Monday, December 23, 2013

Frankie Istanbul: First Class "One Stop" for Wining/Dining and Live Music!

Dear readers,

Unfortunately, the major part of this month has been a blur for me! Tis' the season and month for holiday cheer, but it is also the time for colds and flu and I have been battling a cold that just doesn't want to go away since December 8th. In fact, Luka, my adorable 3 year-old Maltese also got a bad cold/flu and now is on antibiotics for the next two more days!

Just as I was lying on my couch, sniffling/sneezing and feeling downright sorry for myself, I received a call from my upstairs neighbor a couple of weeks ago asking for advice on where to go for an "early" New Year's dinner with a few of her friends and with "no reservations" (sorry Anthony B. - stole your line!) I immediately thought of Frankie Istanbul! 

Now, if you are wondering how Frankie Istanbul just "popped" into my head,I was fortunate enough to have been invited to an intimate "tasting" dinner (just four of us) on Thursday, December 5th so the "experience" was still very fresh in my memory!

Like I said in my heading, Frankie Istanbul is truly a first class "one stop" venue for wining/dining and live music. To cut to the chase: Frankie is sophisticated and chic with great food, service and ambiance. Normally when you visit places wearing a few "hats", something always suffers - but not at Frankie! The terrace lounge is spacious, dimly lit, cozy and a place where you can have all sorts of wines,cocktails, etc. with excellent bar food (or just pre-dinner drinks) from its perch high atop the boutique Sofa Hotel in trendy and chic Nişantaşı on Teşvikiye Street right across the street from City's Nişantaşı shopping mall... 
Beef Satay (left), Falafel & Bulgur Sheathed Meat Balls (mini içli Köfte) right
Or, if you prefer, you can also hang out at their spacious indoor bar...(especially on evenings when there is live music)

Frankie Istanbul (indoor bar)
Just to backtrack a bit before I continue... 

Frankie Istanbul opened in April 2012 and before my latest visit, I was there to celebrate my sister's birthday in May 2012! So, as you can see it has been quite a while since I had a chance to make a return visit (although I loved it!) for all sorts of reasons (all personal of course!) until very recently. I received a call from Frankie's PR firm and they invited me to try out some of the goodies on their updated menu for the season: Frankie's menu changes a few times a year according to availability of seasonal ingredients. 

So, after a long absence I had an opportunity to enjoy a lovely dinner and evening with Ayşem Saraçoğlu (partners with Kaya Demirer at Frankie Istanbul and Kaya is also the Turkish partner of Jamie's Italian), Serdar Kombe, Frankie's highly gifted and knowledgeable sommelier and İlknur Selimoğlu, their PR rep from Kiraz PR Company... The other great thing is that I know Ayşem and Serdar for years and much before their Frankie Istanbul days from the other Istanbul venues they were affiliated with... the same goes for İlknur who I met via Kiraz PR and some of the other clients she handles for her company.   

We started out with some bar snacks and prosecco at the terrace lounge and I absolutely loved the bar snacks Serdar selected for me to try, but there are others like "Mini Beef Burgers", "Almond Crusted Shrimp", "Homemade Crab Cakes", "Beef Cold Cut Platter", "Cheese Platter", etc and prices range in price from 28 TL to 52 TL.

We moved over to our table for dinner at around 8:30pm and the place was beginning to fill up pretty quickly by this time and I noticed that the majority of the diners were the 30+ crowd and a mix of Turkish and international clientele. 

Frankie Istanbul

Frankie Istanbul
Frankie Istanbul has two beautifully decorated dining areas with the bar and live music stage in the center and can seat up to 120 diners.

One of the great things about being invited to a "tasting" is that you get a chance to try a lot more dishes than you would normally get a chance too in one seating!

So, I left the selection of the starters to my hosts and selected by main course, which I naturally had a difficult time finishing.

Our fine dining meal started with an amuse-bouche (little complementary starter given at fine dining restaurants): "Chardonnay wine leaves soup with rice dolma and yogurt mousse", which was absolutely incredible. A full portion of this soup is available on the menu.

Chardonnay wine leaves soup with rice dolma and yogurt mousse
  Next up... our starters:

One of the things that impressed me so much about the dishes that were selected was that everything was so "fresh", "light", with just the right amount of spices and herbs. Also, the the portions were just right... We had "Crispy Prawn Salad" (with quinoa, edamame, tomato and spicy aioli); "Burrata" (on a bed of tomato salsa and topped with arugula); "Artichoke & Goat Cheese Gratin"; "Crab Salad" and "Risotto" (with octopus and peas). A few of the appetizers above are not on the menu, so you should definitely ask to find out what the "daily specials" are.

I opted to have the "Steak Tartar" (with foie gras butter, crispy potatoes and arugula salad) as this is a dish I rarely find at restaurants in Istanbul. I really enjoy finding a "good" Steak Tartar in Istanbul and I definitely was not disappointed!

