Friday, December 14, 2012

Alev Ebuzziya Siesbye & Park Şamdan/Rixos Pera Hotel: A Winning & Elegant Combo!!

Dear readers,

Exactly a week ago today and at about the same time (it's 5:00pm now) on a cold and rainy day in Istanbul, I met my sister Meltem and good friend Nur at Kanyon to hop on the metro to go to Beyoğlu (the best way to travel these days especially with the construction havoc and road closings in the Taksim/Beyoğlu area which will last for many many more months) to attend an exhibit of Alev Ebuzziya Siesbye's glorious ceramic bowls at Galeri Nev located at the historical "Mısır Apartmanı" on Istiklal Street - at the half way point between Taksim and Tünel.

Alev Ebuzziya Siesbye exhibit at Galeri Nev
I feel I am among those fortunate people who know Alev personally! I met her and interviewed her at her lovely loft apartment/studio in the heart of Paris about 4 years ago for an article on "Prominent Turkish artists living in Paris" for The Guide Istanbul and we became fast friends! So, everytime I visited Paris I would contact Alev and we would get together if she was also in town as she is constantly running around the globe too! I had recently contacted her to let her know that I would be in Paris and she wrote back to me saying that she was going to be in Istanbul on the dates I was in Paris and that I should definitely visit attend the opening night of her exhibit at Galeri Nev on Friday, December 7th to which I obviously said "of course, with pleasure"! 

Alev Ebuzziya Siesbye exhibit at Galeri Nev Istanbul

So, this would be the first time we would be seeing each other in Istanbul and undoubtedly the opening night exhibit was jam packed with the followers of Alev's work from Istanbul's business and elite group!

Alev is an AMAZING ceramic artist and she is one of the world's most recognized ceramic artists and she has held exhibits in all four corners of the world. Some of her main exhibits include a retrospective of her works (1964-2000) first at the Kunstindustrimuseet in Copenhagen and the Istanbul Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul in 2001. She has been organizing exhibits in Istanbul since 1987, however, this is her first exhibit since 2007, so everyone was in for a treat and will had a chance to view a portion of her latest ceramic bowl collection (I was fortunate enough to get a sneak preview when I visited her in Paris in April of this year!).

Alev Ebuzziya Siesbye exhibit at Galeri Nev Istanbul
As it was opening night and everyone wanted a piece of her, we bid each other goodbye and said we hoped to get together before she returns to Paris at the end of this month.

Alev's exhibit at Galeri Nev is open until January 5th and I highly recommend that you go see it if in Istanbul. Visiting hours are from 11:00am to 6:30pm Tuesday-Saturday. (

We left Galeri Nev around 7:30pm and we were hungry and decided to grab a bite in the neighborhood. However, it was Friday night and we hadn't made a reservation anywhere and decided to try our luck at some of the nicer restaurants in the area.
Our luck panned out and we had a lovely dinner at Park Şamdan, one of Istanbul's better fine dining Turkish/International cuisine restaurants!
Park Şamdan @ Rixos Pera Hotel
Park Şamdan has been around since 1981 and this is the first time in their history that they opened a branch (if we don't count there 'summer branch' at Reina Night Club) that will be open year round.
Located on the terrace of the newly opened Rixos Pera Hotel in Tepebaşı (adjacent to the British Consulate), the elegantly decorated L-shaped white tablecloth restaurant has indoor and outdoor dining areas affording a lovely panoramic view of Istanbul's Haliç Bay. Unfortunately, the view also includes the "god awful" TRT signage on top of the TV station's building close by (which you can see a lit bit of in the photo below)!
Sister Meltem (front left), Nur (back left) and me (right)
The "original" Park Şamdan is locately in a lovely one story villa with a garden at Mim Kemal Öke Street in trendy Nişantaşı, but this branch is also very nice. I'm not going to list everything we had as I usually do because I'm not happy with the quality of the photos of the food I took which would be a disservice to show here! But, I can say we had some of the "classics" from their diverse menu. We started off by sharing a platter of puff pastry, then Nur had a cold artichoke dish prepared with olive oil (delicious) and we all had meat dishes - typical Turkish köfte (meatballs) which I absolutely love; filet mignon which was cooked just right and scrumptious for Meltem and a pepper steak for Nur. We further enjoyed our meal with a wonderful bottle of Kavaklıdere red wine which we tried for the first time. It was excellent and not only recommended by Sermin (the manager), but also "on the house" because we are all longtime customers, but even so, it was a  lovely lovely jest on their part! Thank you once again Sermin!
As always, we did have room for dessert, but only shared one order of chocolate fondant accompanied with coffee ....
Chocolate fondant @Park Şamdan Rixos Pera Hotel
which capped off a lovely evening that included a bit of art, seeing an old friend and having a lovely dinner with my sister Meltem and friend Nur. What else can you ask for in life?
Park Şamdan @ Rixos Pera Hotel
According to international standards, Park Şamdan is not expensive and our dinner cost about USD 55/head (without alcohol). I highly suggest you make reservations for dinner. This branch only opened a few months ago towards the end of the summer and as more people realize it's presence, it will be difficult to get a table as a "walk-in" as we did last week!
Park Şamdan/Rixos Pera Hotel 
Tel: (0212) 377 70 00
Stay well!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

