Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What's "UP" in Istanbul/4... an ongoing series

Dear readers,

Welcome to Part 4 of my ongoing series on What's "UP" in Istanbul!

The biggest Whats's "UP" news for readers who don't live in Istanbul is SNOW! For the past week, we have had snow on and off in the city, however, since yesterday, it hasn't stopped snowing!

view from my apartment (today) - the Bosphorus Bridge has disappeared!

A night shot from my apartment - taken last week during a previous snow storm
 It is still snowing quite heavily as I prepare this blog today (Tuesday, January 31) at about 1:45pm local time...

I have pretty much been homebound for the last few days... except for my daily morning and night walks with Luka, my 15 month-old Maltese...

with Luka (yesterday morning)
The little guy loves going out (I probably have something to do with that!) and doesn't care what the weather is like! And... let me tell you, besides the snow, according to news reports - yesterday was the coldest day in Istanbul (the temp was -8 celsius or 17,6 fahrenheit) in the past 33 years! If you want to meet him up close and personal (I always have to give him a plug in each post, otherwise, he get's upset)... visit his blog : http://lollifeofluka.blogspot.com for some fun reading about a Maltese's life in Istanbul!

Although the major roads are pretty clear, it's not fun trekking out in this weather so I prefer to stay warm and snug at home. Just to give you an idea how bad the weather is: some ferryboat services that run along the Bosphorus from the European side to the Asian side (and vice versa) were cancelled; the Municipality of Istanbul added about 350 additional buses and the frequency of the metro was increased; some businesses let their employees go home earlier; and 82 local and 108 international flights were cancelled yesterday!

According to the weather reports... we have a couple more days of heavy snow!



Celebrating their 100th anniversary, Abdi Ibrahim, a major pharmaceutical company, is the sponsor of a "digital" art exhibition titled "Van Gogh Alive".
(from Abdi Ibrahim's website)
The exhibit was organized by combining 40 high-resolution projectors into a multi-projection system where you can view crystal clear images of Van Gogh's artwork created in the last 10 years of his life.

Also over 3,000 of Van Gogh's visuals cover the giant screens, walls, columns, floor and ceiling of the exhibition space.
The exhibition will be on display from February 10 to May 15th at the Antrepo 3, on the waterfront in Tophane/Karaköy (next to the Istanbul Modern Museum) and then the same exhibit will be on display at the Cer Modern Museum in Ankara from October 15 to December 30, 2012.
In cooperation with Pera Film, Argentina Embassy in Ankara, Istanbul Cervantes Institute and INCAA (Argentina Film Board), the Pera Museum will be hosting the "Argentina Cinema and Football" film festival between February 4 and February 29. A total of 5 films - 4 documentary and one fiction will be screened. 
Loving Maradona

FIFA 2010 World Cup
The film titles are: "Loving Maradona" (Feb. 4 - 2:00pm; Feb. 17 - 7:00pm); "Argentina and its Football Factory (Feb. 5 - 2:00pm; Feb. 19 - 4:00pm); "The Road to San Diego" (Feb. 15 - 7:00pm; Feb. 29 - 7:00pm); "World Cup 78: A Parallel Story (Feb. 18 - 2:00pm; Feb. 26 - 2:00pm); "Argentina Football Club" (Feb. 19 - 2:00pm; Feb. 26  - 4:00pm).
All films are in Spanish with Turkish subtitles and they will be screened at the museum's auditorium.

For detailed information and ticket prices: www.peramuzesi.org.tr
A new prospective on "Turkish Delights"...

Turkish delights - called lokum in Turkish are true "delights". They come in a whole host of flavors and are prepared plain, with a variety of nuts or with fruity flavors. Originally, they were prepared with honey and molasses and water and flour were the binding agents. Today, the basic ingredients of the chewy lokum is starch jell and sugar!
photo taken at @ Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir Confectionary on Istiklal Street - Beyoğlu
These scrumptious delights are cubes that come in a variety of sizes (small, medium and large) and you can buy them pre-packaged or from the open display at confectionary shops like Hacı Bekir, which was founded in 1776. In fact, Bekir Efendi invented lokum!
Now... besides the "traditional" lokum, how would you like to taste Turkish Delight Rolls?
Turkish Delight rolls
 Yup... you read correctly... Turkish Delight rolls! They come in a whole host of flavors: orange, lemon and tangerine from the citrus family and cloves, cinnamon and ginger from the spices family.

