Report on 10 days in Istanbul
When asked how his dinner went at Mikla, a fellow 'hound replied, "Very good...for Istanbul." What he meant was that, compared with the varied cuisines of China, France, Italy, Japan, Scandanavia (recently), Spain and the U.S., Turkish food in general is limited in variety, regionality, fastidiousness of preparation, and presentation, although the quality of fruits and vegetables is superb. Istanbul cooking at the upper level is strangling under the grip of internationalism, watered-down Italian "fusion," and other trendoid gimmicks. At Leb-i-Derya atop the Richmond Hotel we ate mediocre Italianized food. Ulus 29 felt like eating in a cigar club, everyone on the terrace was smoking. Wine list is phenomenal, with excellent Turkish and Italian bottles, but the food was a joke for the price: following an excellent meze platter came inedible, shoe-leathery beef strips in yogurt (cold), okay ground lamb kebob, and then it poured. Nice fish, kind waiters at Bebek Balikci, a sympathique experience. By far the best meal was lunch at Nar, the restaurant in the uber-chic store, Armagon (sp), in the pedestrian shopping street leading to one of the main Grand Bazaar entrances. Nar is run by a fanatical food historian who has researched, and attempted to recreate, the authentic dishes of Ottoman palace cuisine. Feriye, one of his earlier efforts now under different ownership, currently sags under the weight of bankruptcy and it shows in the food. Dinner at Giritle consisted of excellent mezes and mediocre fish. Finally, as touristic as it is, Hamdi offered by far the best Turkish food of our trip. As guests of our Turkish family who are regulars, we had awonderful table with a superb viewof the Blue Mosque. Delicious mezes were chosen from a large assortment, followed by pistachio kebab and lamb/veal/beef kebab accompanied by rice in a spicey red sauce. Desserts, specially the katmer, were divine, as they were most places. At Hamdi insist on the third floor terrace.