October 02, 2011

Tasting Istanbul, From Humble to High Cuisine

SOMETIMES I think it’s no accident that Istanbul’s telephone area code is 212. Despite its minarets and its hilly cobblestone streets, its Grand Bazaar and the sapphire waters of the Bosporus that glide through the city like a liquid sash, this eastern metropolis has a New York state of mind.

You feel purposeful energy humming in the air as you watch the inhabitants stroll through the maze of streets and lanes, arm in arm. You sense their conviction that the city has been designed for their pleasure; that if they can make it here, they’ll make it anywhere. Sometimes they’re headed to experimental music concerts, gallery openings or simply the office. But very often, they’re bound for cafes, meyhanes (think of them as Turkish tapas bars, serving small plates, wine, beer and raki) or any of the countless restaurants that edge the waterfront and sidewalks.

Visitors to Istanbul can find it bewildering to decide where to eat. On my first trip there, in 2004, I was squired around town by a friend and his Turkish wife on a culinary Magical Mystery Tour that unspooled like a delicious dream. But on this visit (my fourth), I wandered with the intention of passing along the names of five spots sure to please epicurean newcomers — bearing in mind that couples, thrill seekers and purists have different gustatory goals. But everyone will want a tip for the best meyhane, so that’s where I began.

Read more on The New York Times: Tasting Istanbul, From Humble to High Cuisine


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