Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Uskumru Fish Restaurant: Fish Lovers Delight on the Bosphorus!

Dear readers,

Summer has been a little late in coming to Istanbul, but two weekends ago for the first time in a long time, the weather was gorgeous! On June 3rd, a Saturday, the sun was shining brightly and there was a light breeze with temps in the mid 20's (centigrade).

The day before it was my brother-in-law's birthday and we decided to go to lunch at one of our favorite fish restaurants to celebrate... long gone are the days that we are "night owls" and prefer calm, quiet lunches with family or friends where we can hear each other talk and actually have long conversations! 

So, our fish restaurant of choice was Uskumru Balık (quite apropos as it means mackerel and balık means fish) along the Bosphorus shoreline on the Asian side of Istanbul in Anadoluhisarı (Anatolian Fortress). 

The great thing is you don't need a car to go to Uskumru (or some of the other fish restaurants in the vicinity) because "smart" restaurateurs that they are, Uskumru offers a complimentary round-trip boat shuttle picking up diners from Rumelihisarı (Rumeli Fortress) on the European side of the city... 
Uskumru Fish Restaurant Complimentary Boat Shuttle
The boat ride is only about 5 minutes but once on the Bosphorus, you almost wish it was longer! On this particular day, I have never ever seen the Bosphorus so aqua blue that I felt like I was on the Aegean or Mediterranean Sea! Apparently, according to the news, there is some scientific reason for this which I can't quite remember, but lately the Bosphorus has definitely changed "color"!

Uskumru Fish Restaurant opened in 2008 with indoor and outdoor seating for a total of 300 diners...
Uskumru Fish Restaurant/Anadoluhisarı, Istanbul
I "discovered" this wonderful fish restaurant in 2014 when I was invited to a "ladies lunch" by one of my dear friends on another gorgeous sunny day in May and was very impressed with the location, food and service.

Since then - this is my 3rd visit although I would like to go more often, but alas finding the time or budget to keep up with all the fine restaurants in the city is not possible.

We opted to sit indoors as it was too sunny to sit outdoors. The restaurant does not prefer to use umbrellas because the Bosphorus can be windy and it could be hazardous if an umbrella topples over.
Uskumru Fish Restaurant/Anadoluhisarı, Istanbul
As before, we stuck to the "classics" served and started our meal with a very simple, yet incredibly delicious and super fresh (no need to add any additional dressing) finely chopped lettuce salad and tomato salad served in boat shaped plates to share.
Tomato Salad, Chopped Lettuce Salad @ Uskumru Fish Restaurant
To accompany our salads, we only ordered 3 cold appetizers so that we didn't make the mistake we normally make and that is to fill up so much on appetizers, that we don't have room for a main course of fish!
Eggplant Salad, Sea Bean with Yogurt , Sea bass w/pesto sauce @ Uskumru Fish Restaurant
I'm always impressed that Uskumru's appetizers or meze are always so good - that they are properly seasoned and fresh! In other words, they are consistent. The eggplant salad (patlıcan salatası)just melts in your mouth... the sea bass with pesto sauce (pesto soslu levrek) has a "nice bite" and tingles your taste buds. And... for the first time we tried the sea bean (called ada fasulyesi in turkish and a bean I've tasted for the first time and it's very similar to glasswort) with yogurt, a very refreshing and light appetizer!

