Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gaja: Restaurant supreme at the Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Istanbul!

Dear readers,

I hate to start off on a negative note, but if the truth be told, hotel restaurants have gotten a bad rap for the longest time!

Most residents of a city do not prefer to go to lunch or dinner at hotel restaurants because they think that 1) they are too sterile; 2) full of just tourists; 3) a good place for a formal business meeting; and 4) they are expensive!

There are some truths to the above, however, many hotel restaurants in Istanbul have a come a long way in the past 10 years and have made wonderful strides to attract a wider audience of diners.

In fact, hotels with several restaurants have either hired a separate Executive Chef for their premieur restaurant or in some cases - like at the Marmara Pera Hotel in Tepebaşı, have turned over the management of their main restaurant to an outside restauranteur and the fine dining Mikla restaurant has been wowing diners from around the world for years.

But, this is not our subject at hand! I will be writing about a hotel restaurant - managed by the hotel that has been getting critical acclaim from locals ever since it opened: Gaja Restaurant at the Swissôtel, The Bosphorus Istanbul Hotel.

The Swissôtel The Bosphorus Istanbul Hotel is located on a hilltop in Maçka offering a magnificent view of the Bosphorus. To get to Gaja, once you enter the hotel, make a right at the "edible" Gingerbread House (erected to celebrate the holidays) and head towards the elevators in this wing and press the button for the 14th floor.

Gingerbread House in hotel lobby

Gaja is located on the 14th floor of the Swissôtel during the fall/winter months and then moves to the 16th terrace around the end of May when the weather gets nicer:both offer superb views of the Bosphorus and surroundings...

Gaja Restaurant/Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Istanbul
Needless to say, Gaja is a fine dining restaurant and I was first "introduced" to Gaja when Gerhard Strugher - General Manager and Yeşim Doğukan, Director of Marketing & PR invited me along with several food writers/journalists when they first opened for a tasting.

Then, the Executive Chef was Murat Karaduman and even though a Turk, he had spent most of his life living abroad and came to Istanbul from Portugal. To this day, I remember the excellent meal we had that night!

As is common with Executive Chefs at hotels, after a certain period of time, they transfer to other hotel properties or sometimes decide to leave the hospitality industry and move on to the restaurant industry.

After Chef Karaduman departed - (he decided to stay in Istanbul and has been the Executive Chef of X Restaurant & Bar atop the Istanbul Culture & Arts Foundation building in Şişhane), we were then introduced to James Wilkins.

Before joining the Gaja Restaurant, the UK born Chef Wilkins was the Executive Chef at the Michel Bras restaurant in Toya, Japan. Before that, he worked at many 1 and 3 michelin star restaurants in London and France (3 michelin star Michel Bras in France; 1 michelin star The Green House and The Orrery in London, etc.).

Once again "our group" was invited to Gaja several times to taste Chef Wilkins wonderful dishes.

Then we got word several months ago that Chef Wilkins had moved on and that a new Executive Chef was coming on board!

With great anticipation,we waited for the day that he would arrive, settle in and be ready to show and impress us with his talents in the kitchen!

A couple of weeks ago I received an email to say that that the 'day' had arrived! Our group was invited to a special dinner on December 7th(yesterday) prepared by Executive Chef William Mahi! Chef Mahi is from the Basque region in France. He ventured into the culinary world in 1996 and worked up the ranks in the culinary world by working at numerous restaurants throughout France before going "international". He wa at the Le Vendôme Restaurant at the Intercontinental in Beirut, Lebanon  and between 2008 - 2010, he worked at the KEE Shanghai and Lan Club Shanghai in China and before coming to the Swissôtel, he was at the Mahi Restaurant in Luxemburg. Welcome to Istanbul Chef Mahi! I'm sure you will enjoy your tenure here! I know we will!

The picture of the chef below was taken at the end of the evening, so don't think he was hanging out with us during dinner - he was too busy working miracles in the kitchen!

Executive Chef William Mahi
Unfortunately, after a few weeks of mild weather in Istanbul, yesterday was quite cold and raining heavily! But, the weather couldn't hold me back from going to Gaja!

