Brewing methods galore at Drip Coffeeist

On January 3, Drip Coffeeist opened its newest location in Asmalımescit, in the heart of Beyoğlu. My first trip to Drip Coffeeist was a visit to its original location right off of Bağdat Caddesi. My friend Fatma introduced me to Drip Coffeeist’s cold drip and brownies and I was won over.

A new location in Asmalımescit means all the goodness of the original location is now more easily accessible for those of us living on the European side. Drip Coffeeist’s diehard customers had encouraged, in fact, pushed the owners to open another location on the European side. And when your first coffee shop is as successful as Drip Coffeeist’s, why not?

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Wall art at Drip Coffeeist in Asmalımescit

Like most coffee shops in Istanbul, customers have a variety of brewing systems to choose from, but unlike the other shops, Drip Coffeeist has perhaps the largest selection of different brewing methods. Imagine my surprise when the owner pointed out a brewing system I had never seen before.

That’s right, I’m talking about the Belgian syphon, not to be confused with the Japanese syphon, which is commonly referred to as the syphon in Istanbul’s third wave coffee shops. The Belgian syphon, or Royal Belgian Coffee Maker is – like its name – very royal-looking. Unlike the vertical Japanese syphon, the Belgian one works through a balance mechanism (for the full details, click here)  With a short brew time, the historical device is perfect for those who prefer a stronger body without the wait. Drip Coffeeist was one of the very first to use the king of coffee makers in Istanbul and so far, it’s the only coffee shop I am familiar with that is currently offering this brewing mechanism.

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The king of coffee makers

In the summer, the drink of choice at Drip Coffeeist is the cold brew, and it is indeed, very good; after all, it’s the drink that peaked my interest in interviewing Drip Coffeeist. The baristas at Drip brew their cold drip in the Kyoto-style meaning water drips drop by drop down the chambers to saturate the coffee grounds (for more details, click here). The process is extremely time intensive but the end product is worth it. Bottles of freshly brewed cold coffee can be purchased from Drip Coffeeist’s cold case and taken home to enjoy.

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Japanese-style cold brew mechanism

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Grab & go cold brew

If this all seems rather overwhelming, the baristas are happy to give customers a short briefing on the various beans and brewing methods in order to help them select the best combination. While chatting with the owner, I had a feeling that if you attempted all the varieties of beans and roasting methods, you would never be able to get through them all, and yet he reassured me that after 3 or 4 tries, most people find the perfect combination for their taste.

Drip Coffeeist uses single-origin beans, purchased in green bean form from suppliers in Istanbul. The beans are then roasted at Drip Coffeist’s Bağdat Caddesi location according to the particular brewing methods they will be used for. This process ensures that Drip Coffeeist controls and oversees the entire process, from green bean to the customer’s coffee cup. The best beans? El Salvador for espresso and Sumatra for brewing.

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Choose the beans for your perfect cup

So there you have it, go pick out your perfect combo at Drip Coffeeist. I tried a pour over with the Ethiopian beans and it was delish.

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Visit Drip Coffeeist in Asmalımescit

Drip Coffeeist’s Asmalımescit location can easily be reached from Tünel, Şişhane metro, or Istiklal Caddesi, and is located on the same street as the Adahan Hotel.

Asmalımescit Mahallesi, Meşrutiyet Caddesi,General Yazgan Sokak, No 9/A, Beyoğlu, İstanbul

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No. 41, the only Beşiktaş cafe you need to know

On weekend mornings, I’m always at No. 41 Beşiktaş, a favorite cafe of mine tucked away on Yıldız Caddesi, parallel to Barbaros Boulevard and not far from Abbasağa Park. Everyone needs a coffeeshop that’s their home away from home, and for me, that’s No. 41. Even when moving from Dikilitaş to Beşiktaş, No. 41 was my anchor, with delicious coffee and friendly conversation with owners İbrahim and Kazım. There’s also a sly one-eyed cat lurking around that I’ve taken a particular liking to.

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İbrahim and Kazım opened No. 41 in April 2014 and it’s been a labor of love. High school friends from Afyon and later roommates while studying at nearby Yildiz Technical University, İbrahim and Kazım know the area particularly well. Their customer-base is vast including employees from nearby corporates,  neighborhood families with pets in tow, foreigners grabbing their coffee to-go, and couples and groups of young people relaxing. After the marathon, I even caught a group of runners getting their caffeine fix.