Each comes in a spiffy handcrafted black box - embroidered with the logo of the restaurant that created them - hold on... I will be disclosing who it is later on!) that can hold up to 27 pieces (260 grams). Each box is filled with 3 black envelopes containing 9 pieces of these delectable delights that are all hand-rolled in a layer of crispy thin phyllo pastry.
Hand rolled Turkish delights in phyllo pastry
The Turkish Delights rolls are all handmade and most importantly, they are prepared with all natural products with no additives or preservatives.
Well... I had a chance to taste these wonderful morsels yesterday (yes... in a snowstorm, my buddies from the fine dining restaurant - who I have known for years!) sent me a box of the orange flavored Turkish Delights rolls!

In all honesty - THEY ARE DELICIOUS... and in fact, I threw another one in my mouth right as I'm writing this!!! It's obvious it's not going to take me long to finish the whole box! Did I mention I'm not a "diet" to gain weight lately and if I don't stop myself... I will turn into something I won't want to look at in the mirror!
So, who are the brains and innovators behind these delectable treats?

Well... a picture is worth a thousand words... and you see the answer in the image above!

You can purchase these delights directly from Changa.. each box is 60 TL and a great gift idea! If you plan on ordering several or more boxes, it might take a couple of days to fill your order. The life of each box of goodies is 30 days from the date stamped on the back of the box. Since, they are very delicate, the treats aren't suitable for sending via mail.
Located in a 100+ year old Art Nouveau historic building on Sıraselviler Street in Taksim, Changa (www.changa-istanbul.com) is a fine dining establishment with an eclectic decor and including some of the most innovative dishes on their menu (changes according to season and there is a tasting menu too)!
The 4-story Changa, which means "mix" in Swahili opened in 1999 and prepares its menu under the consultancy and supervision of renowned New Zealand born and UK based chef Peter Gordon. Only open for dinner, Changa interprets Turkish dishes with Mr. Gordon's highly acclaimed style to create a fusion of flavors!
Changa (from Changa's website)
The restaurant can accommodate up to 90 people and the bar up to 40 patrons. There is also a Private Dining Room which can hold up to 30 guests (minimum of 12).
Changa Bar (from Changa's website)
Changa has won numerous local and international awards and is a real treat! Besides Changa (which is closed during the summer months), their sister eatery muzedechanga (open year round) is located at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Emirgan with indoor and outdoor seating and a superb view of the museum's gardens and Bosphorus. Finally Changa has a catering service too.
muzedechanga (from their website)

muzedechanga (from their website)
For more info, you can visit their website (which includes their menu), but more importantly, treat yourself to a wonderful dinner at Changa or lunch or dinner at muzedechange.. Don't forget to make reservations! (Sıraselviler Caddesi No. 47; Tel: (0212) 251 70 64)

Folks in our neck of the woods are very BIG on olive oil - especially those living in the Marmara, Mediterrean and Aegean regions of Turkey!

There are many many brands of olive oil that you can buy at the supermarket or specialty stores throughout the city.
Laleli is an olive oil brand I "discovered" when they opened a shop in Bebek. We were preparing an article on the neighborhood for The Guide Istanbul (read my bio for details) and Laleli was fairly new to the neighborhood then and we did a photo shoot at this quaint shop. I took the picture below a couple of months ago when I was in Bebek...
I have been purchasing olive oil from Laleli ever since! They have a wide selection of olives oils - in different sizes and flavors. The prices are higher than supermarket brands, but well worth it! Besides olive oil, Laleli also sells olives, soaps, body and hair oils and vinegar.

For detailed informaton on Laleli Olive Oils, I highly recommend that you visit their websie at (www.zeytinim.com). It is chock full of information on the subject and there are also recipes (website is in English and Turkish).

Laleli olive oils are definitey topnotch and besides their shop in bebek, they have a branch in Ankara and their factory is in Balıkesir. Additionally, their products are available at shops (addresses in website) in California (USA), Munich, etc. (Germany), Melingen (Switzerland), Malaysia and Tokyo, Japan.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Lalei for sending me a lovely supply of olive oils, vinegar and organiz olives for New Year's! I've already finished the olives, so I have to make a trip to Laleli in bebek soon to pick up a new supply! (Cevdetpaşa Caddesi No. 46/D Bebek; Tel: (0212) 265 66 17)


New Hair Salon...

I don't know about you, but I'm very finicky when it comes to hairdressers! By "finicky" I'm not just talking about the "look" of the Hair Salon and prices, but also my hairdresser! Suffice to say, I have been going to the same Hair Slon and hairdresser for the last 9 years and won't allow anyone but Metin to color or cut my hair! However, least year - around this time - Metin, once a partner at a Hair Salon in Levent - opened a new shop far far away! I was devastated, but was happy that he would continue catering to a few "steady" customers  like me by coming to a friend's Hair Salon in Levent once a week (Tuesday).