On the other hand, my dinner companions had "Lamb Tenderloin" (with aubergine puree, zahter-tomatoes and yogurt sauce); "Grilled Beef Tenderloin" (with baby vegetables, crunch truffle-potato cake & mushroom sauce); and "Hake"(with fresh herb lettuce 'dolma', tobiko, wakame and fennel-mastic sauce)...

Of course, I have to mention the excellent Turkish wines that Serdar selected that were great pairings for our starters and main courses!

At this point, I would also like to mention that Frankie Istanbul has a very wide selection of excellent Turkish and International wines normally not served by the glass at other venues and an even bigger selection of wines by the bottle! 

The buzz in the air and the crowd at Frankie Istanbul had steadily risen as we were having dinner and the lounge terrace, dining areas and bar area were full of diners and music lovers as it was nearly time for the live music to begin!

Frankie Istanbul has live music 3 times a week (Tuesday-Thursday) and we were treated to the lovely tunes (English and Turkish) sung by Evrim Özkaynak... Also, on the 2nd Sunday of each month, a prominent and established Turkish singer takes center stage at Frankie Istanbul. On all other evenings there are DJ performances with guest DJs performing from time to time.

Evrim Özkaynak (left) at Frankie Istanbul
The live music performances start at around 10-10:30pm and end at around 1:00am. İlknur and I moved over to the seating in front of the stage to have our coffee and dessert while Ayşem and Serdar went "back to work"! I was so full and really didn't have room for anything else, but I'm so glad that İlknur ordered an absolutely fantastic dessert for me to try which I highly recommend to everyone!
Pistachio-Yogurt Cheesecake topped with crunchy pumpkin
I cannot begin to explain how light, fluffy and delicious this dessert was and I believe I finished the whole thing on an incredibly full stomach!

Evrim has great stage presence with a wonderful voice. She is a favorite at Frankie's and performs every Thursday night. Also, there is a music charge to sit at the tables in front of the stage... 

What can I say? I had a lovely lovely evening with great food, friends, music and cheer and left with a big smile on my face knowing I would not be waiting another year to go back to Frankie's! 

Once again, many thanks to Ayşem for inviting me and Serdar for the selection of wonderful wines!

Ayşem Saraçoğlu, Serdar Kombe & me (left to right)
I highly suggest you make reservations for dinner and if you live in Istanbul, sign up for their e-Newsletter so that you can get weekly info on the live music performances and more!

Frankie Istanbul
Teşvikiye Caddesi No. 41-41/A Nişantaşı, Istanbul
Tel: +90 (212) 230 66 66

Just a final note: I can't end this post without saying a few words about Frankie Istanbul's highly talented Executive Chef! The 33 year-old Symeon Triantafyllou has been at Frankie's from the beginning and was born in Greece. He began his journey into the culinary world in 1999 and worked at numerous restaurants in Greece (mainly Athens and Mykonos) and Barcelona Spain in different capacities honing his trade before moving to Istanbul and Frankie's in 2012. He received a degree in Administration and Economy of Tourism at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens in 2003 and attended numerous seminars and cooking courses in Athens and Barcelona. He is fluent in Greek, Turkish, Italian, Spanish and Catalan with basic knowledge of French and Turkish. Besides everything else... he is a very inspirational chef with very good technical skills!  

Stay well,

Friday, December 6, 2013

Morini Istanbul: Newcomer to Istanbul at Zorlu Center

Dear readers,

I don't know about you, but until a couple of months ago, I never would have thought that I would go to a shopping mall for the sole purpose of dining out! Sure, I would usually have a meal when I went to a mall, but it was never my sole purpose.

My attitude changed with the opening of Zorlu Center, which to my utter delight  is a mere 4-5 minute walk from my apartment! Somewhat similar to Kanyon (the totally 'open' air mall in Levent), all the restaurants (fast food eateries on the lower level enclosed area) are located on the 'outdoor' section of Zorlu and are surrounded by the poshest shops (Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Dior, Stella McCartney and so on) and run the gambit from "casual/family style (Jamie's Italian), comfort food (Tom's Kitchen), and fine-dining (Morini Istanbul, Parle) to meats and kebabs (Günaydın Steakhouse, Köşebaşı) and seafood (Balıkev) to Chinese (Dragon - to open soon) and a combo gourmet market/multi-eateries (Eataly - to open 2nd week of December), not to mention a "still secret" totally new concept restaurant that will open in January by the owner of the ever-popular Lucca in Bebek. So, now do you see why I changed my attitude?   

Zorlu "officially" opened on October 10, 2013, however there are still a few restaurants and some retailers (i.e. Apple Store) that have yet to open up shop, but I can say that the majority of retailers and restaurants are now open. 

On the opening day, I went to have a meal that the first and only restaurant open on opening day - Morini Istanbul!

Morini Istanbul is located at Beymen Department Store with indoor and outdoor dining areas. Compared to the other restaurants at Zorlu, Morini is smaller. The indoor area is smartly designed (couldn't take pics as I didn't want to bother diners) and the outdoor area is a bit more casual.