No. 41 serves all the standards from espresso to pour overs, lattes to Turkish coffee. Customer favorites include the chemex, syphon and cortado.  I wasn’t familiar with the cortado – espresso cut with milk – which İbrahim described as more sert than the latte. I gave it a whirl and it paired perfectly with the Nutella cake, my personal favorite. The cafe offers a rotating selection of boutique cakes as well as pizza every Wednesday. In the summer, you can find salads and the cafe’s signature watermelon slush, served on vintage pink plates and in mason jars.

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Preparing coffee with the chemex, similar to a pour over

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The cold brew coffee contraption

From concept to execution, İbrahim and Kazım have done it all themselves and are very humble about the talent and passion they have poured into No. 41. The design and decor are the work of their hands. They set the vibe with a great music selection, sometimes Bon Iver, sometimes old school jazz, sometimes French, but always, very, very good. And, since it’s just İbrahim and Kazım working the barista bar, you can always be sure you’ll find one of them at the cafe. The two make a point of remembering their customers and catching up with them even when their Turkish is dismal like mine (& for that I am very appreciative!). İbrahim describes the cafe as a samimi bir yer with arkadaşlık sıcak. In other words, you know you’re in good hands when warm friendship is at the core of the owners’ philosophy.

Next time you are in the Beşiktaş area, skip all those franchises.  Head up Barbaros for No. 41’s friendly spirit and yummy coffee. It’s so good you might end up like this guy:

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The one-eyed cat sunbathing after a coffee binge.

No. 41 has an amazing social media presence so be sure to check them out on Instagram & Twitter.

How to get there? 

Get off at the Yıldız University bus stop, walk up the small flight of stairs to the large veggie/fruit stand, continue down Yıldız Caddesi and you will see No. 41 on your right. If you don’t mind hills, get off at the Barbaros Boulevard bus stop, and walk up the incline directly to the right of Cheya Hotel until you get to Yıldız Caddesi, then turn right onto Yıldız Caddesi and you’ll find yourself in front of No. 41. The cafe is also easily accessible from Abbasağa Park, just follow Yıldız Caddesi. If you hadn’t guessed, No. 41 refers to the cafe’s street address. There’s also a great sahaf (second-hand bookstore) across the street with early editions of Turkish classics and ephemera.

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Hours of Operation

Weekday hours: 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Weekend hours: 9:30 am – 7:30 p.m.

All photos used with permission of No. 41.

 

Armenian-inspired Jash Istanbul

The place: Jash
The offerings: Huge selection of mezzes, entrees, and drinks
Price range: 12-20 for mezzes, 26-40 for entrees
The pros: Delicious mezzes, great hospitality, live music
The cons: The main entrees paled in comparison to the mezze selection


According to its website, Jash specializes in  traditional Istanbul cuisine. It’s a fair description, but perhaps, not quite correct. Most people know Jash as an Armenian restaurant, or at the very least, an Armenian-inspired restaurant. Sure it serves the standard mezze selections found in any Istanbul meyhane, but its Armenian owner has also added a few Armenian specialities to the menu, including topik which my readers will already be familiar with. A visitor to Turkey may not easily pick up on the Armenian influence, but a resident of Turkey would understand from the decorations (a small Jesus hangs by the front door) or the clientele (we met the owner’s Armenian cousins who were visiting from Montreal).

In many ways, this restaurant feels like you are eating in someone’s home not unlike the familial atmosphere at The Galata House. Like the Galata House, Jash also has an old-time feel to it, but in opinion, it’s done even better. Antique decorations, family photographs, and feel-good hospitality abound. Mari(a), the owner is very hands-on, she gave us recommendations when ordering, asked us what we thought of our selections, and went from table to table to make sure all her guests were happy. The restaurant has a good amount of seating with a downstairs and upstairs as well as an outdoor patio area – but as this place is quite popular, a reservation is a must. You can tell from the picture below that we were the first guests of the evening besides one large group of tourists sitting outside. Shame on us for arriving so early to a meyhane, but someone had some plans that he had to set in motion!