After we combined all these delectable delights on our plate, it was time to chow down!
Appetizers, meze @ Uskumru Fish Restaurant
I was patient and waited for the heated whole wheat rolls to arrive, but feel free to try the excellent, but fattening corn bread!
Cornbread @ Uskumru Fish Restaurant
What we ate doesn't look like much, but take my word for, by the time we scraped all the plates and ate the bread, it is very filling! But, we did leave some room for fish and totally skipped ordering hot appetizers (like grilled calamari, shrimp casserole, etc.) Although, the summer is not really "fish season", you can still find certain types of fresh fish. My brother-in-law opted for the "Fried Red Mullet" (tekir tava) served with a side of oven-baked potatoes & onions and steamed vegetables...
Fried red mulled @ Uskumru Fish Restaurant
While my sister and I opted to share a half portion of grilled sea bass (which was quite large)...
Grilled Sea bass @ Uskumru Fish Restaurant
What can I say? We were in food heaven! The sun was shining brightly, the Bosphorus was mesmerizing & glistening and several glasses of of ice cold white wine definitely lifted our spirits! 
Uskumru Fish Restaurant/Anadoluhisari & (FSM Bridge)
We capped off our delightful birthday celebration with Turkish coffee and 1 slice of Havuç Baklava (havuç means carrot and so called because it's sliced to look like a carrot).
Havuç baklava & Turkish coffee @ Uskumru Fish Restaurant
Last but not least... most fish restaurant are not cheap! There is no menu to look at so basically, you don't know what the cost of the dishes are (unless you ask) until you get the bill, but if you are a "local", you have a "ballpark" idea on how much it will cost. Almost all have a per person coverage charge (called küver in Turkish) which includes unlimited bread and water (10 TL/pp at Uskumru). Most do not include the tip (called servis bedeli) in the check, but definitely look at the details if you don't want to double tip because some do (Uskumru does not). Since "rakı" (similar to arak or ouzo) is the typical "drink of choice" at fish restaurants, most wine lists are usually inadequate, price for quality high and most fish restaurants only carry one Turkish vineyards wines. 

But, all in all... find the fish restaurant(s) and there are plenty in Istanbul and experience eating fish "Turkish style".

Afiyet olsun! Bon Appétit! 

Stay well,

me, sis Meltem & brother-in-law Ibrahim

Uskumru Fish Restaurant
Körfez Caddesi No. 55 Anadoluhisarı, Istanbul
Tel: (0216) 460 10 00
Open daily until 1:00am

Call the restaurant when you arrive in Rumelihisarı so that they can send their complimentary boat shuttle (pick-up next to Iskele Fish Restaurant)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Levent Çarşı: My "Routine" Food Shopping Neighborhood

Dear readers,

We all have our routines and habits (good and bad) right? Now, since I'm a food, travel & lifestyle blogger - I want share one of my routines: I go to Levent Çarşı on a weekly basis to do food shopping ...
Levent Çarşı, Istanbul
Of course, I could go to a supermarket and pick up everything I want, but when it comes to certain foodstuffs, I'm picky! 

Çarşı means "market", "bazaar", "shopping center" in Turkish so Levent Çarşı is an "open market" of sorts...

Why Levent Çarşı? Well... in the years I lived in Istanbul (over 20 years now), I've always lived in the area. My deceased parents owned an apartment in Levent since the late 1960s, so during our visits to Istanbul as a family and after moving back to Istanbul in 1995, I lived at home. I moved to Levazım in 2010 and for the past 2,5 years I have been living in Ulus (about 1,5km from Levent) ... so, Levent is my neighborhood.

Although about only 3-4 blocks in radius, Levent Çarşı is packed with banks, fastfood eateries, pharmacies, stationery stores, pastry shops, butchers, bakeries, fishmonger, delicatessens, florists, herb shop, dry fruits & nuts shops, watch repair shop etc.. It is also a hop, skip and jump from the Levent Metro station, and Metrocity Shopping Mall. 

So, I routinely go to Levent Çarşı once a week to make my "picky" purchases! In this post, I will only mention my "routine" stops, but feel free to visit for yourself - I'm sure you will find a shop to your liking too!

My first stop is Işıklar Et ve Gıda or Şarküteri (delicatessen), where I have been purchasing beyaz peyniri (white or feta cheese) for over 20 years! I've tried buying white cheese at other stores, but for some reason, none of them live up to the cheese I buy at Işıklar. 
Işıklar Et ve Gıda, Levent Çarşı - Istanbul
In the "old days" before health regulations were put in place, white cheese was sold directly out of tin cans that the deli purchased from different purveyors throughout the country. Today, the same white cheese is packaged. I like the quality of the "cow's milk" white cheese which is not too salty, soft or hard and the price is comparable to "supermarket" cheeses. 