But, I go to a hairdresser three times a week to get a blow dry and I wasn't happy with Metin's friend styling of my hair! Although I have straight hair (with a bit of a wave), it is a pain in the neck to blow dry because it's very fine...

Anway... to make a long story short. I was "rescued" from my dilemma about a month ago when New Look opened - steps from my mom's house in Levent!

Altan Erçetin, the owner of New Look, used to be a hair stylist at Metin's old shop. He has now branched out and opened a lovely and sparkling clean small Hair Salon on Aytar Caddesi in Levent... It is conveniently locaed a few buildings down after you enter the "Etiler" road from Büyükdere Street in Zincirlikuyu and on the right hand side of the street.
New Look Hair Salon

Altan is a very good hair stylist and does a WONDERFUL job in blowing out my hair, so I'm very happy now. And, since his shop is a "neighborhood" Hair Salon, he doesn't charge outrageous prices like some of the "trendy" multi-branch Hair Salons! To be quite frank, I refuse to pay 25 TL or more just to have my hair blown out!

Besides Altan, there is another hair stylist and a manicurist (I had Nilgün do my nails the other day and she is quite good too!). Waxing services are also offered.

So, if you are in the market for a medium priced Hair Salon in Levent, I recommend that you try New Look! The staff do not speak English, but they use "google translator" to assist them! (Aytar Caddesi No. 12/B, 1. Levent; Tel: (0212) 280 19 79)

  •  According to information released by TÜIK (Turkish Statistical Institute), as of the end of 2011, the population of Turkey increased by 1.35% and is now 74,724,269. 50.2% of the population is men and 49.8% is women. The population in 56 provinces increased, and decreased in 25 provinces. Just to give you some numbers by province, the population of Istanbul is 13,624,240; Ankara 4,890,893; and Izmir 3,965,232.
  • The number of tourists visiting Turkey is also on the rise. According to a report released recently by the Ministry of Tourism, approximately 31.5 million people visited Turkey in 2011 - up from 28.6 million in 2010 (up by 9.8%). If we look at it by country, the top 3 are from France (up 22.84%) at 1,140 million (vs 928,000 in 2010); the USA (up 17.79%) at 757,000 (vs 642,000 in 2010) and Holland (up 13.96%) at 1,222,000 (up from 1,073,000 in 2010).
I started writing this at around 1:45pm and it is now 7:15pm! I did take a couple of breaks to have a late lunch, talk on the phone and walk Luka and also put out some food for the stray dogs and cats living on the streets who are having a difficult time finding food due to the heavy snowfall.

I just looked out the window and the snow has subsided for now, but I'm sure it will start up again soon.

And... if you are enjoying reading my blog posts, why not sign up to receive email notifications (top right hand corner on blog main page). This way, you won't miss a post!

Good night!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

ISTANBUL RESTAURANTS: My personal "pet peeves"...

Dear readers,

I have been basically "homebound" for the last few days for a couple of reasons. First, I am a bit under the weather. I'm not really sick, but it's like I'm getting sick, but not quite there. Also, the weather! It has been snowing on and off in Istanbul for the last few days and more on/off snow is expected during the next few days too! So, it's not fun going out in this weather when you live in a city built on 7 hills! The housing complex I live in is off the main street - both hilly and in bad weather cars slip and slide all over the place! But, I am still "out" everyday because of my little pup Luka... he's a 15 month old Maltese and he doesn't care what the weather is like and wants to go out for his routine morning and evening walks! (If you want to meet Luka, visit his blog at http://lollifeofluka.blogspot.com - you won't be disappointed!)

I do like living in a city with 4 seasons, but I think I've had enough of winter and can't wait until the Spring!

The weather has definitely affected my social life and I haven't gone out to a restaurant, cafe, etc. for about a couple of weeks now, but don't fret, this will change very shortly! I've started to develop cabin fever and I will be throwing myself out there!

In the meantime, I wanted to prepare a post on some of my personal pet peeves at Istanbul restaurants.

Now, before this post turns into a major problem for me I want to make it very clear that I'm NOT picking on Istanbul restaurants! But, because I live in Istanbul I can only talk about restaurants in my hometown because of the frequency I visit them. Sure, I do travel to Europe several times a year and did live in NYC for 30 years so I do have a fairly good knowledge of restaurants there too. AND... very importantly, the "pet peeves" I'm listing here can happen at any eatery in ANY city around the world!

When I review my stats I notice that I have readers from all continents and most of the major cities  - THANK YOU!!! I'm sure that some of the pet peeves I list here are also yours or maybe not! Also, you might have some that I don't have...