P.F.Chang's: Welcome to Istanbul!

Dear readers,

I don't know about you, but I LOVE Chinese food!  In fact, I "grew up" with Chinese food having lived in NYC for 30 years until 1995 but ate it more so out of a container and as "take out"! In other words, Chinese food "came to me" instead of the other way around! I even ordered take out from the wonderful chinese restaurant that was located in the Winter Garden at the American Express Tower at 200 Vesey Street where I worked in downtown Manhattan at Battery Park City before our division moved back uptown to 1120 Avenue of the Americas. For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the restaurant, but it was excellent and pricier than typical Chinese restaurants, but who cared - the food was soooo good!

I moved back to Istanbul in 1995 and had to give up by passion for many years as the number as well as the quality of Chinese restaurants in Istanbul was lacking AND it was very expensive! Then in the last few years, "casual" style Chinese restaurants started opening up around town and I started to "take out" once again, but I must admit, I was spoiled by the choices and quality of the restaurants in NYC!

Then at the beginning of November, I started hearing the buzz that a new eatery was going to open in Etiler on Nispetiye Street... already the 5 block radius of this street in Etiler had gone through a major transformation and once again, after years of "silence" shall we say with mediocre cafes & restaurants, it was was once again becoming a very popular area with the opening of topnotch cafes, restaurants and bars in 2012... (that's another blog article one day!)

The "new place" in question and the "newest" newcomer to Istanbul is P.F. Chang's. Undoubtedly, I was thrilled!

P.F. Chang's had an opening night party on November 7th on a dismal and very rainy day in Istanbul! I wasn't invited and I probably wouldn't have gone even if I was because I later heard that it was incredibly crowded as nearly everyone in town attended !

Instead about 10 days ago, I made plans to go to dinner with my friend Nur and my sister Meltem and we decided to go on Thursday (November 22) night.  Luck would have it that it was another dismal and rainy day!

So, our initial plans of sitting outside and having a cocktail or even dining outdoors went out the window! The outdoor seating areas are quite spacious but of course since it was raining and their was no awning to protect against the weather, we dined inside.

P.F. Chang's "outdoor area"

P.F. Chang's "outdoor area"
P.F. Chang's doesn't take reservations, so we got there around 7:15pm and were absolutely surprised that the majority of the tables at the 2 story venue were already taken! This was very surprising to me as Turks normally do not prefer to dine so early. Then, in a matter of another 15 minutes every table was taken and the fairly spacious bar and bar area was full of diners waiting for a table! Boy, our timing was perfect so we didn't have to wait!

P.F. Chang's "The Bar"
Let's take a step back for a second so that I can give you a general idea and "feel" of the venue... upon entering the restaurant, the bar is on the right hand side with the "main" dining room to the left of the bar with tables and booths and a little further left is a "separate" glass encased dining room. Adjacent to the bar are stairs that lead up to the 2nd floor and of course, I took a quick peek to see what it was like... To be honest, my first impression of the decor and ambiance was not favorably! But, then again... what do I know! P.F. Chang's has over 200 branches worldwide, so they must be doing something right! It was established in 1993 in Scotsdale, Arizona andwas named after owners Paul Fleming (P.F.) and Phillip Chiang (changed to Chang).