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Jash is know for its mezzes and they did not disappoint. I had my heart set on the topik so we ordered that along with cerkez tavugu (literally translated as Circassian chicken this dish is a special chicken salad with walnuts), sarma (stuffed grape leaves), and melon to go with our raki. The topik was among the best I’ve ever had and it was well worth the 20 TL price tag which I had originally found pricey. The sarma, too, were delicious and extremely fresh. I was surprised to find that they were much better than any homemade sarma I’d ever had – the chef at Jash certainly knows what he is doing. The chicken salad was also good but the portion a bit small. I took a look at a few other mezzes as waiters were serving them, and the midya dolma will definitely be on my list of things to order next time. They were HUGE and overflowing with rice stuffing.

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From L to R: melon, chicken salad, topik, and sarma

By the time our main entrees came, we both agreed that we were already quite full and it probably wasn’t necessary to order two full entrees (next time, we are sticking to the mezzes). I tried the harisa which is only available on the weekends and similar to traditional Turkish keskek which is made with chicken and wheat. Gurkan tried a kofte dish with meatballs on toasted bread with tomato sauce poured over and yogurt on the side. The concept was similar to Bursa’s pideli kofte, but not quite as tasty in our opinion. In the grand scheme of things, we weren’t overly impressed with the main entrees but it may be because nothing could compare to the delicious selection of mezzes we had just devoured.

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Harisa, similar to keskek

Jash has an accordion player that starts to play in the evenings around 8 p.m. On the night we were there, he took up a place outside on the patio to play. The real surprise of the evening was when the accordion player came over to our table and Gurkan PROPOSED. That’s right, he proposed in Jash and I said Yes! Everyone in the restaurant was clapping for us and snapping photos. After everything had calmed down a bit and we had gone back to our table, guests continued to congratulate us from their tables and one couple even beckoned us over to them in order to wish us well in life. I’m telling you this place has the coolest atmosphere. Mari also came over with little gifts including a bookmark and bag holder with the restaurant’s name on them, and we told her we’ll be back every year to celebrate (as long as we are in Turkey). Gurkan proposed on the longest day of the year, so it shouldn’t be too hard for us to remember our annual date at Jash.


How to get there:

Jash is centrally located and easily accessible from Kabatas or Taksim. In typical Istanbul fashion, it rained the evening we visited, so we went by taxi which may also be a good idea for first time visitors since Jash is tucked away in Cihangir.

A coffee break in Istanbul’s Old City

The place: Brew Coffeeworks
The offerings: Coffee & baked goods
Price range: 5-8 TL for coffee and espresso drinks
The pros: Strong coffee & funky decor with blue accents
The cons: Located in the old city, the clientele is mostly tourists


Normally, we don’t go to the Old City – it’s far too crowded and touristy for our taste. We only cross the Karakoy bridge unless we have a specific mission in mind – such as buying baking utensils in the bazaar, begging the Fatih Emniyet for my residence papers, or trying a new restaurant (the last one in Fatih was a major fail – #thanksbutnothanks Anthony Bourdain and his Turkey Youtube video). This Sunday, however, we had a mission and that was to help our roommates find new bikes. Gurkan had the bike know-how and I was just there for moral support, and of course, to help Nazli find a snazzy basket for hers.

Before even making our way to the Eminonu bike shops, we chanced upon Brew Coffeeworks, a cafe I remember one of our guests had mentioned he had found while touring. He had said that it was a nice place but in a strange location, and he couldn’t have been more on point. In the midst of unsupervised children, squawking pigeons, and haggling bazaar sellers, Brew Coffeeworks is a beacon in the chaos. Located in the same building as the Ottoman Legacy Hotel, I imagine the clientele is mostly made up of tourists either staying at the hotel or following their tour books to the Spice Bazaar and fish stands of Eminonu.

At first, we wavered about whether we should go in (we were after all on a mission and we had already agreed to eat at Cigkofteci Ali Usta if we were able to find it), but the cafe’s cool blue inside was welcoming and I hadn’t had my morning cup of coffee, so I nudged the others and they soon followed. Surprisingly, the cafe was also completely empty except for another table of two ladies. If the cafe wasn’t located in the Old City, but rather, somewhere in Taksim or Besiktas, I have no doubt it would have been packed. With Wi-Fi available and a decent amount of seating, it is a perfect place to study or work, but given its present location, people probably pop in to take a quick breather after visiting the Spice Bazaar.

