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Istanbul restaurants

Surrey, UK
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Istanbul restaurants

As we always have people coming to the forum requesting information on good restaurants, and as the old restaurant sticky has been removed (and it was very out of date and rambling), I wanted to start a new one.

Please post with reviews/suggestions of any restaurant you have visited in the past 12 months (things change very fast in Istanbul) so we can have a good resource for people.

Please don't post anything else on here - so it can be a good sticky. If you have other restaurant questions, please start a new thread.

I will start off with my favourite Istanbul restaurant and will be back with more.

Sarnic Restaurant - Sultanahmet

We have been here many times over the past 14 years - including to celebrate our first holiday together, our engagement, our marriage and two anniversaries!! This restaurant is very special to us because it reminds us of 'life events'.

It is, I think, the most romantic setting you could imagine - that is why we keep coming back. Deep in an underground cistern behind the Aya Sofya, lit only by candlelight (and an open fire in the winter) it is a cool retreat from the summer heat but a cosy haven in the winter. It is a little like a medieval fantasy........

The food is very good with Turkish specialities (although varies as they seem to change chef frequently) - and in fact has improved in recent years - but it is the atmosphere that makes the Sarnic truly unique. We are vegetarian (and it doesn't have the best vegetarian menu - but still a good choice especially if you eat fish).

It isn't cheap - but if you don't drink alcohol (which can triple your menu) it isn't too bad and no more than other restaurants in the area.

It is behind the Ayasofya and you can find details at: www.ayasofyakonaklari.com/en/sarnic.jsp

Edited: 4:29 pm, June 15, 2010
207 replies to this topic
Wildwood, Missouri
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101. Re: Istanbul restaurants

Can anyone recommend restaurants in Galata neighborhood or nearby? We'll be a few blocks away from Galata tower. Cheers!

Mount Dora, Florida
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102. Re: Istanbul restaurants

Hi Wulfanite, Yes Asitane is open for lunch until about 2:00pm. Then they close and do not re-open until the dinner hour. At this time of year I would recommend making a reservation, even for lunch, because this is a very popular restaurant.

Tel Aviv, Israel
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103. Re: Istanbul restaurants

We had a great lunch in a restaurant called "Mardin" in the Grand Bazaar. I think it's not too far from Galata. They serve local cuisine and the price is more than fair. if you want some more recommendations here is a worthwhile post on the subject:


New York City, New...
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104. Re: Istanbul restaurants

Can anyone suggest a good restaurant, preferably fish, in Arnavutkoy, Besiktas near Villa Denise.

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105. Re: Istanbul restaurants

Sur Balik receives good reviews on Turkish media. grilled aubergine, sea bass marinated with basil and fried "Gumus" (possibly, sand smelt) are recommended. Only seasonal fish may be turbot but would be very expensive and probably imported.

Stay with sea bass or sea bream both farmed, no matter what the restaurant tells you and try to negotiate price.

The best Turkish white wines are as follows :





















For cheaper but decent restaurant, try Takanik and eat fresh Bosphorus horse mackerel fried. Check my fish thread on Fodors from a few years ago (from my profile) for instructions on how to eat it with your fingers. Warning : Takanik may be alcohol free.

Afterwards, the ice cream of Girandola, towards Bebek should be required eating.

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106. Re: Istanbul restaurants

I am not sure if this is the right heading to post this but I could not find a better place. Please recommend if so because I wanted this to help some more people visiting Istanbul to explore its food offerings. A good friend asked me to make a summary from my earlier experience and here it is... A summary of local food offerings; which are unique to Istanbul and not necessarily related to a particular restaurants.. Rather regional / local specialities...

I have put them in a location order so you can arrange your itienary on a map from west end Ataturk Airport towards noth end in Anadolu Kavagi. I did focus on the European side of the city but picked also some from the Asian side if they are in easy reach on the coast of the beautiful Bosphorus...

Here we go... You are off the plane ! and what is next ?