I found the decor very sparse and very "brown" as the entire space was decorated with a variety of tons of brown, with no wall hangings and some areas lit with  strob lighting (too much light on some tables) while the ceilings over the booths had softer lamp shaded lighting. Unfortunately, another problem was the acoustics... most of the time, "you could hear yourself talk", but it was impossible to hear the music as the sound/beat bounced all over the place which did get a bit annoying...

But... onto the MOST important part of the experience... the food! So, with menus in hand... we tried to decide what to order without going overboard because everything sounded good!

I had heard that the portions were satisfactory and suitable for sharing which was good to hear because that's really not usually the case with other Chinese restaurants in Istanbul compared to the USA where Chinese food is mostly reasonably priced and the portions quite big!

The menu at the Istanbul branch is not the same as the one offered in the USA and adjustments had been made. For example, there are no pork products. After much perusable, we decided to concentrate on "seafood" dishes which turned out to be an excellent decision!

And... since there is no "set" rules anymore that you must have white wine with fish, we ordered a bottle of Tellus red wine (110 TL), which is a light and crispy dry wine produced by Prodom, a fairly new and successful Turkish winemaker. Also, Nur ordered a pre-dinner cocktail.. Agave Margarita (25 TL) which was very tasty but I forgot the ingredients and also forgot to take a picture.

We ordered 3 appetizers to start off with: Ahi Tuna (32 TL); Dynamite Combo (28 TL) and Asian Slaw (11 TL)

Ahi Tuna

Dynamite Combo

Asian Slaw

The Ahi Tuna was super and seared to perfection; the Dynamite Combo (Shrimp and Scallops) was D-Y-N-A-M-I-T-E (I alone could have had 2 more portions!) and although the Asian slaw had a little too much mayo, it was also quite good.

Next up were our mains...

Honey Shrimp
I'm happy to say we made another good choice by ordering the Honey Shrimp (44 TL)! The quality of the shrimp and sauce was incredible and the tastes burst in our mouths!

To accompany our main course, we ordered Veggie LoMein and Coconut Curry Tofu & Vegetables...

Coconut Curry Tofu & Vegetables

Veggie LoMein
You really can't go wrong (and shouldn't go wrong!) when ordering these types of popular side dishes at Chinese restaurants! Both were prepared to perfection and the vegetables in the coconut curry (28 TL) were not overcooked and LoMein's (24 TL) sauce was just right.

Although we couldn't get a good photograph of us taken by the waiter, I still wanted to add a "personal touch" and share the contented look on our faces during our meal!

Me (left), Nur (front right), Meltem (back right)
One of the great things about Chinese food is that you can eat, eat and eat and still have room for more food! I guess that's because there is no bread and you do wind up eating slower with chopsticks!

So, we did order dessert!

Banana Spring Roll
Although the dessert list was extensive with typical "western" desserts such as cheese cake, chocolate cake, etc. we opted for something a little more traditional! The Banana Spring Roll (18 TL) with vanilla ice cream was delicious and capped off our evening nicely!

But, we mustn't forget the fortune cookies - a must at Chinese Restaurants!

Our total bill for the evening came to 353 TL (without tip and it is customary to tip 10% in Turkey) after we ordered an espresso (6 TL), cappuccino (7 TL), green dragon tea (11 TL) and a bottle of water (9 TL).  Finally, I must add that the service was very good too and our waiter was friendly and very attentive!

Will I go back to P.F. Chang's? Definitely! Are there some problems they must resolve? Sure! But, at least most importantly - we personally thoroughly enjoyed the meal we had which is the most important thing as far as I'm concerned! Make sure to read my postscript too which includes some more information!

P.F. Chang's
Nispetiye Caddesi No. 94 Etiler
Tel: (0212) 358 60 60

Bon Apetit!

Stay well!


Postscript: I never got a chance to ask "what's up with the horses" at the entrance, but I am very curious but couldn't find info on them at P.F. Chang's USA website ! I will ask the next time I go. They are an eyesore, but very intriguing because we are talking about them, so an effective advertising tool!