Let's have some fun with this post - I will definitely NOT mention any particular eatery and point them out because that's against my nature and my style of writing! I love going out and I know that the majority of the restauranteurs are very very serious and do want to make sure you enjoy a day/night out at their establishments. But, let's admit it, problems do occur from time to time and this has to be discussed and addressed too!

So, here goes and please feel free to share some of your personal pet peeves with me so that we can make this an interactive post!

This list is not prepared in any particular order of importance...

1. Paying for coat check...

(istock photos)
When we go to restaurants in the winter of course we are wearing a coat, jacket, etc. Since it doesn't look cool to hang our coat behind our seat at a restaurant or cafe, we check our coats at the eatery's cloak room . Why do I have to pay a tip to the coat check attendant? Most eateries will tell you that they personally do not manage the coat check - why? Personally, I don't think this is my problem! I think this is should be a complementary service offered to diners. Also, most coat check attendants expect a tip of at LEAST 5 TL/coat! I frequently travel to Paris and don't ever remember paying the cloak room attendant at any restaurant - including a Michelin star one!

2. Dirty ashtray or one that doesn't come back...

(istock photos)
When you dine outdoors at eateries in Istanbul, you are allowed to smoke... Although I'm not very proud to say I'm a smoker - I am! But, what bothers me is that at some establishments, the ashtray could be overflowing with butts and a waiter will pass by your table many times without changing the ashtray! On the other hand, at other places, they take your ashtray almost after every butt, but forget to bring it back and you have to ask them for another one!

3. Unfinished beverages...

Some waiters at restaurants are a bit over zealous and take your soda, wine, drink, etc. before you're finished drinking it! There might be a few sips left in your glass and wham... turn your head away for a second or be in deep conversation and before you know it... you reach for your glass and it's not there! Dear waiter/waitress friend... please don't take my glass before I'm done - or at least ask me before you do it to see if its okay! Thank you! 

4. Plates not being cleared away...

(istock photos)
While some waiters are over zealous (see comment 3), others can be inattentive! When I'm finished eating, I want my plate cleared away even if the others I'm dining with aren't done eating. I hate having to stare at a dirty plate for more than 10 minutes after I'm finished eating...

5. Table not being wiped properly...
(istock photos)
This is a very common occurrence that I run across at cafes versus restaurants. During busy times, after a customer gets up from a table, another one is sitting down. During this "exchange", a waiter or busboy will come and clean the table with a wet cloth - or at least should be doing this! One time, a waiter "cleaned" my table with the menu he was holding. Other times, a dry cloth was used to clean a table with crumbs and wet spots (that can smeared over the entire table) and on other occassions, a wet cloth was used, but the table partially cleaned!

6) Unsuitably garbed and/or "smelly" wait staff...
(istock photos)
Although the majority of eateries in town have a "set" dress code (whether they supply the waiters with them or the waiters have to purchase the attire themselves), I don't like to see waiters with wrinkled shirts, pants that are too long and bangy and inappropriate or old and scuffed shoes! It just an eye sore!

Ok, I can stand this problem to a point, but what I can't put up with is a waiter/waitress that has body odor! He/she might have a perspiration problem, but I personally think that the more "basic" problem is that they don't wash their uniform (or shower) frequently and also don't use deodorant! A little remainer to our waiter/waitress friends... you can't coverup bad odor with perfume or cologne - it makes the problem even worse!

7. Un-informed wait staff...

A fairly large number of restaurants and cafes have a "soup of the day" and/or special(s) of the day... It bothers me when I ask what they are and the waiter says, "let me find out and let you know!" He/she should already know what they are!

8. Menus that don't tell the "whole story" and bad translations...

(istock photos)
You can run into these problems even at the best fine dining restaurants in town. What I mean by the "whole story" is that the menu might not include whether the dish is "grilled, pan-fried, etc."; what dressing is used for a salad... or how the "sides" are prepared (in butter, sauteed, grilled, etc.).

Bad translations and misspelled words drive me crazy even more! Some of my favorite "bad" translations include calling Filet of Sole "Language" fish because in Turkish it is called "dil balığı" which means "language" and "tongue" in English. Or Monk fish is called "Lantern" fish because it is called "fener balığı" in Turkish and fener means lantern in English. The list can go on... but my last favorite is "lamb's ear salad" or "Kuzu kulağı" in Turkish which is a leafy lettuce called sorrel in English!

9. Sending back food... or not finishing your plate...

I think this is a culture thing... Turks are not really very good with controversy! Although not very common, you could have gotten a dish that just doesn't taste right - it just tastes off! You have two options here: 1) don't say anything and just not eat it; 2) tell the waiter and have him take it back.