We started gathering at the bar at around 7:30pm where we were offered flutes of Ruinart champagne. Besides Gerhard and Yeşim, the hotel's Operations Manager Christian, Kiraz PR Agency's Yeşim Aksoy along with food writers/journalists Artun Ünsal (Posta Newspaper), Figen Batur (Hürriyet Newspaper), Müge Akgün (Radikal Newspaper) and Zeyno Gürses Dolay (founder, website) were in attendance. Our normal "group of attendees" does have a few more members, but unfortunately they couldn't join us because they were travelling.

We then moved to our table to start our journey of the 8 + 1 course menu specially prepared for us and paired with wines! I say "specially" for us because not all of the selections we had are on Gaja's menu, but it was a way for the chef to show us his different styles and techniques.

In short, Chef Mahi, as far as I'm concerned (I don't want to talk for everyone, but I do know they too felt the same) is an excellent chef! The emphasis of the menu he prepared included a variety of seafood, which is something I always prefer. Even though the servings might appear small (as they are in most fine dining restaurants!), they were so hearty that by the end of the meal I thought I would burst! I've been to other tastings at lots of different venues like this before, but have not felt the same way. So, I can say Chef Mahi cooks "good old wholesome and rustic food"! I guess it is all in the ingredients and how they are used!

I will quickly run through the meal we had without boring you too much and then give you more detailed information on the White Truffle Festival and Gaja's new menu. Sorry for the quality of some of the pictures - there wasn't enough light and all the plates were white - but you'll still get the idea!

The reason I said 8 +1 course is that we were served a surprise course!

Soft boiled egg with white truffles
This dish was incredibly delicious! Who knew what you could do with a simple soft boiled egg by just flavoring it with white truffles and herbs & spices!

This course and the following 3 courses were served accompained with white wine from France/ Pouilly Fumé, Goulaine - 2008.

Mushroom consommé with white truffles
Noix de Saint-Jacques (sea scallops) with hazelnut butter & chestnuts
Baby Calamari San Sebastian
You know, just writing about the meal I had last night is making the juices in my mouth runneth over again!!!! Everything was so good...

Interestingly, it took 4 days to prepare the mushroom consommé - it was slow cooked and reduced to finally attain its final texture and flavors! It was surprisingly light and seasoned perfectly.

On the other hand, the sea scallops were prepared by just throwing them on a hot pan for a couple of seconds! On the menu they called this process "snacking", but I couldn't confirm this terminology, but suffice to say it was so so moist and just melted in our mouths! I can say the same for the baby calamari - it too just melted in our mouths! If calamari is not cooked properly it can be very tough - that wasn't a problem with this dish.

The following two dishes were served with wine from Italy - Rossj-Bass, Langhe, Gaja, 2009

Poached half lobster with oil oil powder
Risotto "Piémonte' Style

I honestly enjoyed every single course offered us (this might not be the case at all tastings), however, my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE was the poached half lobster and as if I hadn't already eaten alot, I wanted to say "more, more!" The "white stuff" you see next to the lobster is powdered or confectionery olive oil - who would have thought! And, the little tube of olive oil is so that you can inject some olive oil into the lobster before eating! The lobster was perfectly cooked! The risotto was prepared flavored with calamari and topped with white truffles. You only slightly got the flavor of the calamari which was interesting! The risotto was served on a bed of red wine sauce.

The following dish was served with red wine from Chile - 1865 Carmenere, 2002

Roasted Turbot with white truffles, cannelloni beans & mushroom
Personally, I am not a big fan of turbot, however, it is in season and one of the most popular fish in Turkey. I had a bad experience with turbot years ago and I was a little hesitant about tasting this dish. However, I didn't have anything to fear! Also, instead of white wine, we were served red wine and the pairing was excellent. The mushroom was very soft and tasty and the cannelloni beans were cooked al dente (so don't think they are undercooked if you order this dish if it is on the menu!)