We had a chance to talk to Ahmet Baran Ayla, the Business Manager of the venue as he was going from table to table to get feedback! Let's not forget that the restaurant opened only a short 2 weeks ago and of course they need some time to get everything in order. We mentioned the noise issue and he agreed and they are looking into some architectural changes to reduce the problem. It also turned out that he remembered me when I gave him my card as he used to be in the F&B Department at the Swissotel Istanbul and I remembered him too. He has a good head on his shoulders and I'm sure the necessary improvements will be made. We also mentioned the "no reservations" policy and that's another issue they plan on looking into and hopefully soon this too will change. Currently reservations for 8+ are accepted.

As I mentioned above, I didn't particularly like the decor and I also think their is an issue with the table "set-ups". Personally, I was staring at the wall all evening and not very happy! The venue has high ceilings and to make it look more spacious hanging a couple of mirrors on the walls would add depth and no one would have to stare at bare walls! I also wouldn't prefer to sit on the 2nd floor as the ceiling is much lower there. I also found out yesterday via another friend that there is a 3rd floor for small dinner parties. 

I ran into a couple of friends at dinner the same evening and also spoke to two other friends who had eaten there and got mixed reviews. One friend liked the place so much, that she was there 2 straight nights. The other friend was also very pleased with the meal they had which included a wide assortment of dishes and in fact, the "dynamite combo" was also their favorite. My other friend wasn't thrilled with the food they had that evening (mainly meat and chicken) and said the food was very salty (we didn't have the same problem and since I am not a "salt" fan, if our dishes were salty - I would have definitely said something). Another friend who had previously eaten there said she didn't feel very well the next day and I think we figured out the problem - MSG!!! MSG is commonly used to flavor Chinese food and it can have a reaction on a lot of people - including me! So, I suggest you ask that your dishes are prepared without MSG to be on the safe side.

All in all, P.F. Chang's is a nice addition to the Istanbul dining scene and I'm sure with time, the current problems will be easily resolved.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

What's "UP" in Istanbul/4... an on-going series

Dear readers,

Today is one of those days that you just want to curl up on the couch with a good book with a crackling fire and a glass of wine!!! Finally, the winter season has arrived in Istanbul! We have been soooo fortunate with mild weather and very little rain so far this year that we got spoiled! Just yesterday it was a gorgeous day and I went out with just a light jacket. On the other hand, it hasn't stopped raining yet today (and it is now 2:45pm) and it doesn't look like it will let up at all, so I cancelled all my afternoon errands and instead have just been reading newspapers and finally decided to do some writing, however, I will not be able to finish this post today as I am going to go out to dinner, so it won't be a totally "lost" day! The place I'm going to is a newcomer to Istanbul and just opened two weeks ago: the US based PF Chang's... I do enjoy Chinese food and will be sharing notes from my evening with you in the next few days. (I started writing this post on Thursday, November 22nd and unfortunately haven't had a chance to finish it until today - Saturday, Nov. 24th, but interestingly enough... it's another wet and cold day and the stuff I wrote about above ... wine, fireplace stands! But, since I don't have a fireplace... I made a great homemade soup to warm up while writing this post - I'll have some wine later on after I finish up!)

The topic of this post is a smosgarbord of information on some of the stuff going on around the city... let it be exhibitions, wining & dining, etc... it is a very "short" list because Istanbul is so dynamic and constantly "lively and alive", but some of the things I'm posting might be alternatives that you might not have considered, especially the info on activities at some hotels around town. Most people don't usually think of going to hotels for dinner, etc. but I think that's a mistake! I personally have always been a fan of dropping by some of the hotel properties around town because they do offer alternatives that can be interesting from time to time...

So, let's begin!

There is absolutely no end to the number of art exhibits that you can attend in Istanbul - from the small and avantgarde gallery to the more traditional "museum" style events!  

For example... I'm a major fan of the impressionist painters.. Van Gogh, Monet, Manet.. etc and have been fortunate to have visited some exhibitions of these prominent painters in New York City and Paris....

Now... and until January 6th... you have the opportunity to visit one of these painters exhibits right here in Istanbul! Claude Monet's exhibit titled "Monet's Garden" is on display at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum which is located along the gorgeous Bosphorus waterfront in Emirgan.