Between the four of us, we ordered a few iced lattes and an iced americano for me. In the summer, cold press iced coffee is my drink of choice, but very difficult to find in Istanbul, so an iced americano is a fairly good substitute. We were pleased to find the expresso drinks at Brew Coffeeworks good and strong (none of that fake coffee masquerading as espresso in this joint). Besides the espresso, I really liked the funky blue accents – from the bright blue ceiling, to the blue accented photos, and even the blue display book about Şile cloth (which I mentioned in my last post about Şile), the concept was well executed and the cafe a welcome respite from the chaos of the Old City.

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Cafes in Cape Town & Zurich and a recently opened one in Izmir as well.

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Funky decorations with bright blue accents.

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Ample sitting space to study or work

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Iced Americano (not a cold press iced coffee, but honestly, a close second)

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I didn’t try the baked goods, but they looked awfully delish

Backwoods meets trendy Cihangir at Geyik

The place: Geyik Coffee Roastery & Cocktail Bar
The offerings: coffee & cocktails
Price range: latte 10 TL; cocktails 30-35 TL
The pros: Excellent coffee, great atmosphere and good tunes
The cons: Very small & the bathroom doors are see-through!


This cozy cafe is right down the street from Smryna, another well-known Cihangir hangout. By day, it’s a chill coffee house and by night, it’s a trendy craft cocktail bar. When we walked in, there was no coffee menu to be found, and instead, Serkan (the co-owner according to The Guide) simply asked us ‘what’s your drink?’ Normally, I take a pour over during the day but it was warm and I had just walked up from Karakoy, so I opted for an iced latte and I am glad I did. Serkan prepared the drinks right in front of us, and I was pleased to see he shook the lattes martini-style and served them with shaved chocolate. It’s certainly not standard latte preparation but it was a nice touch. The espresso was smooth and the drink frothy.

While sipping my drink, I admired the inside of the small cafe. A few stools were set up at the bar but most of the sitting space was on a bench alongside the opposite facing wall and towards the back of the cafe where there were free-standing tree stump stools. There were tables and cushions set up outside as well but all had been spoken for. Back inside I noticed the floor still had its original design and the ceiling was covered in rustic wooden beams. Behind the bar was a small image of a deer (geyik), the namesake of the cafe, set against a brick wall.

I also had a chance to check out the cafe’s cocktail menu, and I was shocked to see that the old fashioned had made the cut. For some months now, I have been searching Istanbul for an old fashioned, and I had come to the conclusion that the best and perhaps only old fashioned in all of Istanbul was the one I make at home (thanks to my friend Olivia who brought me the bitters from Boston). I’ll be back to try Geyik’s old fashioned, but not before I return for another one of those frothy lattes!

Word of warning: Don’t drink too much coffee otherwise you will have to use the bathrooms with see-through doors. Not sure how this can be possible? You’ll have to see for yourself…

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A snapshot from our walk to Cihangir

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The barista works his magic as Mr. Geyik looks on

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It’s all in the details at Geyik

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Shaken lattes at Geyik

 

Twins Coffee Roasters, bringing latte art and the flat white to Istanbul

The place: Twins Coffee Roasters 
The offerings: latte, cappuccino, espresso, filter coffee, Turkish coffee, and more
Price range: 4-8 TL
The pros: A real cup of coffee in the center of Istanbul complete with freshly ground espresso and lovely latte art
The cons: The location is a bit strange but must be a hit with the nearby consulates


Twins Coffee Roasters had only been open for 5-6 weeks and I already had it on my list of my places to-go. Instead of celebrating Çocuk Bayramı (Children’s Holiday) on April 23 like everyone else in Turkey, Gürkan and I headed up to Gümüşsuyu to try out Twins. An easy walk from either Beşiktaş or Taksim, it’s located right next to the Asker Hastanesi on Gümüşsuyu Caddesi.

We were somewhat surprised to see the place mostly empty, but then again it was a national holiday and trying out Istanbul’s newest coffeeshop probably wasn’t on most family’s Çocuk Bayramı to-do list. We walked inside and met Yosrie who whipped up a beautiful flat white and macchiato for us. Both drinks were undeniably delicious and  I was reminded of the down-to-earth, no-frills coffee shops at home where the coffee speaks for itself. Yosrie, originally from Cape Town, was also extremely personable and didn’t mind me snapping pics and asking him questions about the cafe. 

