Friday, July 8, 2011

ON TO THE BOARDWALK.... we will be having some fun... ORTAKÖY!

Even though the area of Ortaköy I will be writing about is really not your typical "boardwalk", for some reason this song popped into my head when I was thinking of a title for this article...

As I had made plans to go to dinner with a good friend in Ortaköy last night, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a mini tour of this popular neighborhood.

Ortaköy... or loosely translated middle village is on the Bosphorus waterfront on the European side of the city. It is a very neighborhood for Turks from all walks of life and lately, more and more tourists are also discovering its charm.

I will only be writing about the small 3-4 block radius of Ortaköy that is on the waterfront because the other parts of this neighborhood are quite residential with a main street (Dereboyu Caddesi) with food markets, butchers, fast food eateries, pharmacies, fishmongers, bakeries, etc. and surrounded with narrow and hilly streets with middle class max 6 story apartment buildings - most of which are walk-ups.

So, below is a glimpse of the Ortaköy square and the Ortaköy Mosque and Bosphorus Bridge as backdrops. The Ortaköy Mosque is probably the most photographed mosque besides the major mosques in the old city. A long overdue renovation is underway and should be completed some time in 2012. On the opposite side of the mosque is a pier where you can board a city-run ferryboat for a ride along the Bosphorus... but this pier closes early (around 6.30pm on weekdays). On the other side or behind the mosque is an area along the waterfront with a couple of modest tea houses (non-alcoholic beverages and snacks served) and a private pier where you can board privately owned boats for a short trip along the Bosphorus with a return to the same spot. The prices are quite modest (sorry! don't have info on the latest prices) and the ride is about 45 minutes to an hour. It's a no-frills ride but a great way to see Istanbul's waterfront from the Bosphorus strait and make sure to take lots of pictures!!

Ortaköy square and the surrounding narrow and winding streets are filled with side by side eateries, outdoor street vendors selling everything from costume jewelry to clothing and all sorts of touristy trinkets.

As I said, there are dining options for all budgets. You can sit in a tea house on in Ortaköy Square and pay 2 TL for a cup of tea and just a couple of doors down, pay sometimes 3 to 4 times as much for the same cup of tea - but of course, the difference is the ambiance and decor that justify these price differences.

If you don't want to sit anywhere but just enjoy the sights and grab a quick bite, you might want to try one of the stuffed baked potatoes sold at side by side street vendors lined up at the entrance to Ortaköy Square from the main street off to the side from the Ortaköy mosque. All sorts of toppings (American salad, corn, pickles, cheese, peas, etc.) are available and the potatoes are huge!

But, in my article, I want to mention some of the nicer places where you can enjoy a beverage, cocktail, snack, lunch or dinner. So, here goes...

Kitchenette is a newcomer to the area and only opened several months ago. It is  one of my favorite places for the casual lunch. But, I am a regular at their branch at the Kanyon Shopping Mall in Levent. This location is great too because they have a lovely terrace where you have a fantastic view of the Bosphorus Strait while you are dining. The menu is modestly priced and includes everything from breakfast treats (Eggs Norwegian is very good), appetizers, salads (I recommend the grilled salmon salad), burgers, pastas, main courses, desserts, and a section of "light" meals for those watching their waistline and daily specials. Alcoholic beverages are served and the wine list includes a nice selection from Turkey and abroad, but I think the number of wines offered by the glass can be more extensive. You don't necessarily need to eat at Kitchenette and can also stop by for a coffee or cocktail.

Kitchenette ( has numerous branches on both sides of the city as well as in Ankara and Antalya. Abroad, they recently opened a branch in Baku, Azerbaijan and in Moscow. The chain is owned by the Istanbul Doors Group and I will be mentioning them more later on in this article and probably in more articles in the future as they are a very very successful group and the owners of some of the best restaurants in Istanbul.

Two other places worth mentioning and right next door to Kitchenette is Çınaraltı - a seafood restaurant that has been around for years and Mado Cafe where you can have snacks, desserts, coffee, tea and their own brand of ice cream.

