Before heading to Istanbul, I had watched an episode of No Reservations with Antony Bourdain and had created a list of eating spots combining Tony’s list with some spots I found on Istanbuleats.com. Obviously then, I was excited to taste Turkish food. I expected this smorgasbord of meats, cooked for hours and flavored with spices from the world over. But what I got was tender meat without much flavor. Dont get me wrong the food is decent, but nothing to rave about. One other thing that bothered me was that Istanbul being this cultural hotspot should have more choices in their food. Almost all restaurants had the similar tasting dishes on similar looking menus. I, however, didn’t care for what their menus looked like as I had my mind set on Shawarma and Doner from the time I landed in Istanbul.
This was the most disappointing experience of Istanbul. The Doner sucks. There, I said it! If you want a proper Doner, head to Yatagan in West Village, NYC. That guy can cook a seriously tasty Doner. And if you want tasty Shawarma, hop on a short flight to anywhere in the middle east or India. Trust me, I wanted to eat this stuff so bad I ate it everywhere I could, every chance I got and every time it kept missing the mark. I told myself good Doner/Shwarama shouldn’t be this hard to find!
Anyway, moving on to Buryan. Istanbuleats recommended a spot called Siirt Şeref Büryan Kebap Salonu. What it is, is a whole lamb cooked in a pit for hours which is then carved and served with bread and some salads. The meat while amazingly tender, lacked flavor. I know lots of folks love this spot. I, unfortunately didn’t. However, they did have good adana (minced meat) and chicken kebaps.
All was not bad in Istanbul. If you ever find yourself here, I recommend the following places to eat at
1. Durumzade – wraps
2. Antiochia – again wraps
3. Sultanahmet Buhara – some kebaps etc.
What I really loved on the Turkish menu was the sweets, the ice creams, the fresh fruit juices and the baklava’s. Have it wherever, whenever and it will be awesome.
Foodwise, I left Istanbul with very few hits and lots of misses. I really wanted to love the food in Istanbul but it never matched the beauty of this city. If you ever decide to go here dont expect the food to bowl you over. Keep your expectations low and you will enjoy it.
More on Istanbul later.