In either example, 9 times out of 10 - 1) the waiter won't even ask you why left almost your entire meal on your plate; 2) you won't get an apology or even an "I'm sorry, you're right - there was a problem with your meal". Forget about getting an apology or compensation (i.e. a complementary drink, beverage, etc.) you're lucky if they remove the meal from your bill!

10.Limited wine list/by the glass/prices...

(istock photos)
I love wine! And... when I go to a restaurant or cafe, usually the first thing I ask for is the wine list! I want to see what they are offering by the bottle or by the glass. Most of the time, I'm disappointed! The selections are sooooo limited. Sometimes, you will find wines by only one local distributor with a few international brands. Sure, taxes on alcoholic beverages are high in Turkey, but I still think restauranteurs bump up their prices a little too much. I don't want to pay over 100 TL for a "basic" wine that I can get at the supermarket for 25-30 TL!

Wines by the glass are also limited - sometimes to just a choice of 2 to 3 white and red wines... again on the lower end of the spectrum - but the prices at the high end! Some establishments can charge as high as 25 TL for a "mid-priced" wine! I prefer to go to ones that charge between 15-17 TL! I can live with this amount!

11. Handwritten bills...

Yup, there are still establishments out there that still don't have computerized bills! This is fairly common at fish restaurants. The waiter will bring you a bill that is folded with the total price written on the folded side. Most Turks won't even open the bill! I guess they know better. Because... when you do, all you see is a bunch of chicken scratch in the detail column (similar to a physician's prescription order that only the pharmacist can understand!), a bunch of xxx's to indicate the quantity ordered ... illegible amounts written next to the xxx's... IF you complain and ask the waiter for details, he too is at a loss to try to explain it to you!!

12. Specials not listed on menu...

This is possible... I don't have a major problem with this because they can change daily and the establishment can decide to have the waiter just tell you what they are because it's only a few items.

Don't make the mistake I did a couple of times when I ordered the "special of the day" in this type of situation if you don't want a major shock when the bill comes... ASK the waiter to tell you the price of the specials!

Turks are usually embarrassed to ask the prices (especially a man and he's out on a date or with a bunch of women friends), so I think the "right" thing would be for the waiter to tell you the prices without being asked - just like they do in restaurants in NYC!

13. Ridiculous prices for a bottle of water...

If you think I'm kidding when I say "ridiculous" prices for a bottle of water, I'm not! One time I went to a mid-priced restaurant and we were charged 8 TL for a 1,5 litre of water!!! Normally, the same bottle of water is sold at supermarkets for under 1 TL retail price (so then imagine how much the restaurant pays for it!). So, before you order that bottle of water, make sure you find out the price!

14. Crazy bathroom signs...

(istock photos)
This is another one that drives me nuts! There have been many many times I have gone to the bathroom at a restaurant or cafe and stood in front of the doors totally puzzled as to which one is the ladies room!!! I don't understand why establishments feel that they have to test our IQ to perform a humanly function! Do you see the sign above? This tells the story perfectly and all I need!

One of my next projects is going to be taking pictures of these "interesting" bathroom signs for another post...

15. Potpourri...

These pet peeves don't deserve a heading of their own, but I wanted to include them too...

a) asking for a particular brand of wine by the glass and being served something different... AND having the waiter tell you that you're wrong, but once you insist that a mistake has been made, you turn out to be right. It's not right to assume that the customer doesn't know the difference...

b) If I'm a steady customer at a cafe or restaurant, I get really upset when they remove my favorite dish(es) from the menu - especially when it's not because of a "seasonal" issue!

c) some menus are HUGE! I'm not talking about the number of selections... just the size itself! The menu weighs about 1 kilo and is full of pictures to "jazz" up the menu! I don't need to look at a whole bunch of "designer" and "photoshopped" photos!

c) not being served what the menu says. For example, if the dish includes "jumbo shrimp", don't serve me baby shrimp! The waiter's "excuse" was that they ran out of jumbo shrimp to include in the salad! That's possible, BUT either tell the customer and let him decide if he still wants to order the dish OR don't serve the dish at all!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kanyon Shopping Mall: My Favorite Haunts!

Dear readers,

Just when I was thinking about writing this article, I started thinking about other major cities around the world like New York, London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Barcelona... and I realized that Istanbul is the ONLY major cosmopolitan city among them with tons (I know I'm exaggerating) of shopping malls right in the center of town and not just the outskirts!

I haven't checked the stats on this, but Istanbul is also probably the most populated city (over 13 million residents) among all of them, but this still doesn't explain how and why all of these shopping malls mushroomed up around the city! When it comes to per capita spending, we are probably at the bottom of the list among the cities I mentioned above.

