Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

Urban Bug Disaster

The Bosphorus can be a total dream or a complete nightmare, depending on how you experience it. Every day hundreds of thousands cross it to go to work or travel, thousands sail under it carrying cargo or tourists..Every night, boats sail all around it showing avid diners the wonders of its shores, giving them an unequaled experience.
My family and I went through that same kind of unequaled and unforgettable experience.
It was my fathers birthday on Saturday and my mother had stumbled upon an offer from the ever so insta-famous website SehirFirsati.com who specialize in last minute offers for every city that they are based in. After making up her mind, she thought that it would be lovely to spend the night on one of those boats, accompanied by the lovely “Suzanne Kardes” – who’s voice and songs could melt the coldest of hearts and turn you into a total bundle of joy.

We immediately called the boat to make reservations and they told us that we didn’t need to bother ourselves with buying our tickets on the fantastic portal that is SehirFirsati, but that they would sell us said tickets directly from the boat, just to make our life easier.
My mother agreed and off we went to celebrate my fathers 66th birthday on the “Nis 2″ boat hosted by the Feraye company – as strongly recommended by Sehir Firsati.

Let me just say that living in Istanbul makes you ready for any kind of chaos that could be sent your way. It doesn’t matter how small or big the deed, if it involves chaos and you’re an Istanbulian, chances are you’re ready to tackle that son of a gun and pulverize it.
I wasn’t ready for this experience though..

After boarding the ship, and being greeted by a large group of people trying to get their ticket from two guys who were standing around a table at the front of the boat, we waited 20 minutes to be able to get our tickets and be seated. Another specification that I need to make before I forget is that my mother had especially requested not to be seated under or next to any speaker because she didn’t want us to suffer from temporary hearing loss.

I will let you guess where we were then seated.

Yes.

Right under them nasty speakers, the kind that would wake the dead and make them complain to the human rights commission. And amnesty international.

I kept my cool. I swear! When I asked to speak to the manager, I was as cool as an iced puppy. Cross my heart. After waiting 20 additional minutes for the manager and not seeing anyone coming our way I decided to go directly to the mountain myself.

I went back to the front desk equipped with the tickets that we were given and requested to speak to the manager. I was then shoved towards a lovely man who seemed to be either working the scene, or the PR manager. He then told me that he would deal with the situation immediately and he decided to seat us in the VIP section of the boat, which is situated right next to the band and artist. Sounded like a great plan! It was perfect! My parents would surely enjoy THAT!

That’s what I felt until I saw the table. Guess where it was situated? Next to a speaker.
At that point I had really given up on arguing with anyone and had decided to keep my cool even furthermore. The table had been used by other patrons who had decided that they wanted to eat under speakers so there were used plates and glasses and crumbs all over the table cloth. Mr PR person requested that the table be cleaned immediately by one of his minions. His staff was running left and right portraying the reaction a crowded group would have if an enraged bull was heading their way so they weren’t really ready to add some extra work to their load. We waited an extra 25 minutes before someone came anywhere close to our table to clean it from the waste and equip us with clean utensils. First they removed the dirty plates. Then they removed the dirty glasses approximately 10 minutes later. After a failed attempt at placing the new dishes of meze onto the dirty cloth, they had to remove that too, under my mothers watchful eye.

The Turkish starters weren’t all that bad. They looked terrible because they had obviously been waiting outside the fridge for a while but the taste was alright and we’re all still here, so no one died (that I know of).

After having made a brief stop on the Asian side the boat set off to greener pastures and started making its habitual trip around the Bosphorus. I’m assuming that Sehir Firsati sold a lot of tickets that night because it was relatively jam packed. (they sold the tickets for 55 instead of 110 TL)

While we were eating the meze, the live band started and soon after Suzanne Kardes came along. If it weren’t for her I don’t think the event would’ve been bearable at all. If you want to have a wonderful evening accompanied of Turkish songs and beautiful Turkish music, do not hesitate to check her website to glance over at her list of appearances (she’s soon to appear at a Kurucesme Arena concert.) You will not be disappointed!

The main course, which was fish, arrived approximately 1 hour after the band started playing. By then everyone was very intoxicated due to the heavy drinking of free alcohol and not a lot of attention was given to the main course which was either fish or red meat. Thankfully, I don’t drink alcohol so I was alert enough to see that the fish was dried when grilled and ended up being rather tasteless. It was all down hill from there on..The desert was four pieces of fruit thrown onto a huge plate (just to make them look very miserable) and to top it off, the boat ended up dropping us off one hour late to Arnavutkoy.