On the opposite side of the street from Kitchenette is House Cafe ( and the newly opened The House Hotel - when Ricky Martin was here to give a concert last week, he stayed here ( The House Cafe also has numerous branches in Istanbul and the House Hotel has a couple of sisters in other parts of the city as well.

The corner of the street that the House Café and Hotel is located on is called Salhane Sokak (Street). This tiny street houses some of the most trendy and chi chi club and restaurants in the city that are frequented by the glitterati of Istanbul and abroad.

Right next door to House is Banyan (, which is one of my favorite Asian fusion restaurants in town. It is on the top floor of the building and has indoor and outdoor dining areas and both are open year round as there is a fireplace to keep you warm on the cooler fall and winter months! The view is spectacular and on a clear night, you can see all the way to the Old City and Topkapı Palace. I am a pretty regular customer of Banyan where I always find the service and food very good. The bartender also prepares very good cocktails (my favorite is a very dry vodka martini with 3 olives). Prices are moderate to expensive. I highly recommend you make reservations.

Right next door to Banyan and taking up the entire building is Anjelique ( The 3-story club/restaurant has an Asian Fusion restaurant on the ground level and the other 2 floors houses their indoor and outdoor restaurant and bar where Mediterranean cuisine is served.

I had dinner with my very good friend Nur at Anjelique last night and the food was very very good. Also owned by the Istanbul Doors Group, Anjelique is open year round, but dinner is only served during the summer months and functions only as a club the rest of the year. As it is also a club, after dinner you can dance in place until the wee hours of the morning. The club does tend to get extra crowded on the weekends and I recommend you go during a week night.

About our dinner … Anjelique has a very nice menu and it is expensive, but worth it. So, make sure you dress to the nines and make a reservation before going. We each had a Fennel Salad with walnuts, green apples and Roquefort cheese and as a main course, I had the seared scallops (cooked to perfection) and my friend the Crispy Duck (which was also delicious). We skipped on dessert as we wanted to get ice cream at Mado Café before going home. My “drink of choice” was wine and since Nur wanted to have blush and I wanted to have a red, we ordered by the glass. The only constructive criticism I want to make on the wine list is that I wish they had more choices by the glass and more variety of wines by the bottle at different price ranges.

After our wonderful meal, we decided to stop by Zuma Restaurant ( where you will find a rich selection of Japanese contemporary cuisine. (Sorry, I didn't get a chance to take a pix here - it was a little crowded and I didn't want to disturb anyone). Zuma is in the annex building of the Radisson Blu Hotel ( We sat at the bar and enjoyed a glass of French wine (a Malbec) offered to us by Serdar, Zuma’s sommelier and restaurant manager. As I was the General Manager and Editor-in-Chief of the Guide Magazines for 10 years, I know a lot of people in the restaurant and entertainment industry! Zuma has a 2-story indoor section and an outdoor terrace right on the waterfront. Obviously, no one sits indoors during the summer! I will definitely go to Zuma for dinner the next time I go to Ortaköy – but once again, make reservations – Zuma is very popular! And, guess what – the London based Zuma is managed by the Istanbul Doors Group (! Didn’t I tell you they have the market on some of the best restaurants in Istanbul? Their other venues include Da Mario, Gina, Mama and Vogue on the European side and A’jia on the Asian side of the city. Soon, they will be opening another restaurant called Carlotta. AND… if this is not enough, they are now also the proud owners of Tom’s Kitchen (Tom Aikens) in London. I know this sounds like an advertisement for Doors, but they do definitely deserve lots of accolades!

Our lovely evening out in Ortaköy ended on a sweet note– an ice cream cone from Mado Café! I hope you enjoyed our mini trip to Ortaköy!

Shopping tip: If you are in the market for a quality Turkish carpet or kilim, Hazal Halı ( is the place to visit in Ortaköy! The shop is owned by Ms. Engin Demirkol who has spent the better part of the last two decades choosing her pieces sold at her shop with lots of tender loving care.    

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