Homemade food with a twist of Tarsus

Not only does Dört Kadıköy serve up good coffee  and hospitality, they also get a thumbs up for their recommendation to visit Sımsıcak Ev Yemekleri, a restaurant just a few storefronts down the street. At first my friends and I were just going to stop in for a tea since we had had our fill of coffee and desserts at Dört, but we certainly couldn’t say no to all the mouth-watering dishes on display. We ordered a huge spread and sat down to eat while at the same time informally interviewing the owner.

Sımsıcak Ev Yemekleri (translation: really hot homemade food) features a set menu of dishes which customers pick from the display up front, and they also rotate in different dishes depending on what’s fresh and in season at the local market. The owner’s family is originally from Tarsus, and thus, he also tries to incorporate goods from the Tarsus area when possible such as olive oil and pomegranate sauce, dried veggies, and spices.

Like Helvetia in Asmalımescit, Sımsıcak has several dishes for the vegetarian crowd, and for everyone worried about whether the veggies we eat in Istanbul restaurants are cleaned well, don’t fret at Sımsıcak. They wash all their vegetables three times, yes that’s right, three times. First in water, then in vinegar, and again, rinsed in water. And for those lamenting the amount of plastic bottles used in restaurants, Sımsıcak has one large water cooler where you can fill up your water glass, enormously cutting down on the amount of wasted plastic.

In addition to an amazing karnıyarıkone of my all-time favorite Turkish dishes – the restaurant’s two standouts were the eggplant puree and çıntar mantar. Eggplant puree is a standard Turkish dish made by roasting eggplant over a gas-burning stove and then pureeing it. Delicious, right? Well, as much as I like eggplant, I often find the finished puree to be too strong on the palette, either because of the burnt flavor or the bitterness of the fruit. Sımsıcak’s eggplant puree, however, was so smooth that for a split second, I doubted that it was even eggplant. When we asked the owner about his magical puree, he told us about a secret ingredient he incorporates into the dish. Where he got the idea for it is baffling since it’s not a common ingredient  used in traditional Turkish cooking, but it’s genius all the same. He did, however, ask us to keep the secret ingredient a secret, so I’m keeping my word.

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Karnıyarık, split eggplant stuffed with minced meat

The other highlight was the çıntar mantar, a mushroom which grows in Tarsus on the cedar tree but can also be found on kızılçam (red pines) in the Kanlıca area of Istanbul. I had never heard of çıntar mantar before, and in fact, I have been struggling to find the correct English translation but another blogger has referred to it as a Saffron Milk Cap. To be honest, I thought it was ciğer (liver) at first  due to its meaty appearance, and when I tasted it, it certainly had a meatier texture (& better taste!) than the standard table mushroom. For this very reason, the çıntar mantar is an ideal meat substitute and may feature in some of Sımsıcak’s dishes traditionally made with meat. Mushroom-stuffed mantı, anyone?

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Chopped çıntar mantar with grated vegetables

Just when you are starting to think that you might be enjoying a homemade meal made by your favorite Turkish abla, teyze, or kaynana, you are kindly reminded by the mustachioed Charlie Chaplin on the wall that you are in Kadıköy after all, and that you’ll step out into the streets to be swept up in the energy of Istanbul. But don’t forget to pay the bill first, and trust me, Sımsıcak Ev Yemekleri is quite the deal!

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Zucchini stew with mint

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Lentil balls (mercimek köfte) with assorted pickles

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Saçaklı köfte (meatballs with shredded potato) on a bed of potatoes, peppers, and eggplant with yogurt

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Istanbul’s post-modern neighborhood cafe: Dört Kadıköy

 “A post-modern neighborhood cafe.” That’s how Neylan Öğütveren, one of the owners of Kadıköy’s newest cafe – Dört Kadıköy – describes it. Her goal is to create community and do something good for the neighborhood in a time when people aren’t sharing enough and need to know each other more than ever. From my perspective, her and her three business partners (and very close friends) Fahri, Emrah, and Ürün are off to a running start. I connected with Neylan over Twitter @dortkadikoy and set up an interview with her shortly after the opening of Dört Kadıköy earlier this month.