Claude Monet - Water Lilies
39 pieces of work from the artist's late period are being displayed - from pictures of Monet's house in Giverny Garden and water lilies to his famous Japanese bridge paintings. The theme of this exhibit is flowers and nature from the artist who gave the impressionist movements its name, and proclaimed, "I perhaps owe having become an artist to flowers."
Claude Monet - "Blue Lilies"
Just a few more notes about the exhibit: the paintings displayed were not exhibited or sold during Monet's lifetime. The exhibit was organized in cooperation with the Marmottan Monet Museum and the curator Marianne Mathieu stated, "In 1966 Claude Monet's son Michel Monet donated the collection of his father, which was kept in his house in Giverny to the Musée Marmottan, located in a private house in the 16th residential area in Paris..." This museum contains the largest collection of Monet's work with about 100 paintings, photographs and sketch books.

Monet's exhibit is open Tuesday-Sunday until 8:00pm.

One of the other great things about going to exhibits at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum is that besides great artists works for you to enjoy, visitors also have a chance to have a wonderful meal at one of the better restaurants in Istanbul: muzedechanga, which is the "sister" of Changa Restaurant located in Taksim. Not only does the venue offer a breathtaking view of the Bosporus with indoor and outdoor seating areas, their menu is always intriguing, ever-changing according to season and most importantly, the food is delicious! I downloaded the following photograph from their website as I didn't have any recent pictures that I took myself...

muzedechanga (photo from their website)

muzedechanga (photo from their website)

Besides muzedechanga's normal list of goodies to choose from, the team has prepared a special set dinner menu, served on Tuesday and Thursday evenings which they've called "If Monet Could Cook" and includes actual dishes served at Monet's table at his home in Giverny while others are dishes inspired by his paintings. I'm not going to be lazy and will list the items on the menu and recommend everyone to go before the exhibit ends(of course including myself hopefully!)

 Pea Soup with almonds and wild flowers
Asparagus with Croquette of Quail Eggs
Confit of Duck with Mustard Mashed Potatoes,
Oyster Mushrooms and Cabernet Sauvignon Sauce
Upside down apple tart and rose geranium ice cream
Jasmin flavored Changa chocolate
I highly suggest you make reservations! Tel: (0212) 323 09 01. Sorry, don't know the price, you can find out when you call.
Our next stop is the Çırağan Palace Kempinski Hotel's Art Gallery for Fikret Otyam's exhibit titled "Hoşçakal Istanbul" (Goodbye Istanbul).

Fikret Otyam painting
Prominent Turkish painter Otyam is 86 years old and he has been painting for 69 years! He held his first exhibit in 1952 at the Maya Art Gallery in Istanbul and this exhibit includes acrylic paintings of working women villagers, village homes, scenery and more depicting Anatolia. The art gallery is located in the Palace section of the hotel,is open 24/7, admission is free and this particular exhibit will be on display until December 27. So, plan a lovely day on the Bosphorus waterfront at the Çırağan where you can combine art with "wining and dining" by visiting  one of the hotel's cafes and restaurants.


The last stop on our "mini" tour of exhibits around town takes us to the Pera Museum located right in the heart of Tepebaşı/Asmalımescit in Beyoğlu! Located in a lovely 4-story restored historical building, this museum has been home to many prominent exhibits since its opening about 5 years ago and continues to entice art lovers with the variety of exhibits displayed. Also, make sure to see the museum's permanent collection.

Currently and until January 6th, the Pera Museum is hosting two exhibits: "Golden Children: 16th-19th Century European Portraits" and "Flashback: Yannick Vu & Ben Jakober"

Golden Children

Yannick Yu & Ben Jakober
As it's name implies, the first exhibit includes 57 select portraits of children from the Yannick & Jakober Foundation's Children Portraits Collection while the 2nd exhibit includes different insights into the different aspects of the couple as individual artists as well as including their collabortive works after 1993.
For more information on this exhibit visit where you will also find information on admission costs and visiting hours.
I have been meaning to write about Frankie Istanbul for a long time now, but had not gotten around to it. This beautifully decorated  lounge, bar and fine dining restaurant opened on the terrace of the boutique Sofa Hotel in trendy Nişantaşı on Teşvikiye Street right across the street from City's Nişantaşı Shopping Mall in late April, early May.