So, apparently there is still a demand, otherwise all of these malls wouldn't have been able to open, let alone survive!

I don't know the exact number of malls there are in the city, but I know that new ones are constantly opening up.

Just to give you a little example... I live in Levent and in my neighborhood to which I'm going to include the surrounding neighborhoods Mecidiyeköy, Gayrettepe, Esentepe and Etiler which is probably about a 5-6 km radius, there are (1) Profilo (Mecidiyeköy); (2) Astoria (Gayrettepe); (3) Akmerkez (Etiler); (4) Metrocity (Levent); (5) Kanyon and (6) Sapphire (Levent) shopping malls! And... either by the end of this year or during the 1st quarter of 2013, a new posh mall will be opening with the opening of Zorlu Center in Levazım/Levent (residences, offices, hotel, etc.)! Incredible... that's all I can say! Each one of these malls are quite big with over hundreds of retailers and countless eateries!

I'm not really a "mall" person because I tend to get a little claustrophic in very large and enclosed places after a while... Of course, I visit some of the ones mentioned above when I need to purchase a particular item.

However... if I had to select my "favorite" mall it would have to be Kanyon... simply because I don't see or view it as "just a shopping mall"!

Kanyon Shopping Mall main entrance on Büyükdere Street
In my opinion, Kanyon's biggest selling point is the fact that it is not enclosed! Sure, it can get brutally cold and windy during the winter, but, if like me, you like to shop outdoors, then you won't mind so much! I particularly like to walk around Kanyon when it's snowing, but not so much when it's very windy!

Kanyon (www.kanyon.com.tr) opened in May 2006 and while I worked at The Guide Magazines, our offices were in our company's own building one block away and parallel to Kanyon, so we were able to watch and see the progress of the construction from the very beginning. In fact, a couple of months before its opening, we did an article on the mall and visited the construction site to interview the General Manager (who has since changed). We had to use our imagination a little bit as we walked around, but I could see it was going to be a very nice architectural structure.

However, just when it opened, our offices temporarily moved to Balmumcu for a couple of years while our building was first demolished and its place a 23 story skyscraper was constructed. After we moved back to our "new" building, I can say that I visited Kanyon almost every day - for lunch or after work (and even on the weekends)! So, I have been pretty much a "regular" customer since 2006, albeit less frequently the first couple of years.

So, why do I go so often? I'm definitely not a shopaholic! I'm not one of those individuals that is lured to every retailer - even when there are sales. I shop for clothing, shoes, etc. very infrequently (but do have a fairly large wardrobe which takes up one room of my apartment) because I don't just buy for the season. I prefer more classical pieces which I can mix match and wear for years.

I go to Kanyon to purchase basic essentials, to have a meal or go to the movies. The following are some of my major haunts. To make it easy, I'm going to start from the top floor and work myself down...

The top floor or K1 level is our first stop. I always make sure to stop by D&R.

D&R Books and Records carries a vast selection of Turkish and foreign publications (books, magazines, newspapers), DVDs, music CDs, stationery and more. I always find something to buy!

The majority of the eateries at Kanyon are located on this floor - from the fast food to the fine dining. I have eaten at some of the places here, but can't say I go to them very often... but if I want to have a "special" or business lunch, I would prefer Gina.

Gina Ristorante
An Italian eatery, Gina is an elegantly decorated white tablecloth restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. It is expensive, the food is good and a nice place for a business or a special leisurely "ladies" lunch.

When I get a chance to go to the movies, I also prefer going to the Cinebonus Movie Theatre, also on the K1 Level. The 2-story movie theatre has 9 screening rooms and spacious lounges on both levels.

The other eateries I like on the K1 level are Mezzaluna Express for their pizza and Sushico/Chinese in Town for their sushi.


The floor right below K1 or the "main" entrance level is the G Level. I usually stop by Le Pain Quotidien for a quick bite or from time to time to take out.

Le Pain Quotidien

Everything at Le Pain Quotidien is organic and natural. They also have many other products for takeout too - from sea salt (see above) to sauces, condiments and heavenly breads, muffins, croissant and tarts.

Another one of my haunts on the G Level is L'Occitane en Provence. I like the company's hand and feet creams and their shower jells. Although, more expensive than some other products, they are worth it!

Another place I stop by from time to time is Habitat which has a vast variety of selections for the home and opened at Kanyon last year.

Habitat on G Level

The B1 level is probably the floor I visit the least! Since this floor mainly has retailers, shoes/bags and accessories stores, it doesn't fall into my category of shopping needs as I mentioned above in my intro. However, if I was looking for clothing for myself, I would stop by Banana Republic and if I wanted to pick up some clothing for my nephew, I would stop by Gap.