Due to Neylan’s welcoming spirit and outgoing personality, the interview turned out to be an informal chat between friends. I got to hear all about her inspiration and vision for Dört Kadıköy while enjoying a refreshing cold brew and warm walnut brownie topped with ice cream, followed by an artisan latte.

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Latte art, the way to my heart

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Cold brew drip mechanism

Dört Kadıköy isn’t your normal Istanbul coffee shop; in fact, it’s much more than a place that just serves coffee although they do that well, too. The cafe promotes a healthy lifestyle and welcomes four pawed friends. Don’t forget to say hi to Zeus, Neylan’s and her partner Fahri’s, Doberman in the back, and if you bike to the cafe, you get 20% of your purchase. The coffee and tea are organic and Neylan expects to expand their menu to include organic and vegan selections. Now, that’s something I can get behind.

The cafe is already holding Friday night Spanish language tables and plans to expand its community events to include long-table discussions and workshops including topics such as: COFFEE. The owners completed an extensive coffee training course here in Istanbul and they want to pass the information they learned onto the greater community – how to select beans, which brewing system to use, etc. Thanks to Dört Kadıköy’s partnership with Petra Roasting Co., a roasting company that made a big splash on the Istanbul coffee scene earlier this year, Dört Kadıköy is serving top of the line beans from one of Istanbul’s leading roasters.

Neylan’s background in Performance Art Management and Digital Performance also comes through loud and clear, and no detail has gone unattended to. The cafe’s interior design channels the Brutalist style, and in fact, the cafe was previously a repair shop so this too was an inspiration for the cafe’s design. The walls will soon be home to installations of local artists (first up is Çandaş Şişman) as well as permanent artwork. The logo’s design by Emre Parlak was inspired by the Bauhaus Movement and it’s an aesthetically pleasing logo that jives well with the cafe’s trendy brand.

Oh, did I mention the baked goods are homemade by women in Moda? That’s community for you.

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Syphon coffee with baked goods

 

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My lovely ladies enjoying the goods. The more the merrier when exploring new places!

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Sample menu (subject to change)

Meatballs on-the-go at Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi

The place: Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi
The offerings: İnegöl-style meatballs,  meatball sandwiches, bean salad (piyaz)
Price range: A portion of İnegöl meatballs for 12 TL; half sandwich to-go for 6 TL
The pros: Family restaurant, fast service, and reasonably priced
The cons: This place gets really busy on the weekends! 


Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi is not a tourist destination but it is the perfect place for everyone else – families with kids and grandparents in tow, students on a budget, and locals looking for a quick and tasty fill. I was first introduced to this restaurant as a student at Sabanci University when I was a frequent visitor to Kadıköy on the weekends. Since then, the place has gotten a face lift and the food is just as tasty as ever.

My recommendation is to try the İnegöl köfte, a special type of meatball originating in İnegöl (Bursa). A portion comes with a generous helping of fries and a spicy sauce on the side. I always get the piyaz (bean salad in olive oil) as well. It’s a perfect appetizer to share and I think Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi’s piyaz beats out any contenders.

The service at Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi is quick (I mean, really quick), so don’t be surprised if your food comes before you’ve even finished ordering it. At the counter, the waiters prepare the dishes assembly line-style and most customers order the meatballs so they’ve got this down to a science. On the other hand, the restaurant can get really busy on the weekends with families, and during those times, you might have to remind the waiter once or twice to bring you that ayran you ordered.

If you’re lucky, you can snag one of the few tables set up outside the restaurant. If the weather is nice, it’s the perfect place to enjoy your meal and do a bit of people-watching. I brought my parents here when they were visiting Istanbul, and we waited for a few minutes to get a table outside – it was definitely worth it!

The restaurant also has a pick-up window right inside the front door. For only 6 TL you can get a half-bread meatball sandwich (12 TL for the full sandwich). Friends and I recently picked up sandwiches to-go and took them to the Caddebostan seaside where we enjoyed them sitting by the water.

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How to get there: From Europe, take a ferry to Kadıköy. At the iskele, cross Rihtim Caddesi and head towards the Starbucks on your right hand side (near Bambi). Ekspres İnegöl Köftecisi is a couple store fronts up from the corner Starbucks.

The original Fazil Bey’s Turkish Coffee

 

The place: Fazil Bey’in Turk Kahvesi (Fazil Bey’s Turkish Coffee) in Kadikoy, the original one located in the fish bazaar
The offerings: Turkish coffee, sahlep, filter coffee and more
Price range: 4 – 7 TL
The pros: Traditional Turkish coffee and yummy sahlep served with lokum in an authentic atmosphere
The cons: It’s really small so it can be difficult to find a place to sit & there is no credit card machine


Fazil Bey’s has been one of my favorite cafes since my days at Sabanci University  – the days when I spent a lot of time on the Asian side and trips to Europe were few and far between. Now, that I live in Besiktas, it’s quite a treat to spend some time in Kadikoy, but it also takes a bit of planning.

This week’s occasion was meeting up with my good friend, Alia, who I met while doing my Master’s with Sabanci University. The last time Alia and I had been to Fazil Bey’s was a couple years ago right after I had finished my coursework and before I moved back to the US (momentarily). That day was a snowy one, and I remember climbing the narrow stairs of Fazil Bey’s, shaking off the snow, and sitting down only to fall in love with Fazil Bey’s sahlep. The upstairs was a cozy one with a few disparate tables squeezed into the small area, and the servers had had no shame when it came to telling us when we had overstayed our welcome. To be fair, with very limited seating, I can see how they want to move people in and out as quickly as possible, but to our Midwest sensibilities, this seemed quite the affront!

That’s why this past weekend we decided to check out Fazil Bey’s newer cafe, but it was packed to the brim, and there was no hope of finding a table especially since neither of us wanted to be stuck on the balcony with the copious amounts of second-hand smoke. After a quick stop at Beyaz Firin to grab some acibadem cookies to take home for later, we went to the old Fazil Bey’s and found a prime spot right inside on the first level. We were able to catch up over a round of sahlep and then coffee which are both served with lokum, and the drinks were just as good as I remembered. This time we sat for a couple of hours and it didn’t seem to be an issue at all. We chatted about blogging, recipes, home, work – all the stuff you talk about with a good friend.

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Evening falls on Fazil Bey’s

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Looking down on Turkish coffee preparations

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Coffee nostalgia at Fazil Bey’s. Check out MK drinking his Turkish coffee in the black and white picture center top.

*If you are looking for a real Turkish coffee in a traditional Turkish coffee shop, this is definitely the place to go. I always make it a point to bring guests to this cafe for a Turkish coffee experience, and in my many visits in the last few months, I haven’t felt rushed at all. Must have been a one-time thing!

What’s coming next?

Thanks to everyone who has given me such great feedback on my blog! This week has been full of activity, but I am hoping to get a few more reviews posted over the weekend.

Here are the restaurants/cafes/pubs  I have visited in the past few weeks that I am still planning to write reviews on:

Kunefis – Besiktas

Pando Kaymak – Besiktas

Asim Usta doner – Besiktas

Sur Ocakbasi – Fatih

45lik – Beyoglu

Cukurcuma 49 – Beyoglu

Tarhun Lokanta – Kadikoy

Fazil Bey’s – Kadikoy

Cimdik Manti – Levent

Some of my colleagues recommended me a few more, so I am hoping that this weekend is full of new discoveries.

Please help me add to my list by posting some names of your favorite restaurants in the comments section. I’ll give you a shout out in my review!