The day was warm and sunny so we enjoyed our drinks outside. Despite the great weather, I hesitated momentarily. With  a coffee bar along the wall and a large wooden picnic-style table in the middle, the one room cafe had a great feel to it. I could definitely see myself whiling away the time here reading, blogging, or catching up with friends. Yosrie even mentioned the possibility of opening another cafe in Beşiktaş, and if so, I’d certainly become a regular.

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Twins Coffee Roasters

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Serving up a variety of espresso drinks including the ‘flat white’

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Simple furnishings & vibrant accents

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Lovely latte art from Yosrie

How to get there: From Taksim Square, take Gümüşsuyu Caddesi past the German Consulate. Turn left as you get to the Asker Hastanesi and you’ll find Twins on the left-hand side of Miralay Şefik Bey Sokak.

 

Easter celebrations in Istanbul

After my roommates surprised me with a birthday cake at my favorite cafe in Istanbul, my roommate Nazli and I were off to meet up with her Greek friends who were in town. Although we found ourselves in Asmalimescit post-dinner, we made a point to make it to church to take part in the Easter celebrations. First, we stopped in at Saint Antoine‘s Catholic church, Istiklal’s most famous church, and found it was extremely busy. Plenty of people were attending the service and others like ourselves were stopping by to see what was going on.

Around 11:15 p.m. we decided it was time to head over to the Beyoğlu Panagia Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi, a Greek Orthodox church nestled behind J’adore, a little cafe famous for its hot chocolate. I had always wanted to visit this church but had never seen the gates open, and as many Istanbulites know, it’s hard to get into religious institutions in Turkey if you aren’t a member of the congregation. Earlier this year, I had attended a wedding at the Neve Shalom synagogue in Galata. Security had shut down the entire street and wedding guests had to show a special invitation card to the guards in order to enter. A couple of American tourists had sauntered down the street, and when they were unable to speak in Hebrew, they weren’t allowed inside. At the time, I didn’t know that this particular synagogue had been the target of terrorist attacks so I had found the heightened security excessive, but plaques inside detailed the synagogue’s unfortunate history. In 2010, I attended a concert to commemorate Gomidas, his life and music, at the Armenian church tucked away in the fish bazaar right off of Istiklal. People packed in to see the rendition of Gomidas’ liturgical music, and the concert had been such a milestone for the community that more than a few looked on through tears.

This Easter eve, the Greek Orthodox Church had its gates open and by the time we got there, it was nearly full although not as packed as Saint Antoine’s. The church was breathtakingly beautiful and ornate, and the crowd was fairly diverse with Greeks, Russians, and Georgians among others. Lucky for Nazli and I, we had her Greek friends to show us the ropes. We picked up some candles at the door and found some seats close to where the hymns were being read. Once the reading was done, the lights were turned off and everyone went to the front of the church to light their candle from the priest’s flame. Then everyone followed the priest into the courtyard to commemorate the moment of resurrection. The church bells rung loud and people enjoying their drinks up and down Istiklal were probably wondering what was going on at the church at midnight. Many people returned for the the rest of the service, but we were tired and headed home so we could get up to dye Easter eggs the following morning. Nazli and I also said a silent hallelujah that this Easter service was much more pleasant and welcoming than our last one together at the local Protestant Church in Bursa, a story for another time.

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Lighting candles from the priest’s flame

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In the courtyard for the moment of resurrection

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Celebrating Easter at the Panagia Greek Orthodox Church

 

 

Georgia on my mind at The Galata House

The place: The Galata House (Galata Evi), or commonly known as the British prison restaurant
The offerings: Georgian food  & wine; Russian and Tatar dishes
Price range: 25 – 30 TL for main entree; wine starting at 18 TL/glass
The pros: LIVE MUSIC & it’s open late
The cons: Tucked away on a side street, this restaurant can be a challenge to find


The Galata House is a real treat, and if you can find it, it will surely be an unforgettable experience. My friend Olivia and I went on a weekday evening, and even though I had called ahead to make a reservation, it wasn’t necessary. Only a few other groups came in the entire evening. The Galata House is not the sort of restaurant where you eat and get up and leave. Think of it as a restaurant where you plan to spend the whole evening – similar to meyhane culture.