The B2 or ground level of the 4-story Kanyon is the floor I probably spend the most time!

Almost every or every other trip I make to Kanyon, I stop by Kitchenette for lunch, snacks or beverages  - I guess you can say this is my favorite eatery at the mall!


Decorated to resemble a typical French brasserie, at Kitchenette you can order everything from breakfast treats, eggs and pancakes to appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches and main courses to "light" meals to delectable desserts - all modestly priced!  

A trip to Kanyon would be incomplete without a stop at Macrocenter. A couple of months ago, the gourmet supermarket was totally redesigned. I actually liked the old floor plan better and I believe the new space is smaller, but don't know for sure. Prices are usually a little higher, but the quality of their fruits, vegetables and meats along with the selections offered are better!

With its new revampled look, Macrocenter also added a "snack bar"...

Macrocenter Snack Bar
At Macro's Snack Bar, you can pick up pre-packaged soups (just need to heat up), sandwiches, salads, sushi... to take home (which I did) or back to the office. The quality is very good and the prices modest.

When I need to pick up "every day" glassware, etc. for the kitchen, I head to Paşabahçe...

Besides carrying a wide selection of modestly prices wine, tea and water glasses, vases, bowls, mugs, trays, candles, etc., more expensive and top quality designer products are also available. The other day I picked up a simple ashtray which only cost 3 TL!

One of my fetishes is scarves! I love to wear them year round and have quite a selection, but I can never get enough!

As far as I'm concerned Yargıcı Accessories has the widest selection of scarves - in all sizes, shapes and fabrics!

Last week when I went to Kanyon, there was a sale at Yargıcı Accessories, so I picked up two more scarves to add to my already very big collection! At 30% off their regular prices, I couldn't say no! Yargıcı also sells a nice selection of casual wear, accessories, shoes and bags.

Besides D&R, I also go to Remzi Kitabevi - especially if I am looking to buy English language books... they display the foreign language books much better than at D&R, so they are much more accessible and easy to find.

A new addition to my list of haunts at Kanyon and also on the B2 level is Chakra.

I "discovered" Chakra last summer and purchased a lovely cotton bathrobe from them. I visited the shop recently and all of their linens, soaps, towels, house fragances, etc. were on sale. I suggest you take at look at their products too!

Besides the 4 main levels of Kanyon, there are several shops scattered on two floors of the parking levels too.

The shops I visit on this floor include Notebook on B3 for all sorts of stationery; Pet Box on B4 to buy goodies and clothings for Luka, my 15 month old Maltese and the Tailor also on B4 to have alterations done.


Open daily from 10:00am to 10:00pm, Kanyon shopping mall has a total of 160 shops and eateries with a 9 screen movie theatre and state of the art Fitness Center. It is also home to Harvey Nichols, Max Mara, Vakko, Mango, Bally among the major retailers to so much more. It also has a car park with a capacity for 2,300 vehicles. You can visit their website for more detailed information: www.kanyon.com.tr

Happy shopping!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vogue Restaurant & Bar: The "backdrop" for a lovely lunch with an old friend...

Dear readers,

This post is literally hot off the presses! Just a few short hours ago, I was having a lovely lunch with Dr. Esin Atıl - an old friend!
Dr. Esin Atıl (left) and me (right) - Vogue Restaurant & Bar
The "backdrop" for our get together after years was Vogue Restaurant & Bar another one of the Istanbul Doors Group restaurants (Anjelique, Zuma, Gina, Da Mario, Masa, Kitchenette, Carlotta, C'a'doro, etc.).

The reason I say "years" is that Esin lives in the USA and this is the first time she has been back to Istanbul in years! I met Esin in November 1999. At that time, I was in my first year as the Manager (and then Director) of Advertising & PR at the now closed Koçbank (merged with Yapı Kredi Bank in mid 2000s).

Esin Atıl is a distinguished historian of Islamic and Turkish Art. For about 25 years she was the curator of Islamic Art at the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute (now retired). She has written many books and among them are The Age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent; Turkish Art of the Ottoman Period; Ceramics for the World of Islam among many many others (most are available via www.amazon.com and www.amazon.co.uk).

Before I started working at Koçbank, an agreement was made whereby Esin's book titled Levni and the Surname: The Story of an Eighteenth Century Ottoman Festival (available separately in English and Turkish) was commissioned and sponsored by Koçbank.

Levni and the Surname
The book was launched in November 1999 with a party at the Sadberk Hanım Museum (owned by the Vehbi Koç Foundation, a subsidiary of Koç Holding). I met Esin at the party and we immediately became fast friends and have kept in touch ever since. In fact, while I was at The Guide Istanbul, she wrote a series of articles on some of the Ottoman Sultan wives as well as other articles.