Frankie Istanbul Lounge

I went to dinner at Frankie Istanbul for the first and unfortunately the last time on May 25th to celebrate my sister's birthday ...
Frankie Istanbul Restaurant
I didn't get a chance to take too many photographs and not thrilled with the ones I have, but I just wanted to give you an idea of the place. I remember the food being excellent, cocktails well prepared and the wine list and sommelier excellent. Not surprising as Frankie Istanbul is managed and run by two names - Kaya Demirer and Ayşem Saraçoğlu who are both very well known on the eating and drinking scene in Istanbul.
Besides great food and drink, since September, Frankie Istanbul offers live music a few times a week and well-known DJs appear from time to time on Friday or Saturday evenings. The live music performers include a list of Turkish & International jazz artists. So, now you can also enjoy live music while you wine & dine in lovely surroundings with a great ambiance and crowd. The acts change weekly, so I suggest you get on their mailing list to receive updates and you can also visit their website (available in English and Turkish) for more information ( on the venue. Reservations are highly recommended! Frankie Istanbul is also open for lunch. I plan on revisting Frankie Istanbul hopefully soon and will be writing about it in more detail.
I was first "introduced" to the Four Seasons Hotel properties when I lived in NYC, and the Four Seasons Philadelphia was my favorite hotel to stay at when I traveled on business for American Express... so obviously when they first opened the Four Seasons Sultanahmet and then the Four Seasons Istanbul on the Bosphorus I was thrilled! Like I mentioned earlier, I enjoy going to hotels too and I can suggest it to everyone who wants a different experience  from time to time... The following are just some "news" from the two properties in Istanbul.
For example, the Four Seasons Bosphorus Lobby Lounge is now offering a new cocktail menu and some of the cocktails were inspired by ingredients from the Eygptian Bazaar! The following are 3 samples and you just have to go and try it for yourself to find out how they were prepared! Besides 3 cocktails with an "Egyptian Bazaar" theme, 12  "infusion" cocktails are also on the menu!
Four Seasons Bosphorus "Enhar"

Four Seasons Bosphorus "Ahmer"

Four Seasons Bosphorus - "cucumber" & rosemary infused martini
While there, after cocktails you can swing by Aqua Restaurant and try one of Italian chef Luca De Astis and his team's new lunch or dinner menu. I've included the photographs of some of the dishes which need no further comment! For reservations, call Tel: (0212) 381 40 59
Aqua Restaurant - "Tonnarelli cacio e pepe"

Spagetti Alla Chitarra
One final note on the Four Seasons before we go on...  "Wine & Cheese" Tasting held every Friday night starting at 7:00pm at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet. This event was started years ago by then F&B Manager and my friend Angela Moore and has been going strong and popular ever since. During the "tasting" 4 different wines are offered from different domestic and international wine brands accompanied with a selection of wonderful local & international cheeses for only 45 TL/person in the hotel's beautiful winter garden. It is a good idea to make reservations (Tel: (0212) 402 31 56).
Four Seasons Sultanahmet "Wine and Cheese"

Kanyon is one of my favorite haunts to hang out to have a light lunch/dinner, food shop at Macrocenter and shop at new branch of Marks & Spencer (great pjs, etc.), Paşabahçe for glassware and D&R and Remzi for books. I'm not really a "shopper shopper" so I don't visit the  retails shops for clothing and shoes... not to sound snobbish.. but I prefer to shop for these in Europe - between the tax free and assortments and prices, I get better deals I think!
Kanyon Shopping Mall/view of Carluccio's
I'm writing about Kanyon for two reasons: first, since September Kanyon has been hosting a live jazz artist/group on "one" Sunday (TBD) each month. This is an event they started a couple of years ago organized during the fall/winter season.You missed the performance for November as it was on November 18th, but check their website for their program for the upcoming months! It's free... and takes place on the B2 level by Remzi Bookstore between 2:00pm and 4:00pm.
A newcomer to Kanyon is Carluccio's, an Italian eatery that opened it's first branch in Istanbul. It's been around for several months now and I had lunch at Carluccio's a couple of weeks ago with a friend. First impression: prefer the outdoor terrace weather permitting as the indoor area has very bad acoustics and it's very noisy; the food is good and portions satisfactory (we each had breasola, arugula and Parmesan cheese) and prices are reasonable. What I also liked is that they have small "shop" at the entrance where you can pick up a whole host of Italian sauces, pastas, olive oil, crackers, etc AND... deli meats (pork products too), cheeses (pecorino, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, etc.), pastries, sandwiches, etc. In fact, I picked up a bunch of goodies to take home and I found the prices for the deli meats and cheeses especially reasonable for Istanbul. You can't make reservations at Carluccio's, so it's first come - first serve!
Leblon... "Revisited"... I had written a long post on Leblon in October and then went back again with some friends for their great lunch a couple of weeks after I wrote my  post and then went again last week with my friend Aslan...As I mentioned in my earlier post, Arda Türkmen is the young chef and owner of Leblon and also has a cooking show on CNN Turk on Sundays...
Me and Arda Türkmen