Our final dish before dessert was served with a red wine from Italy - Barolo, Falletto, Bruno Glascosa, 2003

Turkish Beef Tenderloin served with a spoon!
Chef Mahi called this dish "Turkish" Beef Tenderloin served with a spoon because the meat is local and you eat it with a spoon! Yes, you read me correctly! The meat was slow cooked for 24 hours and it was so moist that you don't need a knife and fork and can just dig in with a spoon! It was served with a side of herbed mashed potatoes which I included in the shot by holding it in my hand so that you can see it - it wasn't served on the plate with the pot.

The last and final dish of our dinner extraordinaire was served with Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial champagne.

Istanbul by Night
Chef Mahi calls this dish "Istanbul by Night". It includes coffee ice cream served with pieces of chocolate wafers with melted chocolate stuffed between the wafers! It was heavenly and surprisingly very light! The reason I am saying chocolate "wafers" and not chocolate pieces is because it wasn't "just" chocolate and tasted like a wafer! It was interesting how this was accomplished, but that's why I'm not a chef and he is!

It was a lovely evening... we then made a quick trip to the kitchen... took some pictures and also met the "others" behind the scenes and thanked everyone for this very pleasant evening in good company...

Gaja kitchen

Executive Chef William Mahi, Figen Batur, Müge Akgün, Vildan (Dani) Yahni (left to right)

I guess you won't be surprised that I highly recommend Gaja Restaurant! So, if you want to treat yourself to an excellent meal in a sublime atmosphere  with an excellent view with superb and efficient service headed by Restaurant Manager Osman Cebe and his team, make sure to make a reservation! Yes, it is expensive, but what fine dining restaurant isn't? At least you'll get your money's worth!

About the White Truffles Festival..

Until December 15th, a special set menu under the heading "Tartufi di Alba" is available at Gaja Restaurant. The 7 course meal is 315 TL/person and 575 TL/person paired with wines. Prices include VAT.

About Gaja's new menu...

 Undoubtedly, a new chef means a new menu! I think from the above you got an idea of Chef Mahi's style...he has been at Gaja Restaurant since October and the menu selections includes a variety of seafood and meat dishes. Besides some of the fish dishes I mentioned above, some other goodies include but are not limited to Goose Liver Terrine and Baked Lamb Shank. Let the rest be a surprise!

The following has nothing to do with my write up on Gaja... but I do want to take a minute to plug my other blog! It's called LOL:Life of Luka and it includes the escapades of Luka... my 14 month old maltese terrier. The blog is fairly new, I haven't had a chance to interview him that often right now, but will be making a new post shortly. He does have lots of ideas, but his mother is too busy to write about them right now. So, if you haven't had a chance, please visit: I'm sure he will be thrilled and get motivated to write!

 Keep well!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What's "UP" in Istanbul/2... an ongoing series

Dear readers,

A while back I had started a new series of posts titled What's "UP" in Istanbul and this is the 2nd post in the series.

There is sooooo much going on Istanbul and if I wrote about everything that was going on, I would be on my PC 24/7. But, since this is not possible as I also have to work, I once again tried to prepare a potpourri of events/news that can be of interest to tourists as well as residents of the magical and mystical Istanbul!!

So... here goes!


An exhibit titled “Beyond the Apparent: A Selection from the Art Collection of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey is now on display at the Suna & Inan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum until December 31, 2011.

The Central Bank of Turkey was established on October 3, 1931 and the bank's collection on display includes contemporary works of art (paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and installations) by Turkish artists born between 1882 and 1960 – some of the works dating back to 1908.

For more detailed information on the exhibit, visit the museum’s website:
Contemporary Istanbul, Turkey's first and only comprehensive contemporary art event is celebrating its 6th anniversary this year (

The event will take place at the Lütfi Kırdar International Convention & Exhibition Center ( between November 24 and November 27, 2011 and includes paintings, sculptures, videos, photographs, installations and limited editions from local and international art galleries.

Specifically, the art event includes approximately 3,000 contemporary works of art of over 526 local and international artists gathered from 90 contemporary art galleries from 20 countries worldwide.