Esin arrived in Istanbul about 2 weeks ago to speak at a seminar at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Emirgan and as a result decided to hang around for a couple of weeks to catch up with old friends and I'm proud that she includes me in her small inner circle! We spoke the night she arrived and made plans to get together for lunch today (January 17). 

Initially we were planning on going somewhere else, but when we spoke last night, she told me she preferred to go to a place "with a view". I understand her totally because when I used to live in the US and visited Istanbul on vacation, I always preferred restaurant on the Bosphorus or with a view of the Bosphorus!

We had our first major snow storm in Istanbul yesterday (although we did get a dusting over the weekend on Saturday).

Snow in Istanbul (January 17) view from Levazım/Levent (with Bosphorus Bridge in background)
In a matter of a few short hours, the entire city had turned into a winter wonderland! Actually, it wasn't much of a wonderland for commuters as the snow started at 3:30pm and it took people hours to travel the shortest of distances. A very typical occurrence in Istanbul which normally has a major traffic problem... add snow, ice... well, you can guess the rest!

Esin is staying at a hotel in Nişantaşı, so she wanted to go somewhere nearby otherwise I did have a couple of other ideas ... so I suggested Vogue because not only does Vogue have a wonderful panoramic view of the Bosphorus, the food and service is very good too!

Vogue is located in an area called Akaretler on Akaretler Row (Suleyman Seba Street)...
View of Akaretler Row (Suleyman Seba Street) from Vogue - the building in the center is the W Hotel
At the bottom of this hill is a neighborhood called Beşiktaş and at the top of the hill, when you hang a right, you will find yourself first in Maçka and then Teşvikiye and Nişantaşı.

Vogue itself is located on the top floor of Block A at the BJK Plaza half way up the hill on the right hand side... it has been open for about 14 years and I was at their opening party and then again when they celebrated their 10th anniversary and then again when the decor was totally revamped a couple of years ago. Of course, I have been to Vogue umpteeth times in between - for lunch, dinner and drinks!



Vogue Bar
The interior of Vogue is spacious, elegantly decorated and airy with floor to ceiling windows all around... Additionally, there are two terraces open during milder weather, but one (the smaller side terrace) is open now for smokers (like me!)
Vogue (small terrace with view of the Bosphorus Bridge)
The menu at Vogue includes a vast selection of Mediterranean and International cuisine and there is also a sushi/sashimi bar. As can be expected, the prices aren't exactly cheap - but look where you are! Again, depending on what you order, it can cost you a pretty penny (especially if you order seafood like lobster, prawns, etc.)! 

However, especially at lunch, Vogue has a separate lunch menu with about 10-15 items priced between 21 TL and 44 TL.

We opted to order from the lunch menu as the selections were quite satisfying and munched on mini rolls and herbed olive oil while we waited...

 After all that snow we had yesterday, today was a glorious sunny day (yet very very cold) and I was able to take some wonderful pictures while I "indulged" (well.. unfortunately smoking is an indulgence for me - not proud of it, but at least I'm honest!)on the terrace...
view from Vogue

view from Vogue
view from Vogue
From the main terrace in the front of the restaurant (we were sitting in front of it), you also get a view of the Maiden's Tower and old part of the city, however I wasn't able to go out onto the terrace to take pictures.

Then... our food arrived! Esin ordered Kayseri Mantı (mantı is prepared in a variety of ways.. the ones from the city of Kayseri are itsy bitsy ravioli stuffed with meat served with plain yogurt and tomato sauce) and I ordered Köfte (Turkish version of grilled meatballs)...

Köfte on a bed of oven baked potatoes

Kayseri Mantı
As you can see from the above, the portions were quite adequate and both were good.

We had a lovely afternoon at Vogue with Esin! We were lucky that it was a sunny day and we had a picture perfect view of the Bosphorus. That's one of the other great things about Vogue - there are no obstructions to block your view while sitting). The food was good and the service very efficient. There wasn't any loud music playing in the background (I can't promise the same during dinner), so we were able to have a conversation without having to scream at each other to be heard!

So, if you have a guest visiting Istanbul, you yourself are visiting Istanbul... or you live in Istanbul and want to have a nice, relaxing and elegant lunch... Vogue is definitely a good bet!

I also highly recommend that you make reservations for lunch or dinner.Vogue is open daily from noon to 2:00am and Sunday Brunch is served between 10:30am and 4:00pm. (Tel: (0212) 227 44 04; www.istanbuldoors.com)

Bon appetit!

The macchiato was excellent - wish I had ordered a double!