To sum it all up, do we like the “Nis II” events? God no. Will we ever join another one? Not unless I’m at gunpoint. Did Suzanne Kardes and her folkloric songs gain another fan? Indeed they did. Do I still like Sehir Firsati for proposing such a horrid experience? The jury is still out on that. My advice is to double and triple check the events you buy. Hopefully I’ll be changing my mind on them soon and we will be friends again.

Sehir Firsati Website: http://www.sehirfirsati.com/
The Feraye Boat by Urban Bug Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=108781282496623&ref=share

Asian Istanbul

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If you’re anything like me and can’t spend a week without enjoying some Chinese or Japanese food, then you might find the following restaurants interesting. When I first moved to Istanbul four years ago, it was hard finding Asian food but now it’s so hype that you can even find sushi at most shopping malls.

Wagamama
Situated in the Kanyon shopping mall, Wagamama serves noodle and rice dishes that will make your mouth water and your palate feel in heaven. Beware, the flavours and spices used in these delightful dishes are addictive, you will be left wanting for more! The approximate price for a dish is around 15YTL.

Sushi&Noodle House
This small underground Sushi restaurant is my favourite in town. The freshly prepared sushis are exquisite and are guaranteed to leave you satisfied. The prices are much better than the rest of the Sushi restaurants in town. I’ve always found the S&N House to be more authentic than the rest which always makes my experience there very enjoyable. (I swear I’m not being paid for these comments ;))

Dragon
The Hiltons in house sushi palace is well known amongst celebrities and socialites alike. I’ve personally never been but I hear it’s nice and overpriced, whatever floats your boat.

Sushi&Co – Chinese in Town
This chain of Chinse food & Sushi are located in Nişantaşı and Kanyon (there might also be one on the Asian side) seems to be the most famous place to eat such foods. I’ve been a couple of times and apart from their overpriced sushi, I haven’t really enjoyed myself. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve got the whole decoration thing right but the food wasn’t as good as it should have been for the price we ended up paying.

Wan-na
Situated in Beyoglu, Wan-na is definitely one of the favourite asian-fusion venues in the city. They shy away from the classic chinese restaurant decoration to offer you a more valuable experience. Live DJs spin their tracks while you try dishes that you are guaranteed not to find anywhere else. This is a definite must-try location!

Cin Bufe
When I found the Cin Bufe with my friends a couple of years ago I was so very excited. We went a couple of times and then life happened and I didn’t go for a couple of months. When I did return to it though, I must say that the word disappointed doesn’t even start to explain how I felt. The food had become extremly salty and the vent system was terrible so we all ended up smelling like Cantonese ducks. It was such a shame. It’s always sad to see places full of promise sink due to high demand.

Little China
All those who live or love Bebek like I do will know of Little China. An adorable little restaurant with a friendly staff that serves quality food. You must try their Pekin Duck, it’s one of the best in town!

I know there are a couple more in Istanbul and maybe they don’t come to mind but in my humble opinion, I feel that these are the ones worth a mention. Enjoy!

“Demystifying the Turkish meyhane

Susan Fowler of IHT published a piece on the meyhane culture in Istanbul.
And there is also a video on the culture of rakı

According to old school, traditional meyhanes are disappearing too fast. There is also a generational shift. Pub like places are more popular, beer replaces rakı for many young people and of course there is fast-food context. Meyhane wants us to spend a longer time around and although we are not very efficient in our temporal arrangement, we do not like to spend so much time for the food… (and money of course, unfortunately, meyhane owners like to overcharge….)

Tas Plak; fasil disaster.

On Friday night, we were invited by work to a farewell dinner held at “Tas Plak” in Taksim, located in the street right next to Rio de Janeiro, behind Yapi Kredi.
The Tas Plak advertises a ‘Canli Fasil’ on Friday nights, which is traditional Turkish music played while people dine and sing along enjoying a drunk moment amongst family and foes. Generally during fasils, you have small orchestras and a singer who sings all the classic Turkish songs that you’d expect to hear during one of these dinners. Mezes are served while people enjoy raki after raki.. It is quite enjoyable when you’re in a nice restaurant with good food and good music but unfortunately, Taps Plank was far from that.

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The restaurant itself is very small, I wouldn’t advise you go there for a company dinner like we did because we ended up tight like sardines. The attitude of the waiters was terrible and don’t even start me on the food. The mezes were not edible. A triple Big Mac at McDonalds would’ve been healthier. The food seemed to have been made several days before and left a bad taste in your mouth. The presentation of the mezes, all stacked up together on a single plate obviously made you wonder if you weren’t dining at an all you can eat buffet. The only enjoyable part to the evening was the music. It was semi decent. When the warm food arrived at the tables, 45 minutes after the mazes were finished, we already knew that the main course would be as bad as the entrees.