Jan Fabre, Austria

Serkan Demir, Turkey
Furthermore, for the first time, Contemporary Istanbul will be hosting galleries from the Gulf Region in the "New Horizons" section of the event.

Katayoun Karami, (photograph) - Gallery Kuwait
Contemporary Istanbul is open to the general public from 11:00am to 9:00pm on November 24 and from 11:00am to 8:00pm on November 25-27. The entrance fee is 20 TL for adults and 10 TL for students, teachers and senior citizens over 65.

I had a chance to visit the art event last year and it was an experience I hope to repeat this year too! I highly recommend it to all art lovers!

Who doesn't like Italian food? Raise your hand... Of course, I am not surprised to see that no hands are raised!
Besides visiting one of the many excellent Italian restaurants around town, now you can enjoy these delectable morsels at Aqua Restaurant located on Bosphorus waterfront at the posh, yet comfy and friendly Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul on the Bosphorus in Beşiktaş.

Aqua Restaurant - Antipasti Lunch Buffet

Aqua's Executive Sous Chef Luca De Astis and his team have prepared a special Italian Antipasti Buffet which is available during lunch throughout the fall/winter season.

Aqua Restaurant Lunch Antipasti Buffet
You can either opt to just makes selections from the antipasti buffet which is 50 TL/person or you can choose from one of the following options (prices include VAT):
      • Antipasti buffet + pasta or risotto 70 TL
      • Antipasti buffet + dessert 70 TL
      • Antipasti buffet + main course 89 TL (meat or seafood)
      • Antipasti buffet + main course + dessert 100 TL
Buono Appetito!! For reservations, call Tel: (0212) 381 40 59

How would you like a "quick" trip to the Swiss Alps for a traditional Swiss meal without leaving Istanbul?
Yup... this is possible... all you have to do is head to the Chalet Restaurant at ... of course... the Swissôtel The Bosphorus Istanbul Hotel in Maçka!
Chalet Restaurant (Swissôtel The Bosphorus Istanbul Hotel)

Located in the plush gardens of the hotel, the restaurant is decorated to resemble a typical chalet in Switzerland!

Chalet Restaurant interior
The atmosphere at Chalet is warm, inviting and romantic, but more importantly, the cuisine is authentic!

Chalet Restaurant
The menu includes a variety of fondue and raclette dishes along with other local Swiss favorites. The Chalet Restaurant is open Wednesday-Monday (closed on Tuesdays) from 7:00pm to 11:30pm. Reservations are recommended.
(Tel: (0212) 326 11 00; Ext. 3305)

Just when you thought what else can the Swissôtel offer its guest besides its wonderful restaurants to also include Gaja (International), Miyako (Japanese) and Cafe Swiss (all day dining), bars and other amenities... will hold onto your hats... they now come to us with WINTER WONDERLAND!!
Swissôtel The Bosphorus Istanbul "Winter Wonderland"
Opening on December 1 and located in the gardens of the Chalet Restaurant, Winter Wonderland offers lots of activities and goodies for kids and adults alike!
For the kids... there is a large ice skating rink, hot chocolate cascading tower, swiss "delights" (crepes, ginger bread cookies, etc.) and a variety of activities surrounded with log cabins and pine trees.
For the adults, winter parties will be organized, hot wine will be served, there will be DJ performances and a special breakfast will be served on Sundays.
Winter Wonderland will be open from 4:00pm to 9:00pm from Wednesday to Friday and from 10:00am to 9:00pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Skates can be rented at the ice skating rink and the cost to skate is 15 TL for 30 minutes. There are no age limitations and ice skating classes will not be available.
Wine lovers are well aware that at this time of the year, wine producers around the world introduce their "nouveau" wines! This is always done on the 3rd Thursday in November or in this case November 17th!
In Turkey, Kavaklıdere ( introduced Kavaklıdere Primeur to wine lovers in Turkey.
Kavaklıdere Primeur Wine
Kavaklıdere Primeur White 2011 is produced with Sultaniye and Sauvignon Blanc (10%) grapes and the color is bright and a light yellow. It has intense white flowers, citrus and fresh tropic fruits and the palate is crispy, well-balanced, round and persistent.
Kavaklıdere Primeur Red
Kavaklıdere Primeur Red is produced with Öküzgözü grapes and the color is bright and a lively fuchsia. It has pronounced red fruits, raspberry, blackberry and cherry. The palate is well balanced with rich fruit flavors and soft tannins and it is crispy and round.
When I saw the TV commercial for this new product - to be quite frank - I was totally surprised!
Yes... ladies and gentlemen... the classic and traditional tastes of Turkish coffee are now available in single serving packages. All you have to do is heat water and stir! You can buy it with a little sugar (az), medium sugar (orta) or lots of sugar (çok şekerli)!
Personally, I prefer to make it the "old fashioned" way with freshly ground Turkish coffee beans and prepared in a cezve...
Cezve used to make Turıkish coffee
but, for the purposes of this post, after taking a picture of the instant Turkish coffee package... I prepared it... and... I was pleasantly surprised that it's tastes good and not very far from the authentic version! The only mistake I made is that I purchased the "orta" (medium) sugar version and I take my coffee black!
These little packages are sold at all supermarkets. So, if you don't want to fuss and make Turkish coffee the old fashioned way, this is a good substitution and great little gift ideas to take back home if visiting Turkey for a vacation! I forgot to jot down the price, but if I remember correctly, it is around 1 TL/package.

