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Quick recap of memorable meals in Turkey and Athens

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We were in various places in Turkey and Athens over the last two weeks and here is a quick recap of our meals.

Athens: Many restaurants are closed in late-August but made it to Varoulko which had excellent fresh fish and terrific roof top dining with a view of the Acropolis. The service was also great but the food was similar to that served at nice restaurants in New York. The meal was costly but worth it. We really enjoyed Athiri. The restaurant is in a cool neighborhood and only locals were dining there. The open air dining area feels like a tropical setting and the food was varied and pretty good too. We hated (really hated) Mamacas! While the neighborhood is lively, the food was poor and it felt like a tourist trap. I don't know why the New York Times repeatedly recommends it. The food was average to poor, and it was costly.

Istanbul: First of all, thank you Antman for directing us to Ciya Sofrasi and Abracadabra. It was great fun taking the ferry to Kadikoy and walking through the produce market on the way to Ciya. While very casual (a plus for us), the food was very interesting and our waiter took the time to explain each dish in English. It was a real highlight. Abracadabra was fun with terrific modern Turkish food and a great view of the Bosphorus from the balcony on the top floor. The cocktails were good and some of the food combinations were unusual but they worked. This restaurant has kind of a hip feel and is well priced.

Borsa is hard to find but the Central and Eastern Turkish food was excellent. There is almost no view but the interesting and well prepared food makes this restaurant a good choice. We highly recommend Zubeyir if you want a locals only spot. The kofte, salads and grilled meats were excellent, the neighborhood is interesting and it is very inexpensive. Cezayir has a cool outdoor bar and dining area three flights down from street level with a lot of style. The food was kind of a Mediteranian and Asian mix, and it was good -- not great -- but our cocktails were just right. Our last dinner in Istanbul was at Sofyali 9. We really enjoyed the scene and the Turkish food was very good. It is an excellent value, and it is fun watching the crowd and street vendors pass by. We also had two good lunches at Hamdi and Sultanahmet Koftecisi.

Capadocia: We had two really nice dinners -- one in our hotel, the Museum Hotel, and the other at Elai. Both were quite sophisticated with well prepared local ingredients and great atmosphere.

Izmir: We did not have good luck with dinners in Izmir. Our best meal was in our hotel, the Swissotel Grand Efes, the last night. We hated Topcu. While we got several recommendation to go there, we found the food to be cold (when it shouldn't be) or stale, and we got ignored by our waiter as well. We couldn't get out of there fast enough. We also tried Denzi. The location across from the water was nice, and I enjoyed the sea bass cooked in a block of salt. The rest of the meal was not memorable, and it was on the expensive side. We did have two good homestyle lunches. One was near Sardis at Degirmen and the other was between Efesus and Sirence but I can't find the name of it. It was one of the first restaurants on the right on the road to Sirence. We got there late but the owners happily brought all of the food back out of the refrigerator and it was excellent. BTW, the drive to Sirence was beautiful but the village is a total tourist trap.

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  1. Hello Ghutcher,
    Thank you for the information!
    So far as I know, Mamacas used to be a good restaurant, but has been going down since a couple of years ago and all the Athenians seem to know that. Foreign medias like New York Times are probably recycling the old material without revising or reacessing it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mesogeia

      We just returned from Athens and found Varoulko to be so pretentious from the start of trying to make us order the price fixed dinner the waiter suggested to the bill that was 30 euro over what we ordered. I would caution anyone going there to beware and check your bill! We liked Sardeles in Gazi and didn't find Mamacas to be as bad as others say on this board. We also liked To Pytaneion on Miglioni Street in Kolanki for casual fare done very well.