Saturday, May 31, 2014

Istanbul Turkey Part 2: A Foodie's Fantasy: Hayvore Lokanta, Hasan Usta, Durumzade, Varka, Zubeyir, Eski Kafa, Beyti, Ciya Sofrasy, Miscellaneous "Snack Stops", Lokanta Maya, Mikla

This is a continuation of our eating experiences in Istanbul. YES!!! There are more adventuresome deliciousness! Some of these experiences were among our best. You might wonder how we could eat so much.....well, we started about 10am and continued this evolving excitement through the day, mixed with fabulous visits to the historical and cultural sites (one gets hungry sighseeing so much). The whole evolving adventure was smoothed by the extremely well planned itinerary for our driving/eating tours, facilitated by Murat Ozguc, owner of Mocha Tours, the great tour guide he supplied, Yasisn and our highly knowledgeable driver. The walking tours were also meticulously well organized by Ansel Mullins, author of Istanbul Eats and his great, personable and highly expert walking guides.

Hayvore Lokanta

The view at the display counter. 

More at the display counter: a selection of pastries and other preprepared foods.

Sardines and olive oil. 

Greens  and roast peppers, seasoned with zatar, pomegranate vinegar and olive oil and served with the ubiquitous yogurt.

Grape leaf wrapped rice (dolmades), with yogurt. 

 Soup with beans, kale, and lamb.

 Vegetable soup.

Muhlama......ready for this heart stopper....cheese and butter, a specialty of this resto. dips the bread in the cheese and butter and swipes up a clump of the melted cheese with the butter.....yum!

Hasan Usta

Hasan Usta, the master (usta) of one dish (fried fresh anchovies) but a maker of a few, doing business in his very small eatery since 1960.

Frying the fish.

The wonderful result and the light, most perfectly cooked and tasty fried anchovies we tasted in Istanbul (a lot of eateries and restos do this).


Durumzade is a well known grill eatery specializing in a Turkish wrap (durum).


The skewered meat is put on the  charcoal grill and as the skewer is turned, the grill master drapes the lavash (thin flat bread) over the meat as it cooks on the coals, creating a smokey tent for the meat and imparting the flavour of the cooking meat to the durum. The spices that were rubbed on the lavash are rubbed into the beef to share some of that flavour. Then, the skewer of meat is layered onto the lavash with a bed of chopped parsley, sumac dusted onions and tomatoes and then all rolled together and thus forms the durum. The rolled durum is then put back onto the grill for final crisping.....amazing!

The thin lavash of durum are rubbed with a mix of red pepper and spices and may be also be filled with chicken kebab (tavuk sis), spicy beef (adana kebab) or mild minced beef (urfa kebab).

 Wrapped and ready to eat! 


Varka restaurant offers traditional middle eastern fare prepared simply but with careful attention to harmonizing wonderful flavours and textures.


Despite Varka being a restaurant rather than an eatery among the many eateries we stopped at in the neighbourhood, we actually came for this amazing salad flavoured with mountain thyme, chopped parsley and tomato. But the menu was so enticing we promised ourselves to return.


Most kebab places are no-frills, in and out, small eateries. Zubeyir is a wonderful grill resto, more substantial, with an extensive menu and where the food is grilled over a hardwood fire (that makes for seriously good eating).

The grill master and the hardwood fire.

 Try to get a seat at the grill (you must reserve).

The very best, smoothest raki, that we enjoyed in Istanbul.....triple distilled and so good, we brought back 3 bottles.

Mezzes: eggplant with tomato and onion, salad with parsley and pomegranate molasses, smokey grilled eggplant.

Bulgar, spiced, to be wrapped in lettuce leaves. The origins of this dish would have used raw beef in place of the bulgar.

Chicken kabob, ready to be wrapped. 

 Grilled peppers and tomatoes.

Grilled chicken wings with zatar spiced salad.

Fabulous and a bit fatty, charred, grilled lamb ribs, with a bit of pepper and thyme, a specialty.

 Adana kebab, spicy minced lamb, flavoured with red pepper.

Dessert: strawberries and cream and a pumpkin cake topped with whipped cream.

Siirt Seref

Since 1892, Siirt Seref has specialized in buryan kebabs, lambs back meat slow cooked over a wood fire.

The dough for the lavash is spread out and baked in the wood burning oven.

The delicious finale.

Eski Kafa

Lunch at Eski Kafa, a neighbourhood resto with a reputation for very good traditional dishes with a modern take. One gets to see what has been cooked, or what is cooking, in the kitchen, and then make one's choices to be brought to the table.

Puree of red pepper soup. 

Roasted fresh eggplant stuffed with tomato sauce flavoured ground lamb, sided with roasted eggplant topped with tomato.

Dried eggplant, hydrated, stuffed with rice and roasted, sided with cole slaw and beans.

Boiled artichoke stuffed with steamed veg and dill.

A Turkish version of moussaka.


Beyti is one of the most renown restaurants in Turkey. The owner, Beyti Guler who started life as one of Istanbul's best butchers (and in the process also became a chef), is one of the most affable and knowledgeable foodies, and, an honorary member (one of the very very few) of Les Chaine des Rotisseurs. Beyti is a beautiful resto with wonderful food and worth the journey from the centre of Istanbul. The resto specializes in very high quality meats roasted over oak charcoal.

A mezzes plate of dolmades (rice stuffed vine leaves), smokey grilled eggplant that was so good we asked for a triple portion and stuffed eggplant (imam beyildi).

House made, grilled sukuk sausage, smokey and delicious.

