Istanbul- 1 meal
I'd skip the view for dinner and go to Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi - it is in all the tourist guidebooks, but I had one of the most spectacular meals there during my trip to Turkey in July. It is in Sultanahmet in the middle of all the touristy stuff, but the food is delicious. All they sell are meatballs, salad and you must get the Georgian style rice and the semolina-based dessert with pinenuts. We actually went there 3 times during our 5 day stay in Istanbul.
Hamdi is also nice, but I am still dreaming of those meatballs. You can go for a drink at a rooftop bar after your meal too (the Four Seasons in Sultanahmet is great, but it is very expensive).
I have never had kofte like Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi's. Why is it so much better? I wish I'd been able to go more than once to try to discern & compare to others, but my memory tells me it was more finely minced, or something. It absolutely melted. From visiting Turkish places in the States, I'm not convinced it's Turkish style of kofte vs Arabic style...looking at kofte recipes doesn't really give me any clues. I wonder if it's really just the technique at this special place?
Hamdi was on of my two favorite meals in Istanbul- It's close to the river, you can find a ton of reviews by searching google for 'hamdi restaurant' or variants... Best thing I had there was a kebap of lamb and chopped pistachios. It had great, layered flavor and was (good) greasy and very fulfilling. I miised out on the cig borek, raw lamb meatballs as they were out of them, but it was a memorable meal I'd love to duplicate.
go for saf restaurant which is the first and only raw food place and the latest buzz in town. very creative menu, amazing organic food, lots of organic booze.
saf- simple authentic food - duplicate
istanbul, Istanbul, Istanbul , TR
saf- simple authentic food
I don't mean to be argumentative, but... Well... I am. I just looked at the SAF menu, and oh my god! Wasabi Tater Tots? SAF Nachos? Üçlü Tako? Patates Risotto? And this one, their so-called Global Plate: "Global Tabağı; Summer rolls tamarind sos ile, sushi maki roll wasabi aioli ile, dereotlu badem pate domates ile"
Sorry, but for me this represents the worst of fusion food. If someone only has one meal in Istanbul, why not a GREAT traditional meal that's not ridiculously expensive in someplace like the very old restaurant (can't remember the name of it anymore) upstairs in the Spice bazaar? There are several balak lokantasi (fish restaurants) that serve excellent traditional Turkish recipes. Why waste their time on fusion food you can get in any city in the world? Enjoy Istanbul for what it is! Ancient, exotic, and wonderful! My personal favorite city in the whole entire world! Forget the crappy wasabi Tater Tots.
Sorry about the rant. I do understand that this may seem like wonderful and exotic food if you've lived in Turkey for a while. I lived there for four years, and would have given my soul for one glazed donut, but never ever for a Tater Tot, with or without wasabi! '-)
EDIT: Here's an idea for you (OP) to think about. I would get off the ship, look for a cab driver who speaks fluent English, hire him for as ever much time you have ashore and ask him to take you to his favorite Turkish restaurants. Tell him you want REAL Turkish food. And buy him lunch too (or whatever meal you'll be having). Tell him no tourist places! The risk is exceedingly high that you will have great authentic Turkish food you will remember fondly for the rest of your life. You can't get that at the Hilton or the International. Or even the more traditionally Turkish Hotel Divan!
I just looked at the date of the OP. <sigh> I hope I'm not too late...
Search the board...there are past recommendations for good restaurants with a view, but I personally recommend Doga Balik. Fresh fish and plenty of traditional mezes, located in Cihangir with a gorgeous view of lit mosques across the way.
If you can sacrifice the view, you can have a great authentic experience with delicious food and outdoor seating at any of the boisterous meyhanes on Nevizade Sokak in Beyoglu.