Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Dear readers:

Update February 4, 2014: Unfortunately the longstanding Leblon has closed its door as of Feb. 1, 2014. Talented chef and owner Arda Türkmen has another restaurant called Forneria (which I have yet to visit and write about) in Karaköy which he opened last year. There is no word yet whether Leblon will once again be opened in another part of the city.  

This blog post is literally "right off the presses" as they would say!!! I went to Leblon Restaurant today for lunch and decided to write  a quick review of the place before I got bogged down with my projects! I do have TONS of other things to write about too, but this place got me so excited, that I moved Leblon to the top of my list!

I never start my posts with a picture of myself, but I wanted all to first see the contented look on my face instead of opening with a photo of the eatery!

Me with a "contented look"!
First, a little background info on Leblon or 11Leblon before I get down to the nitty gritty! Leblon is located in Asmalımescit and is a stone's throw from Tunel Square at the end of Istiklal Street in Taksim. In fact, it's paralel to Istiklal Street on General Yazgan Street.

Leblon, named after a town in Brazil opened in 2008 and that's when I first went to this restaurant. Officially called 11Leblon, it was so named because "11" was the number on the building before it changed (so typical for numbers to change in Istanbul - as well as street names) and 11Leblon is also the name of a beach in Leblon, Brazil.

Like I mentioned above, the first time I went to Leblon was in 2008 and like most people, I went because the eatery was highy publicized in a very popular Turkish film called "Issız Adam", so out of curiosity Leblon became an instant hit. I remember I had enjoyed being there and I also remember eating grilled salmon which was very good and if I remember correctly, I went with my friend Ayşe Nur.

As I was working full time then and was the General Manager and Editor-in-Chief of the english language guide magazines (The Guide Istanbul, Ankara, Bodrum, etc.), I never had a chance to go again... there were just so many places to go and soooo little time!

Then... I believe it was last year, I started watching a cooking show on CNN Turk called "Arda'nın Mutfağı" (Arda's Kitchen) which I stumbled upon by quite accident because the show was aired in the early afternoon on Saturdays.

Arda Türkmen
Obviously it didn't take me long to realize that Arda Türkmen was the owner and chef at Leblon! In fact, thanks to facebook, it didn't take us long to realize we had a friend in common and became facebook friends last year and ever since then, I have been meaning to profile him on my blog because I think he is a wonderful up and coming chef and creates wonderful dishes in the kitchen!

Long and short of it, time passes by very quickly and because of my crazy schedule and of course Arda's, I still haven't been able to do that, but interestingly, we had a chance to meet "face to face" for the first time in Alaçatı, Çeşme in April when I went there for the Fresh Herbs Festival! So, now my "facebook" friend now had a "real" face for me!!!

After being facebook friends, several months ago, I also finally entered the "tweeter" world! So, I also started following him on tweeter (although he's still not following me!). Until August, after his show ended on CNN Turk for the season, the show moved to a different channel during the summer. Now, he's in the process of negotiating for the fall/winter season and soon his show will be back on the air hopefully.

One of the great things with facebook or tweeter is that you can keep with the news/events in "real time"! On Monday, Arda sent a twit stating that Leblon would begin serving an open buffet lunch starting on Tuesday (yesterday). I immediately sent a twit back to find out if it was going to be available every day and that I would swing by on Wednesday if so as I was going to be in the neighborhood because I thought it was going to be a "one shot" deal, but thank god I was wrong.

So, after the IWI (International Women of Istanbul) Orientation meeting at the Hilton Hotel today, I headed to Leblon... and just as I entered the eatery, Arda was on his way out to attend a meeting, but we had a chance to talk very quickly and said we would set up a time to finally do that profile!

Now... on to the nitty gritty!!

Leblon's "Open Buffet" Lunch spread
Leblon's open buffet lunch is available on weekdays between noon and 3:00pm and includes 12 hot/cold dishes and 2 desserts (the items will change daily). The price for this "all you can eat" spread is only 25 TL/person! Additionally, all beverages (non-alcoholic and alcoholic) are discounted 25% between noon and 5:00pm on weekdays! I call this a "sweet" deal!!!

For those readers who read my post on the Barbare Wines Grape Harvest, know that I am on a diet and have lost around 10 kg with 2 kg to go... but, although I initially had only planned on trying 2-3 of the "lighter" dishes, I said "the hell with it" and pretty much went for it!

I ordered a glass of red wine and started my "mini" feast with baked seabass wrapped in parchment paper...

Baked Sea bass wrapped in parchment paper

The seabass was cooked to perfection! It was lemony, the seasonings were just right and the tomatoes, parsley and onions added just the right "kick" to the dish! So much so, I immediately sent a twit!

Next up and after which I had "inititally" planned on stopping was just a very small serving of squash carpaccio, green beans in olive oil and fava...

It's incredible how you can take such "simple" ingredients and create such appetizing dishes!! Who needs all those extra sauces,etc. Among this threesome, my favorite was the squash carpaccio which was simply flavored with olive oil, lemon and topped with parsley, mint and goat cheese! However, don't think I didn't like the others on the plate...the fava was soft and creamy and the green beans were cooked just right!

As my taste buds were going wild by this point, that's when I said, "go for it Vildan and try at least a few more dishes!" (it didn't take long to convince myself!). I did stay away from the quiche and vegetable graten, but did try the baked macaroni with vegetables, circassian chicken, potato salad and chickpeas prepared with olive oil and tahini...

Circassian chicken (front), chickpeas (right), potato salad, baked macaroni (left back)
Once again, all the dishes were wonderful, except, the baked macaroni was a little too salty for my taste (I hardly eat salt).

Since I was going for it.... I had to go for dessert too! The choices were sour apple crumb cake and espresso creme brûle ...

Sour Apple Crumb Cake

Espresso Creme Brûle
I opted for the creme brûle, although I could have easily eaten the HUGE crumb cake portion the way I was feeling!!! I really enjoyed the creme brule because the filling was soft and creamy and the amount of espresso used was just right. Of course, I had a double espresso with my espresso creme brûle!

I needed have to tell you that I had a very enjoyable and incredible meal at Leblon and rolled out of there with a silly impish grin on my face and was NOT feeling guilty one little bit for all the food I ate, because it was worth it!

Just a couple more points on Leblon before I end this post... the eatery is cozy, I love the brick walls, high ceilings, lighting and excellent music in the background. The staff are very friendly without being "too much" and the waiters are very adept. Leblon also has an extensive a la carte menu which they recently revised for the new season. The dishes served on the open buffet are not on the a la carte menu. 

I'm very happy that I "re-discovered" Leblon after all these years and know that I will stop by more often - especially since I have friends already waiting in line to go with me! I'm still sooo full from lunch, I will just pour myself a nice glass of merlot for dinner and savor my delicious meal some more!

Whether you go for lunch or dinner - I hope you enjoy Leblon as much as I did! Thank you Arda and of course your entire team for doing a wonderful job!

I hope all your meals are enjoyable and shared with good friends and capped with good cheer!

11 Leblon
Tel: (0212) 252 86 36


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