We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“Disappointing at its Best and Awful at its Worst”
Review of Istanblu Ybor - CLOSED

Istanblu Ybor
Cuisines: Mediterranean, Turkish
Dining options: Late Night, Reservations
Restaurant details
Dining options: Late Night, Reservations
Reviewed January 2, 2014

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.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank Jason B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviews (49)
Traveler rating
Traveler type
Time of year
Language

33 - 37 of 49 reviews

Reviewed December 21, 2013

We were traveling through Tampa and decided to stay in the Ybor area. This restaurant was recommended and we are glad we went. We ordered hummus and 2 kabob plates. I ordered the Istanblu kabob and it was good, my wife order a lamb kabob and it was excellent, as was our hummus plate. I only docked the review one star as the entertainment in the restaurant was a bit over the top. One minute dance club music, the next belly dancers, and the next piano. However, don't let this stop you from having a great meal at this venue!

Thank GatorBait33
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 13, 2013

This restaurant is next door to the Orpheum theatre in Ybor, so we decided to try it before a concert. Very pleasantly surprised.

My husband and I were not familiar with Turkish food, so we ordered the most recognizable dishes, "shish kebap". He ordered the rib eye and I ordered the lamb. We also had the "mucver," which are zucchini pancakes.

Three pancakes were served with "cacik" sauce, which we knew as tzatziki. They were delicious and lighter than we've had in other restaurants.

The shish kebap dinners were amazing. The waitress brought out two small bowls of sauces, one a spicy tomato based sauce and the other, the cacik. I tried the cacik with the lamb and then opted to not dip further because the flavor of the lamb was so good without it. However, the spicy sauce was lovely on the rib eye shish, with a nice "after burn," but not too much.

The bulgur pilav served with the dinners was wonderful. My husband is a white rice kind of guy, but he loved this and ate every bite. The side of salad greens was lightly dressed and a nice contrast. The waitress told us that the dressing is the chef's own recipe.

They have a full bar and a nice wine list. We were too full for dessert and I would have loved a Turkish coffee, but we had to get to our concert. Next time we are in Ybor, I would definitely like to try some other things on the menu!

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank EilselFL
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 4, 2013

We started with the cold appetizer plate which was like a painting, and consisted of four different spreads, each one uber fresh and delicious.
The grilled octopus appetizer was also delicious and not rubbery.
A chicken and eggplant entree was also attractive and toothsome.

The service was very attentive, with fresh breads and water being replenished regularly.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Buffalo650
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 2, 2013

Ate here today for the first time. We have never had Turkish food. Restaurant is large and very clean. Food took a while but that was because they made our meals fresh which made it worth the wait. Food looked and tasted very fresh. We had lentil soup, Mediterranean salad, and chicken kabobs. Also, tried Turkish coffee which was fantastic. The waitress was very nice and helpful. We will definitely be eating there again real soon.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Joe S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing