Turkish leaders and Kurdish rebels. But once the shoulder-shrugging, line-dancing, fire-jumping and ululating are over, the real bounty of the season will continue to be celebrated all over Turkey and in many Istanbul restaurants, from the chic to the shabby. Continue »
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Meg Ryan’s big moment at Katz’s Deli in When Harry Met Sally, but a low-register, guttural moan of pleasure was detected from our table when we tasted the shredded celery root in yogurt, a house specialty meze at Çukur Meyhane. And we weren’t faking it. Continue »
In a 2003 TV commercial for Cola Turka, the actor Chevy Chase was seen speaking Turkish and then sporting a moustache, after taking just one sip of the intended challenger of Coke in this country. This sensational ad – which riffed on the old theme of American cultural imperialism through its number-one agent, Coca-Cola – was the first time that Turkish soft drinks caught our attention. Continue »
As chronicled by Istanbul Eats, the Tünel end of Istanbul’s famed İstiklal boulevard was some two years ago the site of a heated burger war. It all started when a former Turkish basketball-player-turned-restaurateur who had spent time studying in California opened up Mano Burger, a mostly successful recreation of the kind of burger joints the owner frequented in the United States. Continue »
The Turkish proverb “At, avrat, silah ödünç verilmez” (“neither horse, wife nor weapon should be lent”) is sometimes repeated as a way to recall the nomadic warrior past of the Turks. The primal Turkish essentials are clearly stated, but what about the çay bardağı, the tea glass that has become such a ubiquitous Turkish icon? Continue »
In the great multicultural Anatolian kitchen, questions about the ethnic or national origins of foods are often cause for forks and knives to fly. A porridge called keşkek is a hot-button diplomatic issue between Turkey and Armenia, and we won’t even get started on the ongoing baklava debate. So what to make of this cuisine that draws influences from every corner of the former Ottoman lands, a territory stretching from the Balkans to North Africa? Continue »