In Istanbul, skip Lacivert
Though often praised as one of Istanbul's top fine dining experiences, I wouldnt return to Lacivert if you paid me.
They do have their own private water shuttle which takes you across the Bosporus to the restaurant setting the mood for a lovely night. And they do have some of the best waterfront property in the city. Most tables have excellent unobstructed views of the water and Rumeli Hisari across on the European side. But that is about where the pleasantries stop.
The food was wildly inconsistent in quality. Of 4 courses, 2 were real losers. One octopus appetizer was inedible so we sent back (and after sending it back the waitress actually set it on an adjacent table and dissected it with another waiter presumably to see what we were complaining about and whether we were lying about its toughness). However, the fener fish entree was quite nice as was the trotters soup. Creme brulee, once again nearly inedible due to poor preparation. I am pretty sure it wasnt fired at all but microwaved before serving.
Ahh, which brings we to service. Worst I've encountered in Turkey. First lets begin with the wine service. Our waitress gave us a deer in headlights look when we asked her about some of the wines. She misrepresented several bottles of Turkish wine as foreign. Then when we settled on bottle of red and found out it was not available she interrupted our conversation leaned in way too close and flung a wine menu on the table and suggested a bottle of white wine instead. I dont know what sort of customers these restaurants are used to, but in my mind, diners that are ready to drop 100 TL/person on a dinner can tell the difference between a pinot noir and a savignon blanc. You'd think the restaurants would take the time to explain such things to their staff.
This wine story is par for the course in Istanbul. Istanbul fine dining establishments have got to represent the biggest void of wine knowledge in all of the European continent. I think it is completely irresponsible to sell a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz for $80, but a slap in the face to have an untrained waitress tell you that that Yellow Tail is a world class wine.
Then to top it off, when looking at the bill we saw that the waitress had added in a 10% tip for herself. When questioned, she said it was for "bread and plates", not tip. Since when is bread calculated at a percentage of the entire bill?
In the end they took it off of the bill but the whole situation was very poorly handled.
Its easy to spend a small fortune on a dinner in Istanbul, try Mikla where at least the staff is well trained. But please dont bother with Lacivert which belongs among the lowly ranks of the Sultanahmet carpet conmen.
So true, upscale restaurants in Istanbul are a disaster. I tried Topaz the other day, oh my god. The food was horrible. But the wine was good, they have a proper sommelier, French guy, very nice. Of course you pay 20 times the normal price for a bottle of pinot noir blend that would be at the bottom of the shelf in any French supermarket. As long as they don't stop their BS import taxes on foreign goods and especially alcohol, the wine market will remain pathetic in Turkey, very poor to medium quality, very high prices.
Indeed they are all bad. I haven't tried Topaz, I won't bother.
Wine is a victim of heavy taxation. As long as the government slaps 300% luxury tax on wine a bottle of Yellowtail will be guarded like the crown jewels and the local market will never develop. I fear for the day the when the gates are opened and the more developed wine industries in Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece take over. Imagine the Georgians taking over anything!
For now, I stick the duty free.