I tell everyone, never order a steak in Europe. There are truly very few exceptions where one can get a good steak by our standards. I said that to my dinner companion but, he ordered the steak anyhow. It was exceptional and cooked perfectly. What should I have expected from Beyti!? Scored using the "beef boys" grading system 8/9/9 (taste/texture/juiciness, all out of 10)! Remarkable!!

 Doner kebap.

Beyti kebab, a specialty, lamb wrapped in lamb caul fat and roasted over the fire.

 Fig dessert with sweetened kaymak topped with pistachio powder.

House made baklava stuffed with ground walnuts, with house made vanilla ice cream.

At the conclusion of the meal we were taken on a tour of the several public dining rooms and private rooms of this extensive restaurant and then taken on a tour of the immaculate kitchens.


The was the beginning of the second neighbourhood walking tour arranged by Istanbul Eats and we had a fabulous well informed, lively guide who picked us up at hour hotel promptly at 10am, took us for breakfast at Namli and then took us on a boat to the Kadikoy area for our walking tour.

Honey and kaymak, various local cheeses, cherry tomatoes and olives. 

Menemen, the local, traditional egg, onion and peppers dish, but this version was nowhere near as good as our first experience.

Cafer Erol, a sweets place, in business since 1807!! See the fabulous array in the pictures below.

The Local Market

A purveyor of wonderful nuts and dried fruits.

"Snack Stops"

 Stuffed zucchini flowers.

 Dried then hydrated stuffed eggplants.

 Cabbage stuffed with rice and rolled.

 Vine leaves stuffed with rice and rolled.

Bilgeoglu Baklava

 Sherbiet..... it was amazing.

 Pistachio filled baklava.

An eatery that just makes menemen, the egg, onion and peppers dish. 

Tantuni is a special dish and this eatery is another example of little places that specialize in only one dish. 

Ground lamb is seasoned with pepper and paprika and fried. 

A very juicy wrap that one MUST eat over the table! 

A Local Eatery for Kokorec

Kokorec, the lining of a lamb's intestine is stuffed with sweetbreads and slowly cooked over a wood fire and is this specialty of this eatery.

The meat is sliced and chopped and grilled together and put on a thin durum and rolled up.


 The kitchen.

Seasoned bulgar to be wrapped in a lettuce leaf and eaten (in the old days this would have been raw beef). 

Kellepaca soup made with lamb's tongue, cheek and foot and seasoned with "garlic water". An exceptionally flavourful soup.

This dessert, another version of sherbiet, was very tasty, a bit like fried shredded wheat drenched in sugar syrup, topped with complementary, slightly sour kaymak and topped with pistachios. 

No Name Snack Stop on the Istiklal Cadesi

This is a pyramidal shaped fried snack (before one bights into it), that is sold by a street vendor on the main pedestrian street, that is a specialty of one family (they make it upstairs from where it is sold on the street) and yes it is safe and recommended by the all tour guides who walk people through this neighbourhood.....and, delicious!

Lokanta Maya

Once again, i apologize for the photos, but was obliged to use a cell phone rather than my camera.

Spicy sauteed shrimps with spinach.

Sliced veal ox tongue with anchovy aioli.

Puree of smokey grilled eggplant.

Fried liver.....a terrific rendition full of flavour and good texture, with lemon zest and pickle.

Zucchini fritters with coriander yogurt sauce.

Lamb shank on polenta.

Caramelized sea bass with sauteed chard and grilled orange.

More pastries and a nighttime post resto snack.

Ciya Sofrasy

Ciya seems to be a highlighted feature in the vast majority of food publications and guides to Istanbul. Does it deserve to be so much in the forefront? That is debatable to both native folk from Istanbul, as well as visitors.....but, whatever they serve is both interesting and whatever you choose is bound to be good and there is such an incredible range of traditional dishes.....making Ciya, a truly unique resto experience in Istanbul.

The mouth watering array of dishes n the display case, yours for the choosing, above and below, are inspired by cuisines from Mesopotamia to the Ottomans, from the Balkans to the Caucasus and from Asia to the Arabian Peninsula, Georgian, Israeli/Jewish, Armenian and Syrian, a magnum opus of Anatolian food culture, all based on the chef/owner's (Musa Dagdeviren) research into it's regional culture and history.

All of the above images are of prepared foods in the selection counter at the front of the restaurant and one makes their selection from these and other dishes on the very lengthy menu. A cornucopia for foodies.

Dried stuffed eggplant with bulgar, a dolmade (rice stuffed grape leaves) and sauteed greens.

A fabulously well flavoured soup of chick peas, kale, beets and topped with dill flavoured yogurt.

Perdi pilavi (drape pilaf).

Ebegumeci (mallow).

Güveçte kuruluk türlüsü – Dried Vegetables cooked in Casserole.

Sarımsak Kebap – Garlic Kebab.

Ekşili Köfte – Sour Meatballs.

Şiveydiz, a dish of very flavourful local lamb, garlic stalks, chick peas and yogurt sauce made with yogurt, flour and egg yolk. 

Kelle Paça – Lambs Head Soup.

Kuzu Etli Enginar – Artichoke with Lamb.

Yeni dünya kebap – Loquat kebab.

Mumbar, grilled lamb intestines stuffed with meat and rice.

Kabak Kavurma – Roasted Zucchini.


Mikla is considered by locals as one of the best restos in Istanbul. Although the food was good, it was far from my favourite local food experience, especially as it did not live up to the hype.

Zeytinyagli, raw fish and vegetables.

Seared North Aegean octopus, cauliflower and arugula cream.

Whole wheat manti filled with veggies or lamb shank with yogurt, tomato, roasted garlic and sumac. 

Closeup of the manti above.

    Warm mulberry soup, cinnamon crumbs, edremit tahini ice cream.
"Petit fours"..........tahini and sesame crisps.

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