Friday, November 18, 2011

YAŞASIN! ... from the Vinkara Vineyards!!

Hip hip hooray or ... Yaşaşın! to Vinkara Vineyards!!! This fairly new Turkish wine producer has just introduced a naturally sparkling wine produced using the "Method Traditionelle" used in producing Champagne!

Of course, they cannot call it champagne as only those produced in Champagne, France can be classifed as such... but Vinkara - has captured the same taste!

The first tasting of Yaşasın (roughly translated means hooray, yippee, long live, etc.) was held at the Marmara Taksim Hotel last night (November 17) and participants included restauranteurs, sommeliers, press, friends and me!

Guests started gathering at the hotel's Tuti Balkon at around 7:00pm where we were first served a variety of fruit cocktails to tide us over until the official presentation began at 7:30pm...

The speaker was Mr. Marco Monchiero, a wine producer and oenologist residing in Italy and a consultant at Vinkara Vineyards since 2008.

Mr. Marco Monchiero (left) and translator (right)
Mr. Monchiero has been producing wines under his own label "Monchiero Carbone" since 1990 and has been a consultant to numerous vineyards since 1993.

The "champenoise" method of producing sparkling wine is a very complicated and long process, but he was able to give us a "short" version in a way we could very easily understand.

Vinkara's Yaşasın brand was produced with Kalecik Karası grapes, normally used to produce red wine which are harvested at Vinkara's vineyards in Kalecik, Ankara.

I will not get into the technical side of the production of this sparkling wine as this is not my field, however, I do want to mention that Mr. Monchiero said that Kalecik Karası grapes are very similar to Pinor Noir grapes used to produce champagne and that's why the production was very successful.

After this introduction, he popped the first cork and we excitedly waited for that first flute of sparkling wine!

To make a very long story short, I think I probably drank a whole bottle by myself last night! Yaşasın received high marks from the sommeliers who were present as well as all the other guests in attendance.

Yaşasın sparkling wine will be sold at specialty wine shops throughout Istanbul and the rest of the country as well as the wine and chocolate shop located at the entrance of the Marmara Taksim Hotel. The retail price was not officially announced but will be between 80 to 90 TL (vat included).

With the holidays coming up, I recommend that you stock up on Yaşasın to ring in the New Year!


For those of you not familiar with Vinkara wines, I suggest you visit their website for detailed information at

I was first "introduced" to Vinkara wines when I was still at The Guide Istanbul and I was sent several bottles of Vinkara's first crop of wines introduced to the market - the Doruk Series - earlier last year with a press release. At that time, PR companies were still allowed to send complimentary bottles of alcoholic beverages, but alas, this is no longer permitted by law. 