Like most present day "deli's" in Istanbul, besides a wide selection of local cheeses, Işıklar also carries a nice selection of deli meats, olives, homemade hot & cold Turkish meze, limited amount of "supermarket"  local & international products and is also a butcher. So, they can be a "one stop" shopping haven too!

My next stop (but not every week as I have to watch my waistline), is the simit stand a few steps from Işıklar Şarküteri.
Simit stand, Levent Çarşı - Istanbul
Although there are now many shops where you can purchase simit at Levent Çarşı, I prefer buying mine from this stand. I'm sure it has changed hands,but this simit stand has been on this corner for the past 20+ years! I don't know where they purchase the simit they sell, but it's always delicious & crunchy - just the way I like it!  

Merkez Şarküteri is also another longstanding deli in the neighborhood. 
Merkez Şarküteri, Levent Çarşı - Istanbul
Merkez has been around since 1966... it's a little pricier than Işıklar, but their array of goods also include international cheeses, pork products (deli meats only), dried fruits & nuts and alcohol. Their hot & cold meze are absolutely delicious and top-notch, but since I'm always trying to watch my weight... I only routinely stop by to purchase black olives. Although the price is higher, the quality is very good and definitely worth it.

For the past year, I added a new store to my "routine": 
Onur Et Galerisi, Levent Çarşı - Istanbul
Onur Et, or butcher is not a newcomer to the neighborhood but it is now on my "path". Previously, they used to be at another location at Levent Çarşı and not really on my radar. But, I'm happy I discovered this butcher. I'm a big fan of tenderloin of beef (which I purchase in Ulus at Gourmet Garage), but I do stop by Onur Et to pick up other cuts of more modestly priced quality meat such as schnitzel, sirloin steak and ground meat (but not prepackaged).

I love bread! Although I have gone through periods where I haven't put a morsel in my mouth - I can't (and won't) do it forever! So, Komşufırın is an excellent bakery for bread lovers!
Komşufırın, Levent Çarşı - Istanbul
Komşufırın has branches all over the city and in fact, opened a 2nd branch in Levent. My favorites are Komşufırın's rye bread (they slice too), buckwheat bread and whole wheat or sour dough sandwich breads which are all baked on premises daily, and run out quickly. Other goodies which I purchase from time to time is their homemade pound cakes (apple, chocolate, etc.) and savory pastries - but only when I have company coming over! 

Last, but definitely not least I stop by New Pet Market to pick up goodies for my honey Luka before heading to the local major supermarket to pick up other basic goods before returning home. 
New Pet Market, Levent Çarşı - Istanbul
Luka, a Maltese, will be 7 years old in October and he is super spoiled! He came into my life when he was 7 months old on May 10, 2011 and is the best thing that happened to me! He lives on treats and "people" food (rarely eats his dog food unfortunately), so I stop by New Pet Market every week to replenish his supply. However, this shop also has a very good selection of other doggie products like clothing, collars, leashes, shampoos etc and the prices are not very very expensive. I also like the fact that they deliver and the guys that run the shop have met Luka and are major animal lovers. For example, they sell lower priced dried cat & dog food which you can purchase to feed strays and dogs and most importantly - they do not sell pets! I've been a customer since they opened over 8 years ago and will continue to be one! 

I hope you liked my mini "routine" tour of Levent Çarşı... but once again, I say visit for yourself and make your "own routines"! Feel free to share your experiences with me!

Happy shopping!

Stay well,

Levent Çarşı - Istanbul



Monday, May 22, 2017

Emaar Square Mall opens on Asian Side of the city in Istanbul

Dear readers,

Since no one really talks anymore, I received a WhatsApp message from my sis on the morning the day before Mother's Day to say she received an email that Galeries Lafayatte had opened on said day at newcomer Emaar Square Mall & should we go to check it out. Since GL (as I call it for short) is my favorite department store on this side of the Atlantic (Bloomies on the other side), I said definitely!