With a selection of seasonal mezzes and several stew and manti-style entrees, the menu is very short and simple. It also indicates where each dish comes from with the majority of dishes being Georgian and a few Tatar and Russian dishes. I tried the lamb stew in plum sauce (Georgian) and Olivia tried the saffron chicken dish (also Georgian). We passed on the mezzes since the eggplant one we were eyeing wasn’t in season. The  menu’s timeline also lays out the restaurant’s history, and indeed, it was a British prison at one time, although briefly.

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Lamb stew in plumb sauce

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Saffron chicken dish

The restaurant has a nice selection of alcohol (raki, wine, beer) with the highlight being the Georgian wine. Although I didn’t try a glass (a bit pricey at 26 TL), I did have a glass of Turkish red wine. The lady came to take our food and drink orders and we were shocked when her husband came to pour the wine and filled our glasses to the brim. He kept chatting away, and meanwhile, he poured until our glasses were completely full. He was a charming man who told us about living in New York where he had worked on community development projects in an Italian neighborhood many years ago.

We had just finished our meal and had started to entertain the idea of going to Sensus Wine House to continue the evening when the lady that she would start to play piano. The table of Turks next to us ignored the announcement so again, she said somewhat sternely ‘kizlar, I’m going to start playing’. We had no idea what we were in for, but we were utterly shocked when she started singing. Her voice was absolutely beautiful, and that beautiful music recording that had been playing all night in the background? I’m sure it was a recording of her. Everyone in the dining room got up and went to the opposite room to watch her play.

 

We no longer had any intentions of leaving so we ordered up a Georgian chocolate cake so we could enjoy the music for longer!

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Georgian chocolate cake

A hint on finding the restaurant: When facing the Galata Tower with Istiklal Avenue towards your back, walk on the right side (the side with Senus Wine House), and continue to the back of the Tower. Take the street leading towards the church (see map). The Galata House is very close to Rapunzel Hostel which locals will probably be familiar with if you ask. I asked several people for Galata Evi and no one seemed to know it by name, so I’d stick to asking for the hostel. Ring the doorbell at Galata House and you’ll be welcomed at the front door. You can also get there by taking a side street leading up from Bankalar Caddesi in Karakoy.

Rainy evenings in Ortakoy

Ortakoy is not exactly the place you usually find yourself on a cold, rainy Istanbul evening but my friend Olivia was in town and I wanted her to try Ortakoy’s famous kumpir (giant stuffed potato). Since most of the week it was raining, we had no choice but to bundle up against the Bosphorus chill and walk to Ortakoy at least of those rainy evenings. Along the way, we passed Ciragan Palace, and I excitedly told Gurkan and Olivia how I been invited by Zomato to a baklava-making class at Ciragan. (Istanbul foodies – check out Zomato if you haven’t already!)

For the most part, Ortakoy’s jewelry and souvenir stands had been packed up for the day and the throngs of people that you usually find there were non-existent. It was unbelievably quiet and peaceful. We stopped at kumpir stand #6 which is the one we always go to in Ortakoy. As usual, the lady told us that if we were still hungry after the first kumpir, the second one was on the house. Yeah, right. One kumpir is enough to put me in a food coma – I can’t imagine what two would feel like. My favorite toppings are kisir (bulgur salad), corn, haydari (yogurt with herbs), and extra kasar cheese, and on this particular night, the man making the kumpir was particularly generous. For those of who you don’t know kumpir, there are plenty of other toppings to chose from such as: olives, spicy ezme spread, pickles, Russian salad (a sort of pasta salad), etc. When it comes to kumpir, the possibilities are endless. They are also fun and easy to make at home if you can get by with only preparing a few toppings (with a big group, that might be difficult) The main difference with an American-style baked potato is the sheer variety of toppings and the way the kumpirci mixes in the butter and kasar cheese before adding the toppings.

Despite being full after kumpir, we had designated it a street food sort of night so the eating continued. Next up were waffles with hazelnut spread/Nutella/strawberries/bananas/nuts for Olivia and Gurkan while I dreamed about  midye dolma (mussels stuffed with rice). Before heading back to our neighborhood, I talked the others into a few rounds of midye dolma in Besiktas, and by the time we made it home, we were cold and wet, but had very full stomachs.

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Olivia enjoys a waffle in front of the kumpir stands. Kumpir stand #6 is on the far right in this picture.

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Olivia and I bundled up against the Bosphorus chill

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A peaceful evening in Ortakoy

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Potatoes as big as your head!

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?