My experience at Istanblu was among the worst I've had in recent memory. While the decor and its uniqueness as a Turkish restaurant are redeeming, the food and service were disappointing at best and awful at worst.
Let's start off with the bread starter. The bread was non-traditional, but I suppose respectable. However, butter was given (as opposed to hummus or anything like that). Moreover, the butter was of the packaged variety and was as cold as ice in which one could break his/her tooth on it. This had us on the wrong footing to begin with.
Second of all, the service was not up to snuff. The server was nice, but was clearly inexperienced. We ordered the Mixed Grill for 2. Either the server forgot to put in the order or there was severe disorganization in the kitchen because it literally took 50 minutes to finally get our plate. I am guessing the latter because the server told us that "the kitchen told me that I was not allowed to go in there anymore because I was asking too much about your dish".
Thirdly, the Mixed Grill itself simply was not good. The mixed grill has chicken shish, lamb shish, meatballs, and gyro meat. I think I understand why the food took so long, because it was probably sitting on the grill the whole time! Each piece of meat was probably overcooked by 5 minutes past well done and really chewy. There was also a severe lack of seasoning, which gave me the feeling that I could have made this dish myself at home at 1/4 of the cost of the $35 price tag. The best item on the plate was probably the rice, but when 85% of the plate is meat, that's not a good thing.
Finally, arguably the worst part of the experience was the billing. I had brought in a groupon-like coupon (called CL Deals) that was purchased a few months earlier which should have provided $50 worth of food for $25. I presented the coupon at the bill time (so that I would not be treated differently if I showed it before hand). The server/manager said that they no longer honor the coupon because of a change of management. So I ordered enough food to exceed the $50 threshold on purpose, just to find out that the coupon would not be granted. This is probably the most surefire way for an owner to guarantee people never come to your restaurant again. When a customer makes a purchase, he/she is typically entitled to the item that is bought. I guess the new restaurateur didn't take Hospitality 101. There are probably dozens of people like me who bought the groupon and will right poor reviews on Istanblu in the coming months, which will in turn torpedo the business. Furthermore, I tried to speak to the new owner about this customer service flub, and he does not speak English. So good luck with that as well.
Bottom Line: There are probably around 50 restaurants/bars in Ybor City to explore and there are exactly 49 better than Istanblu. For Mediterranean food in the Tampa area, I view Istanblu as the red-headed step child in comparison to such outfits as Acropolis, Byblos, and Genghiz Khan.