- Bakirkoy / Yesilkoy / Florya sea coast: Family Kebap Restaurants. Yesss. If you wanted to enjoy the Kebap in Turkey you will find the most established family style (best value for money) kebabs here right on the doorstep of the airport and if you travelled with an economy airline they make a great lunch or dinner stop for you. You want to have a story; pick the Kasibeyaz (white eyebrow) or Gelik but there are plenty other nice places as well and they are all very busy so you rarely find a quiet corner to enjoy your meal. You will be surrounded with local familes and order a mixed kebab and see what Turkey has to offer on grilled meat. :) If you are not used to big portions; do not touch the side dishes like salad or rice and leave space for the desert `Kunefe`. This will give you enough energy to run to your hotel after the meal. Turkish wines are also surely on offer and you can enjoy one too.

moving on alongside Marmara Sea coast

- Kumkapi - Fish Market and the Fish Restaurants behind them- right on Marmara Sea Side

you shop your fish and have it done in the next resraurants. If you are lucky; you buy the fish so fresh you have to slap them into the face! If you go night time - Kumkapi is also a center for entertainment with Gipsies in the town. Authentic - friendly.. As May is not a great season for fatty fish you shall order them fried ! And always choose the small sided ones - they will be more delicious :)

- Sultanahmet - Kofte (meatballs) - This is The Old Town of Constantinalpole - the area next to St. Sophia and Blue Mosque you can have it eat in or on the go in the core of the old city. These meatballs have the property to bounce on the plate like a basketball :) I am not going into the history which would be wrapping you at that moment but make sure that you are there around day time and can also visit the museum around you.

- Misir Carsisi (Egyptian Bazaar) `Turkish Viagra`, Lokum and Herbs. This is our spices market we have been running for more than 6 centuries now. You would also find pieces from the Grand Bazaar if you would like to save the journey. The Gulluoglu (coming next) has a small shop there for a nice desert break and MUDO - OUTLET would be great to have some clothes - discounted from high street - it is one of Turkey`s best brands to buy clothing. You may like it.

- Karakoy - Gulluoglu Baklava and Borek - Karakoy is actually famous with various other artistic centres (Istanbul Modern, etc) but as we are into food here; Gulluoglu is the place to go. You may catch them in many other chain stores but this Karakoy branch is the authentic one just behind the Istanbul harbour where the cruise liners stop.

From here to the next stop; I must insist to take the TUNEL (funicule) as transport to Istiklal Caddesi. You may not believe that you will be in the history corrodor. Tunel s building started in the same decade with the London Underground and you can than have a comparision how much Istanbul and London improved their transport infrastructure and how geography leave a city behind in the race... any way - back to our subject...

- Istiklal Caddesi - Kokorec (kokoretch) at Sampiyon in Cicek Pasaji - Actually this is the most bohemian place in Istanbul to have your beer and chips but the real unique food here is the Kokorec. . Kokorec is the Kebap of the intestines of the sheep and it is absolutely a must `eat` in the oriental world. There was a really big debate in Turkey when the health and safety standards of EU people wanted to bann it and the perception of Turkish people about EU suddenly changed! We want to stay out and better keep our Kokarec !!!

- Taksim - Islak (wet) Hamburger - at Kizilkayalar (look for this brand on top of the shop to have it there where it is invented and if you like to have more try others so you can compare :)) This is actually an hangover food - after a long night out around Taksim Square but it goes down well at any time of the day if you have a nice cool lemonade with it. Wetness comes from its garlic sauce the Hamburger is almost dropped in to make it literally `wet`. But Taksim is also offering the most posh pattisserie of Istanbul just next to the Istanbul Hotel at the Square + many many other food offerings alongside the Istiklal Caddesi. Give your time to this area; You can think like the Leicester Square of Istanbul actually. It is the most multicultural area of Istanbul as well.

anything more western from here is suddenly more posh and more city.. ie Nisantasi is a constanly developing area - especially for clothing. You may like to pass it slowly / on walk just even for window shopping.

- Besiktas - Simit at Karafirin. We are back at the bosphorus side and this area is the core of the old Ottoman because of the Palace on the seaside. (Dolmabahce Sarayi) The best food activity is to have your Simit and Tea watching the ships. If you want the same taste on a more cosy and modern environment - go a little up north on the same coast to ORTAKOY and you can also enjoy the arts and crafts market. If Simit is behind you Gozleme (a kind of simple borak). If you missed the Kumkapi - there is another fish market in Besiktas next to nice restaurants in the area as well..

- Bebek Parki -Club29 or Sunset Grill & Bar. These are Istanbul`s most posh and expensive restaurants to have the best steak and wine. If you really want to test it; I can book you a table. :) The view on both bridges crossing the bosphorus at the same time is probably only visible from this restaurant so nicely and you may bump into the president, or Bill Gates :) - no wonder.