To be quite frank with you, I wasn't very impressed with the labels of the wines, but was very pleasantly surprised when I tasted the wines!
Then later on - in November 2010 to be exact, I attended the opening night party of Contemporary Istanbul (an annual contemporary art event). As with all parties, a wine company - in this case Vinkara, was a co-sponsor of the event.
Normally, I took a glass of wine from the the servers walking around the room, but at one point, I went to the table to get a glass... and what do I see? Vinkara Wines with the most beautifully designed labels!

I know they didn't "read my mind", but I guess they too realized that their earlier labels were not up to par and did something about it! Once again, Kudos to Vinkara! Now, everything was complete... not only are Vinkara's wines very good - they also look good!

Then, earlier on this year, I had the opportunity to attend another event where a tasting and lunch was organzied for a group of food and wine writers where we had a chance to taste some wines from the "Quattro" series and the "Mahzen" or "Reserve" series... need I say, we were once again very impressed!

This very new Turkish wine producer is quickly starting to make a mark for itself on the Turkish wine market and in fact, has won several awards at prestigious international wine competitions and events.

So, if you haven't had a chance to try these wines, I highly recommend that you try a bottle soon - I'm sure you too will find a wine to your liking among the many choices available!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Şişhane: A night of wining & dining...

Dear readers,

Just like my darling little Maltese terrier Luka, my social life has gone down the  tubes in the last few weeks! He wrote about this in his latest post on his blog... so I won't repeat what he wrote (you can always visit him separately)... but I - versus - Luka have a very big repertoire of subjects that I can write about as I have been around a whole lot longer than him!

So... I dung into my subject pool and decided to write about Şişhane and a portion of Meşrutiyet Caddesi (Street).

Şişhane Metro station @ Meşrutiyet Street
Şişhane is a district in the municipality of Beyoğlu and right below Tünel (at the end of Istiklal Street in Beyoğlu) and Asmalımescit (another hip area for partying - even though most of the outdoor seating areas have been removed) and also a short 10 minute walk from Galata.

Up until a couple of years ago, Şişhane was an area you may have just "passed through" on your way somewhere else! You wouldn't even think of walking down Meşrutiyet Street from the Şişhane side towards the more popular area of Tepebaşı.

The dilapated and rundown neighborhood went through a major metamorphosis and is now full of charming boutique hotels, cafes, restaurant/bars and several retailers.

Like I said, Meşrutiyet Street (Caddesi) runs from Şişhane to Tepebaşı and is probably about 10 city blocks long... and about 5 blocks of it is part of Şişhane.

Even though all of Şişhane is not on just one street, for the purposes of this post, I will only write about this street, because there are soooo many places to mention. I will write about other parts of Şişhane in another post at a later date (don't know when though!).

So, we will start our tour of Meşrutiyet Caddesi by the Metro station in Şişhane and end at the Pera Palace Hotel. Like I said, there is so much to do and see in just a 5 city block area that attracts people from all walks of life and age groups. Also, I will only be mentioning the eating and drinking venues and leave out the hotels... except for the historic Pera Palace Hotel at the end!

Our first stop and right next to the metro station is Miss Pizza (

Miss Pizza @ Şişhane
Miss Pizza opened their first branch in Cihangir several years ago: this branch opened in 2010. This quaint and charming little "pizzeria" has indoor and outdoor seating areas with an open brick oven. I visited Miss Pizza a couple of times this past summer, but still haven't had a chance to try their pizza which is said to be very good. I was only their briefly before an appointment both times and only had something light - an avocado caprese (mozzarella cheese, avocado, cherry tomatoes, black olive paste and basil) which I thought was great and refreshing. The prices are modest and the menu includes antipasta, salads, pizza and desserts. Alcohol is served.