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The place being extra small, all 40 of us were smoked up extremely quickly. That does make life miserable to a non smoker like me. Most of us didn’t eat the main course and left as fast as we could without waiting for any desert.
I’m generally not picky when it comes to dinners with my friends, but this place was a disgrace.

I hope I won’t be subjected to going there ever again.
(p.s. none of us ever got food poisoned which I guess is always a good thing..)

After the derby…

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Some BJK fans patrolling (!) in Istiklal Street…

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The hardcore fan group Çarşı is named after the Beşiktaş çarşı…

Before the game, have your meatballs in the famous meatball restaurant close to the Beşiktaş square. Damn it, i forgot its name but if you ask the place, i guess, people will show where it is. check out the walls:)
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On the right, lies the famous Kazan bar where many BJK fans stop by. And many more stand and drink on this square. This is from a previous game. Yesterday, it was unbearably full…
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oh i forgot to tell what this derby about: Beşiktaş vs. Galatasaray. Here is the derby news.

For those who have Golden Tastebuds

I was in Harvey Nichols on the weekend. I went there with a mission; check out the new Gourmet section that they opened up not long ago.
Upon entering the Gourmet shop which is on the last floor located next to the mens department, you are greeted smiling faces that suddenly follow you whilst you browse the different shelves. There aren’t many items on sale but those who are there make up for those who aren’t. For those of you who are interested in delighting your tastebuds with Strawberry & Champagne Jam can get a jar of it for 40 YTL. Interested in some home made Harvey Nichols pasta? The price tag read 22YTL for a pack of pasta! The sauce was around 30YTL, Arrabiatta being one of the many sauces available. Harvey Nichols production chocolates and toffees were priced at around 40 YTL and if you’re interested in 15 year old balsamic vinegar, the modest price is 110 YTL.

Enjoy!

ASIR since 1948…

Asir Restaurant is an old style meyhane (winehouse). Because it is not located in Istiklal Street, its audience is a bit different from the street meyhanes.

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It is just at the beginning of Tarlabaşı, but next to the building of big police station. So not much concern of security (!) Relatively cheap and quite delicious food you are served…You can find any drinks but of course this is a rakı place…. And i wasn’t expecting that but their sufle dessert is really delicious…

Contact info:
Kalyoncu Kulluğu Caddesi. No:94 Beyoğlu/Istanbul
0212- 256-3438

Fooding Sessions: SoSa Kanyon

Last night I headed to Kanyon with a friend to check if Harvey Nichols had finally opened up and to my great disappointment, it hadn’t. Obviously, I should be used to this because we’ve only been expecting it to open up for the last two years. Who would’ve thought it’d take so long?
Anyway.
After being greeted by closed doors and a non chalant looking security guard, we headed towards the very posh and luxurious food court hosted by Kanyon and decided after much thinking and bickering to settle for a salad at SoSa. I’ve already eaten at SoSa before but I had only tried the one in Akmerkez which was decent enough.
We were welcomed with warm smiles and seated immediatly.
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(more…)

Istanbul in lines for ‘pide’

I like to have ramadhan special pide (pitta?) as well as that dessert called güllaç (sesli sozluk translation: rice wafers stuffed with nuts. cooked in milk.) But i guess I wouldn’t wait in those long lines in front of bakeries to get pides before the breaking fast time. I couldn’t manage to take a picture last evening to demonstrate how long those queues might be but now you know. I guess for outsiders, it would take time to understand what goes on….

Feeding Foreigners

Being a foreigner has its perks…everybody (it seems) wants to feed me. So, my theme once again is: Food. I’m sorry, but I love the stuff….and over the years I have grown fond of eating….regularly. Maybe it’s a bad habit…but when the food is on…I’m in. Tonight our doorbell (a Duo-Chime 2000) rang once again. As you have heard from my previous ramblings…that door bell seems to bring good news. This evening it heralded the arrival of another neighbor in our Site who had asked if she could teach us how to cook and eat Balik (No, I won’t tell you where I live….this baby’s all mine).

IMG_3491.JPG Diving In

Hate me if you must, but even though I have accumulated an extensive list of Pacific Ocean creatures who owe their untimely demise to my western palate …I have yet to find a food from the sea here in Istanbul that went down easily. I chomped into a delicious looking Balik Ekmek our first week in Istanbul and came away with the spine of the poor creature wedged in my teeth, neither of us enjoyed that moment…since then….it has been hard to muster up the courage to dive in again.
Tonight the tide began to turn, so to speak. Sitting on our salon floor with bread, salad, and a heaping pile of several generations of small fish wearing batter and oil, we headed in once again, to the dark side…and within a few mouthfuls, the cute little guys won me over.
What’s the point you query? Answer the door…you never know what Turkey will hand you next.

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