- Kanlica - Yogurt (with powder sugar) - I do not thing that this yogurt is any special any more. Its difference is in its thick layer of cream on top of the yogurt but the taste comes from eating it right on the sea or taking it with you to the ferry to cross Bosphorus from Bebek or Arnavutkoy which would take you back and forth regularly as this place is on the Asian side of Istanbul and you need to make it during day time while the small sea-shuttles between Arnavutkoy - Bebek - Kanlica are still working. If you can catch the big ferries on the other hand - they can take you even till Sariyer - to the most up north end of Bosphorus (in your reach over the weekend).

- Rumeli Hisari - Midye Dolma (Stuffed Muschles) On your way back from Kanlica you can get off at Rumeli Hisari (read its important history as well) and try the stuffed muschels from the street dealers. Do not think where they are coming from.. Just close your eyes and taste...

- Sariyer - Muhallebicisi + Borekcisi - Yeaa.. This is the place for a Sunday Breakfast actually. The Kiymali Borek with Tea (do not go for anything else) shall come first and the Muhallebi (rice pudding) shall follow to continue the day on the other side of the coast.

- Anadolu Kavagi - Fish and Muscles and Ice Cream on the go Anadolu Kavagi is a small fishers village with a nice castle on top of it. You can go there most easily with the small ferries from Sariyer (where you just had Muhallebi) and enjoy a nice sunny day with fish and salad - feeding the cat moving around your feet and enjoy the smell of the sea. Shall I add any thing more ? Alongside the fish; do not forget to order your nice Turkish starters (meze) and especially Dolma; patlican etc.. (*but you would know them from here as well)

That is the short summary of my 30 years Istanbul-food experience..

I hope that you will enjoy it..


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107. Re: Istanbul restaurants

Thanks everyone! I think we'll do very well with this great information!

Troy, New York
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108. Re: Istanbul restaurants

These are the places I tried,and I liked the foodwherever I went. I was on a budget, did nopt spend more then 20-25 TL per day, plus I'm a vegetarian.

1. Elif cafe near the Arasta bazar,good mezzes,just for 10 TL a plate.

2. Makarna sarayi,near cemberlitas tram station, good falafel,mezzes,pasta, all of it under 8 TL per plate.

3. doy doy restaurant,great turkish pizzas, about 10-12 TL for a pizza.

4. Usman Usta cig kofteci,between cemberlitas tram station and beyazit, its on the right when you are walking towards beyazit(grand bazar), good cig kofte rolls, for a mere 3 TL.The tastiest thing I had in Turkey.

5. Had kursu faliye,beans and rice at one of the places in Sirkeci,that's near Hocapasa pidecsi. Really good.

6. The kursu faliye places near Sulemaniye mosque were good too,and cheap,just 5 -6 TL for a plate.

6. Neyizade restaurant(in sirkeci konak hotel) , great manti(ravioli),dips,salads etc, good food and not expensive at all, about 13 TL for a manti.

7. Lady diana hotel has great views of the blue mosque, I did not eat here,but went for just the views. However the menu was similar to Neyizade's,and pricing too.

8. Had street food at the entrance of Emirgan park,the best gozleme's,for just 4 TL.

9. Kumpir at Ortakoy was great,for 12 TL,but I guess you get similar ones for 8 TL at Taksim.

So all in all, I was very happy with the food(and prices) in Istanbul,and eating just local vegetarian food. The baklava at Karakoy Gulluoglu was way better than the ones I had in Sultanahmet.

Sofia, Bulgaria
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109. Re: Istanbul restaurants

I stayed in Istanbul last year for 4 days, hotel is placed on Taksim. The city is beautiful. We had a guide from Istanbul and really we managed to see almost everything. Taxis are quite cheap, and the food ... restaurants are mostly excellent. Anybody who has a chance to go and cruise the Bosphorus one day, should! (to us it was offered as a day trip). Anyway, I really liked it and I would go again in a few years. FOOD IS GREAT

London, United...
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110. Re: Istanbul restaurants

Back in October, I had several meals at Kasap Osman (in Hoca Paşa, Sirkeci).

Food good, great price, excellent waiters, plus - especially for the single traveller - many opportunities to meet Turks rather than tourists, if you're prepared to share a table. I met and chatted with quite a few people there, including the team from the main Istanbul tourist office who were having a night out at the theatre.

Asitane - although the food is reasonable, it's rather enormous and impersonal.

(I also went to another fish restaurant in this area, at the top of a backstreet building that was almost impossible find. But I can't remember it's name. Excellent views and good food, but service a little stuffy.)

Ismet Baba - great spot next to the water on the Asian side. Go there for an early lunch and enjoy the Bosphorus sea-traffic.

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