Istanbul Memorable Meals: Dining Like a Sultan or Dining with a View
TIM LEFFEL / Sports Features Communications
(SFC) Turkey has one of the world’s most interesting and beguiling cuisines. Built layer upon layer over the centuries like a well-made tray of baklava, the Ottoman empire’s historic reach shows up in the dishes that grace Istanbul’s tables.
While most meals in this city are a treat, there are two ways to be assured of a memorable experience. Dine at a top restaurant with a view or dine at one that specialized in Ottoman palace cuisine. Or at the first choice on this list, both!
Tuğra Restaurant at Ciragan Palace Kempinski
This fine dining restaurant at the palace hotel on the Bosphorus attracts an interesting mix of business power diners, celebrating families, and hand-holding couples in designer wear. It looks out on ships passing by, the opera house on the Asian side, and the bridge spanning Europe and Asia. Most recipes are drawn from the kitchens of the Ottoman sultans. Rich main dishes include Külbastı – grilled lamb served on a smoked eggplant puree with pomegranate with red onion relish. Six desserts are inspired by what has been passed down since the 1500s.
Matbah Ottoman Palace Cuisine
Although this Sultanhamet restaurant is next to Aya Sofia, the main attraction is not the view. It’s the 27 dishes faithfully prepared and explained to match those served in nearby Topkapi Palace, based on research into historical documents. Try neck of lamb stew with apricot, damson and spices (1400s); quince stuffed with minced meat (1500s); or vine leaves stuffed with a blend of sour cherries, rice, onions, and pine nuts (1800s).
Mikla Restaurant in the Marmara Pera Hotel
Hailed as one of the best restaurants in the city since opening in 2006, this top-floor dining room with one of the best views of the iconic minarets matches the historic skyline with its food and carefully chosen regional wines. While Turkish in both ingredients and spirit, playful reinterpretations of traditional dishes and a willingness to take the presentation to a new level keep Mikla on top in more ways than one. Perhaps more importantly, it does so without draining your wallet as quickly as many competitors in the city.
With a look sure to make an interior designer swoon and a sweeping hilltop view of the Bosphorus and Asian shore through a wall of glass, Ulus 29 is meant for long, lingering meals. While it takes detours from the Turkish cuisine playbook, especially in the appetizers, the curved brick over cranks out pide and lahmacun flatbreads with toppings delivered piping hot to tables. The kitchen crew ages its own meats, makes its own ice cream, and uses lots of fresh, in-season ingredients.
For a truly unique view, dine at this seafood restaurant in the middle of the water. Fish is located in the Suada Club on the Galatasary Island. Encompassing a social club, pool, bars, and restaurants jammed into what looks like a stuck barge, it is the only island in the middle of the Bosphorus. The menu serves up the expected meze appetizers, shellfish, calamari, and of course whatever fish is fresh. A time-honored menu in a city that has been shaped by the waterways.
**Tim Leffel is the author of four travel books and editor of the award-winning webzine Perceptive Travel. http://www.perceptivetravel.com
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