Köfteci Yaşar, Eminönü’s best kept secret

It’s been awhile since I wrote about an Istanbul restaurant so I wanted to come back with one of our favorites – Köfteci Yaşar – which Gürkan discovered. This little gem is tucked away in the Eminönü bazaar district, and every single time we try to find it, we inevitably cannot, and have to ask for directions from several shop owners. The small restaurant is right next to a mosque which may or may not be helpful because there are plenty of mosques in the area. Perhaps more helpful is that it’s located in the corner where the wholesale burlap sellers are located.  My advice – be prepared to get lost and ask for directions once you get close. We’ve found that almost everyone in the bazaar knows Köfteci Yaşar.

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Köfteci Yaşar, one of very favorites in Eminönü

We really like this place, I mean, a lot.  We woke up on Saturday with nothing to do (a huge relief!) so we had a small breakfast in Beşiktaş and made a day of walking from Beşiktaş to Eminönü, just so we could have a meal at Köfteci Yaşar. In fact, Köfteci Yaşar was the only plan for the day while the long walk (we also made it to the colorful neighborhoods of Balat and Fener) was just a treat to spend a wonderful day in the sun.

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The grill master

Köfteci Yaşar is a small operation. I know for sure that they have köfte (meatballs), biftek (steak), and piyaz (a cold white bean salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice), but there may be a few other meat options as well. Today, we had the piyaz and two plates of the biftek. I actually think the biftek is a tad on the salty side (Turkish food tends to be), BUT I can overlook that, because it’s extremely delicious. It’s perfectly prepared – pink inside and very juicy – and today it  came sprinkled with a generous helping of oregano. I love it for its simplicity.

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The light and refreshing piyaz

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The biftek served with green peppers and tomatoes

There are usually only three men working – one behind the grill, one taking orders and one helper- meaning there is way too much going on for three people to handle so they sometimes forget things. Be prepared to gently remind the server if he initially brings one entree instead of two which is what happened today.

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The cozy inside of Köfteci Yaşar

The restaurant is cash only. For two biftek portions and a large portion of piyaz, we paid 42 TL. Outdoor seating is available which is what I recommend.  Stick to the table under the umbrella. The pigeons perched on the tree above can send down surprises for the unassuming customer. This happened to us the first time we visited in summer.

Rüstem Paşa Mahallesi, Mahkeme Sokak, No 21, Fatih, İstanbul

 

I don’t think this map is spot on, but it’s definitely the general area.

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A mom and pop meatball restaurant? Look no further than Çukurcuma Köftecisi

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll known that I have thing for Cukurcuma, one of Istanbul’s neighborhoods. Art galleries, antique shops, and hipster cafes galore, it’s also the location of Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence which should not be missed if you’re a fan of the book by the same name.

The destination this time was Cukurcuma Koftecisi (or, according to Google, Cukurcuma Meatball Restaurant). I first saw it on one of my many walks exploring Cukurcuma – it’s not far from Cukurcuma 49, a restaurant serving up yummy pizzas with local Turkish wine and live jazz music.  I also checked out the restaurant’s website, and after seeing this fun quote featured on their homepage, I knew it was a place I had to visit.

“Having lunch at Cukurcuma Koftecisi is like being a part of the live studio audience of a TV sitcom with meatballs. Three generations of an unusually tall family run a busy local restaurant with what seems like very little service industry experience but great intentions and strong will. Hilarity ensues.”

We went for an early dinner on a Saturday evening, and had the whole restaurant to ourselves. There’s no menu – the options rotate daily and you just choose from the day’s offerings. We ordered two portions of kofte (meatballs) and a plate of mucver (zucchini fritters) and fried eggplant which came with a side of spicy pepper sauce. The mucver and eggplant were excellent, and the kofte were of the homemade variety. They were very tender and not at all like the kind you typically find in restaurants. My favorite thing, however, was the pepper sauce. It complemented everything perfectly. In fact, I was content to eat it all by itself until Gurkan kindly reminded me that I should save it for when the kofte came.

While we ate, the mom of the family (looking lovely in her chef hat) prepared vegetables for the following day and the dad sat outside watching the dark streets of Cukurcuma and its passers-by. When customers came in, he took their orders and barked a few orders to the kitchen hand. Little rough around the edges but very helpful nonetheless. I’d say the website’s quote wasn’t too far off.

In a neighborhood full of trendy (read: pricey) cafes and restaurants, it’s a relief to know this no frills restaurant exists. The restaurant (and the family who runs it) has a personality all its own and as Gurkan says, it’s the nicest esnaf lokantasi he’s ever seen.

 
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Spicy pepper spread, eggplant, zucchini fritters

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Homemade meatballs

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Gurkan petting the cats of Cukurcuma. If you look closely, you can see the mom preparing veggies. Just look for the white chef hat.

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The dark streets of Cukurcuma. Can you find the three cats?