She came to pick me up a couple of hours after our 'conversation' and we turned on google maps to show us how to get to this new shopping mall on the Asian side of the city.

Now... let's hit the pause button for a moment! Living on the European side of the city with shopping malls galore, a shopping mall on the Asian side of the city has to really tempt me to cross a bridge and deal with traffic when I have about 5 shopping malls within a 1-mile radius to my house!

Of course, the "trigger" for me was Galeries Lafayatte!
@ Emaar Square Mall, Çamlıca - Istanbul
Now, let me remind you... the department store had just opened on the morning of our visit. So, you can imagine that it was not "fully-stocked" yet, but at least we had a preview of what to expect. The 4-story 9,500 square meter department store is airy and very inviting that's for sure!  
@ Emaar Square Mall, Çamlıca - Istanbul
I was happy to see that a couple of retail brands I personally like and not before sold in Istanbul were on display, but of course, this branch cannot compare to their flagship shop in Paris, but will definitely help to appease my shopping needs in between visits to Paris! So, welcome to Istanbul Galeries Lafayatte!

Just a general comment about shopping malls in Istanbul before I share some more info about Emaar Square.

A "shopping mall" in Istanbul is not a shopping mall if the complex doesn't include million-dollar luxurious residences, state-of-the-art "smart" office building(s) and a five-star hotel thrown in for good measure!

Emaar Square fits and exceeds these expectations! First, the shopping mall has 150,000 square meters of rentable space, a family entertainment center, ice rink, aquarium & underwater zoo, 2,400 seat 4D movie-theater and a 4,500 vehicle parking lot! 

Surrounding the complex are 1,000 homes, 180-room Address Hotel and 40,000 square meters of rentable office space! 

Open since April 28, 2017 and owned by Dubai-based Emaar Properties (The Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, etc), some of the other attractions at Emaar Square that impressed me were:

Although, I cannot afford it... but, I still like to look... Harry Winston is opening its first shop in Istanbul...
@ Emaar Square, Çamlıca - Istanbul
Cartier has a few branches in Istanbul and is opening at Emaar Square too...
Cartier @ Emaar Square, Çamlıca - Istanbul
Vakko Patisserie Petit Four, a newcomer at Akmerkez Shopping Mall on the European side of the city is also opening a branch here! You can read all about this heavenly pastry shop in my blog. 
Vakko Patisserie Petit Four @ Emaar Square Mall, Çamlıca - Istanbul
Since Emaar Square is so new, except for the "classic" shopping mall retailers, the majority of the major players have not opened yet. This also includes the more upscale eateries that I'm sure will open soon so I don't have information to share with you about them. Currently, the Food Court is open with many fast food eateries, some with private seating areas, where you can grab a quick bite. While most are inexpensive, some are a little pricier.

From the indoor Food Court area, you can go outside to the terrace which is surrounded by several coffee houses and a nicely sized stage in the center where there will be live performances on weekends...

Emaar Square Mall, Çamlıca - Istanbul
One final area I would like to mention and had time to visit is the Turkish Village located on Level 3 of the mall.
Turkish Village @ Emaar Square Mall, Çamlıca - Istanbul
There are two Turkish food restaurants in the village, but more importantly and more interesting are the stands that will be open only on weekends where you can taste or buy and take home a variety of regional Turkish delights from around the country. 

Finally, Emaar Square Mall will be organizing Atelier Workshops on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and will also host Art Exhibitions.

So, welcome to Istanbul Emaar Square! It will take a while for you to "settle in" but the major portion of your journey is complete and now it's time to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s!

Stay well,

Emaar Square Mall, Çamlıca - Istanbul

Emaar Square Mall
Ünalan Mahallesi, Ayazma Caddesi No. 78
Çamlıca, Istanbul
Open daily from 10:00am to 10:00pm