Right next door... on the same side of the street is newcomer Spoil ( 

Spoil is a restaurant/bar and opened this past summer. The spacious venue has high ceilings, brick walls, minimalistic decor, a nice sized bar and a menu consisting of specialties from International cuisine. Spoil is open from noon to 2:00am on weekdays and on the weekends until 4:00am, so after dinner, it turns into a bar/club with DJ performances. I haven't had a chance to visit Spoil yet, but I do know the owners and they do have a good reputation on the culinary scene, so I have no doubt that the food is good.

As you can see from the picture above, because of the smoking ban in Turkey, come "rain or shine" you will notice customers lined outside of the venues for a smoke! Sometimes, the "main" party is outside!

If you are in the mood for some Chinese food on your night out... you can stop by Chinese Express ( which is right across the street from Spoil. I haven't eaten here, but I have ordered take out many times from the Chinese Express branch in Ortaköy, so I know the food is good!

About 1/2 block up the street from Chinese Express and on the corner is newcomer Good Mood (

I went to Good Mood during the first week of October with a bunch of girlfriends to celebrate a friend's birthday. Good Mood is quite small with several tables in the front and several small tables paralel to their bar. The menu includes international fare and we enjoyed the Bruschetta Trio the most. But, to be quite honest, they have to work on the quality of their main courses.

Bruschetta Trio @ Good Mood
However, Good Mood makes good cocktails! I personally had a couple of votka martinis which were very good, while most of my friends had red wine. And.. the music is EXCELLENT! There are DJ performances nightly (closed on Sundays) and the venue is open until 4:00am.

Votka Martini @ Good Mood
Our next stop is right across the street from Good Mood - Da Vittorio (

Da Vittorio
Located at the entrance of the Ansen Suites hotel... you guessed it... Da Vittorio is an Italian restaurant! Vittorio Sindonini - owner & chef is someone I know for over 15 years! He is originally from Palermo, Sicily and lived in NYC for many years, but I met him when he was part of the opening team and manager of Papermoon in Istanbul in 1996. We have kept in touch over the years - he left Istanbul for a few years, but a major Istanbul lover, he returned several years ago and opened his own eatery about 2 years ago.

The modestly sized restaurant has two separate rooms and is very cozy. The modest sized menu includes a good selection of specialties... my personal favorite is the "Classic Eggplant Parmiagiana" - a dish not commonly found on the menus of Italian restaurants in Istanbul. Da Vittorio is open daily from noon to midnight - prices are modest to expensive... reservations are recommended.

The next stop on our tour and about one block from Good Mood and on the same side of the street is my personal favorite - Bird (

Bird (photo from their website)
Bird is celebrating its second season and this highly popular restaurant and bar is probably the hottest spot in town and nearly impossible to get a reservation unless you make it days in advance! The venue is small... the food is excellent... the prices are modest... great cocktails are prepared... the wine list is impressive...the music is great... the crowd is chi chi... what else can I say?

We now continue our walk up the street, and once we pass several hotels, our next stop is North Shield Pub ( located on a corner, adjacent to the Pera Palace Hotel.

Just as its name suggest, The North Shield is reminiscent of a typical English Pub right down to the decor (brass, mahogony, etc.) and menu! Beer lovers are also in for a treat as the selection is quite impressive! There are many branches of The North Shield throughout Istanbul and this branch opened last year.

A few steps from The North Shield is another newcomer called Meze by Lemon Tree (

Meze by Lemon Tree (from Meze website)

Meze... which means appetizers or small dishes.. or tapas is an appropriate name for this quaint and small eatery! Unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to try the tempting and tantalizing dishes, but so many of my friends have! I hope to stop by on my next visit to the neighborhood.

We end our tour of the 5 blocks of Meşrutiyet Caddesi with a small stop over at the historic Pera Palace Hotel, which was totally renovated and re-opened in 2010 (

Pera Palace Hotel

The Pera Palace Hotel opened in 1892 and has a very long and illustrious history that I suggest you visit their website for all the details. For your dining pleasure, you can go to Agatha Restaurant... for cocktails to Orient Bar or for pastry to Patisserie de Pera.

This ends our tour of a portion of Meşrutiyet Caddesi... covering only most of the venues between Şişhane and the Pera Palace Hotel...

I hope you enjoyed the journey!