We had a chance to speak to Arda and talked about his trip to Paris and some of the great ingredients and cookbooks he picked up. We also noticed that he changed the set lunch menu selections and prices, which I wasn't suprised to see as for an incredibly low 25 TL/person you could eat like crazy with lots of "expensive" choices... now the lunch menu is as follows and is still quite reasonable...

As you can see from the list posted in front of the restaurant, they have added grill selections, "home cooked" meals, cold olive oil dishes buffet and soup and the choices change daily. One thing that hasn't changed is that alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are discounted 25% between noon and 5:00pm!

Leblon - "cold olive oil dish" selections "of the day"
So, this wraps up my What's "UP" in Istanbul section for this post... I hope to have time to prepare more of these types of posts because I can give you a quick "snapshot" of info on a variety of topics!

The next post will be about P.F. Chang's, a popular US based chinese restaurant and the newest "newcomer" to Istanbul! I might prepare it today or tomorrow...not sure yet as it is getting on in the day and I'm a little tired!

Stay well!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mezzaluna is back!! That is - back in Nişantaşı!!!

Dear readers,

Didn't I tell you just a little while ago that I would try to make up for my "lack of posts" in the past few weeks with back to back posts? Well, I'm keeping my promise! The reason I can do this is because I have some time on my hands and I love writing for myself instead of writing or translating for others. I finished all the projects I had on Sunday and now I'm between "freelance" work for the first time this year! The "break" will not be that long so I want to make up for lost time - not only in writing in my blog, but socializing as well and have made back to back plans to go out with my friends - to familar venues as well as a newcomer to Istanbul (don't want to give it away yet!) which I will be writing about hopefully on Friday or Saturday...

Now to the post at hand...

Although I am no longer "officially" in the media world and at the helm of a magazine and instead prepare a blog... I am fortunate that many PR firms have not forgotten me and invite me to different functions (wine tastings, new openings, etc.) from time to time and then I write about these places too IF I feel it's worth it and fortunately, all have been worth it - so far!

At the beginning of November, I got an invitation to attend a small gathering of journalists  to taste some of the new goodies at the "new" Mezzaluna in Nişantaşı, which I happily agreed to!

By all means, Mezzaluna is not "new" to me! In fact, I have been a customer of this lovely Italian restaurant since 1996 (it opened in 1995)! A little history first... back in the 1990s and until the mid 2000s, Mezzaluna was located on Abdi Ipekçi Street - now the trendiest street  in fashionable Nişantaşı (not that it was that fashionable back in the 1990s - nothing like the explosion it's experiencing today!). There were much much less places to go to back then and the "trendy" Turks in those days would first go to Biber Bar (Biber has been back for the last few years too after a long hiatus and once again on Abdi Ipekçi Street, a few doors down from original place, but much larger) for drinks and at around 10pm, most would go to Mezzaluna which was only a few steps away for dinner! I was part of that crowd and we would stop by at least a couple of times a week! Then, Papermoon opened and we would switch up and visit both places before heading to Şamdan to dance the night away! Those were the days!

A very long story short, Mezzaluna closed at its old spot a few years ago because of landlord issues - of course, everyone was very sad because the food, crowd, etc. were always above par! Although it was very big (two floors), it was usually very difficult getting a table...

Mezzaluna didn't go away for good obviously.. they have branches around the city and a few years ago also opened a Mezzaluna Express at Kanyon and recently at Buyaka Shopping Mall on the Asian side of the city. Mezzaluna also has branches in Ankara and Izmir too. 

Then... Mezzaluna moved back to Nişantaşı in the latter part of this year and opened on Mim Kemal Öke Street, a street that is now a major rival to Abdi Ipekçi with great restaurants lined up just like it's "sister" street.

Mezzaluna Ristorante
However, "this" Mezzaluna is different than the others... that is it's traditional decor and menu.

Mezzaluna Ristorante
Unfortunately, since I was too busy concentrating on the food, I didn't take more pictures of the venue itself... but like I said, the decor is different and it is only on one floor with indoor and outdoor areas, but definitely much smaller than the "original" space.

So, on November 6th, I attended a tasting of what the chef called his "La Collezione Dello Chef" with a small group of journalists and owner Cihan Bingöl who I've had a chance to meet and know for about 6-7 years now, and it had been a long time since I had seen him, so we had a chance to catch up too.

The "Chef di Cucina" of Mezzaluna is Carmine Antonio Lombardi who is no stranger to Istanbul and someone I met many many years ago when he was the chef at Armani Cafe in Nişantaşı (which has long since moved to IstinyePark).

Chef Lombardi prepared a "small" menu for us which included 3 cold and 4 hot appetizers, 1 main course and 3 (yes 3!!!) desserts! I guess as you might imagine, I rolled out of Mezzaluna that evening although we did share the majority of the dishes!

If I try to list everything we ate, it would just take up too much time and space and get really boring, so I will give highlights and will give you info on my personal favorites. Not all of the dishes were "great" or "fantastic" and if I said anything differently it would be a lie. Also, the purpose of the tasting was to get our opinion on some "new" items that they added to the menu or plan on adding, so we had to be honest!

Below is a sample of my personal favorites...

1) Burrata con verdura grigliate

This is a great starter if you want something light and plan on having pasta or a main course afterwards. The fresh burrata cheese (type of mozzarella) was homemade and delicious and the grilled veggies were cooked just right - al dente and drizzled with quality olive oil.

2) Antipasto sul tagliere

I think this dish pretty much speaks for itself! The quality of the proscuitto, breasola, salami and mozarella was very good... the mini shrimp cocktails were great, the fried sardines and pate complemented the dish too... great for sharing!

As a sidebar.. we were served Gavi 2009 La Scolca (Villa Scolca, Piemonte) with the cold appetizers. I'm "weak" in my knowledge of Italian wines (prefer French, California and Turkish), but did enjoy this crisp white wine (forgot to take a picture of the bottle to share)

3) Conchiglie al pesto di rucola

Conchiglie is a type of shell pasta and if you like arugula and pesto sauce, then you will really enjoy this dish! Just like I did!

4) Gnocchi con cozze e borlotti

I loved this dish! Homemade gnocchi with black mussels from Çanakkale and pinto or borlotti beans...

Side bar... we were served Viognier 2010 (McManis, California) wine (which was quite good with a little more body and finish than the first wine) with the hot appetizers, but as you can see... I opted to drink red wine with this particular dish as it needed an extra "kick"!

5) Ossobuco con risotto alla Milanese

This was our main course and I did enjoy the Veal Shank which was cooked for about 4 hours, but I wasn't crazy about the saffron risotto which was a little too strong as saffron is a strong taste and not for everyone.

Side bar... this dish was served with Barolo 2006 Serralunga d'Alba (Fontana Fredda, Piemonte) which was a very good full bodied red wine with a long finish...although I wasn't crazy abut the design of the label!

6) Ricotta con miele di castagne

Of the three desserts we were offered (pumpkin cheese cake - a little dry; crema caramellata - not crazy about butterscotch pudding), this was my favorite as it was very light and I do love ricotta cheese and this was homemade buffalo milk ricotta cheese accompained with chestnut honey and usually served with fresh strawberries, but I'm allergic, so mine was served plain!

Side bar: we were also served a choice of homemade walnut liqueur (Nocinoand Mandarincello (green mandarins) and I preferred the walnut liqueur.

So, we have now come to the conclusion of our meal at Mezzaluna Ristorante! I would like to thank Chef Lombardi for his wonderful dishes and Cihan for inviting us to try different tastes from the Italian kitchen...

Stop by for lunch or dinner if in the neighborhood... you won't be disappointed and Mezzaluna is also known for its brick oven pizzas which are also worth tasting!

Buon appetito!

Mezzaluna Ristorante
Mim Kemal Öke Street No. 21
Tel: (0212) 231 31 42 (only available in Turkish)

Stay well!