Just some background.... Osteria Morini opened in NYC in 2010 and is part of the Altamarea Group with the highly talented, award winning mid-western chef Michael White at the helm... His current Turkish partners were so impressed with his cuisine that they persuaded Chef White to open a branch in Istanbul. The story of Morini and the other restaurants in the group are quite interesting and I advise you visit their website for more information ( 

Back to Morini Istanbul... as you can imagine, the first day of the opening of the mall was pretty chaotic and I was surprised I was even able to get a table at Morini (outside), but then again I went late in the afternoon...

The opening day of a restaurant is not the best time to make judgments about the food and service. Although there was some confusion with the service and extra waiting time to be served, I can on the other hand say that it was definitely worth the wait! In fact, they didn't even have a wine list yet... Of course all this has changed and I think they have one of the better wine lists of all the restaurants currently open at Zorlu.

So, what did I have? Well, when you go to Morini - you have to first try their signature dishes which are the pasta dishes! I ordered Garganelli...

This simple and mouthwatering pasta dish is prepared with homemade (all pastas are homemade) pasta quills, ragu di carne and Parmesan cheese. The sauce was incredibly delicious and the pasta al dente (just the way it should be)... In fact, NY Times food critic Sam Sifton listed this dish from Osteria Morini in his list of "Best Dishes in 2010". The menu includes 7 pasta/risotto dishes ranging in price from 32 TL to 40 TL. 

Since my first visit, I stopped by several times for a glass of wine or coffee...

Like I mentioned earlier... Morini's wine list is very impressive with many local and international wines available by the glass as well (starting at around 22 TL/glass).

I finally had a chance to eat at Morini Istanbul again on November 26th... a Tuesday and once again I stopped by for a late lunch... 

This time I was in the mood for soup and ordered pumpkin soup and a "small plate"... roasted peppers; and a glass of Chateau Bellevue red wine.

Both dishes were very good and the pumpkin soup had a nice "kick" to it, but I was totally enthralled by the roasted peppers which were prepared with shishito peppers stuffed with chicken and Parmesan cheese with salmoriglio dressing. I have no idea what this dressing is, but it really added an extra texture to the dish! The soup was 18 TL and the roasted peppers 23 TL. 

Overall... Morini Istanbul is definitely on my list of places to go to for a meal and/or just cocktails or wine. The menu isn't very big: there are 4 "Small Plates", 6 "Appetizers", 4 "Salads", 7 "Pasta and Risotto" 3 "Sides" and 4 "Main Dishes" along with desserts. I didn't get a chance to try their desserts yet or peruse the dessert menu, but I just spoke to a friend who ate at Morini at the beginning of this week and she said the panna cotta and tiramisu are excellent (22 TL and 24 TL)

I highly suggest you make reservations for lunch or dinner.


Stay well,

Zorlu Center
Tel: (0212) 353 67 67

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jamie's Italian: Welcome to Istanbul!

Dear readers,

Is there any of you out there who doesn't know who Jamie Oliver is? If so, this is him!

Jamie has been a phenomenon in the culinary world for a very long time with his down to earth cooking style & personality, cooking shows on cable TV broadcast around the world and of course, his many restaurants scattered worldwide!

When I found out last year that Jamie's Italian would be opening in Istanbul (his first branch in the Mediterranean region), just like everyone else I "oohed and aahed"  and couldn't wait for Zorlu Center, the newest and poshest shopping mall in Istanbul to open! In fact, I'm very fortunate that Zorlu is a mere 5 minute walk from my house... it would take me less time to get there, but the road is a little hilly from my apartment!

Alas, the opening date of Zorlu changed many many times and the shopping mall "officially" opened (all the retailers, restaurants and hotel are not open yet) on October 10, 2013. 

I will be writing about Zorlu Center another time, so let's get back to Jamie's Italian! The newest Italian eatery in Istanbul officially opened the last day of October... however, I was among the people who were invited by email to their "pre-opening" and made reservations to have dinner on October 26th with 4 friends. "Pre-opening" dinners were offered a 50% discount on all meals and drinks.

There was soooo much hype and hoopla that Jamie's was opening in Istanbul, so diners expectations were very high (prematurely I think!) that in the very short few weeks since Jamie's Italian opened in Istanbul, it has gotten it's fair share of highly undo criticism as well as unwarranted stupendous accolades from diners and/or the local press! It's a double edge sword so far... either diners love or hate Jamie's Italian as far as I can surmise from social media. 

To be quite frank, I wasn't totally impressed with the food/service during my first visit, however, I knew to expect this! You really can't expect a "new" established international eatery to meet all your expectations from day one. I truly do not believe this is possible! Although established, everything is still new... the wait staff, kitchen staff... the entire dynamics of a new culture and diner profile! It takes time for a restaurant to "settle" ... so I decided I wouldn't write about Jamie's until I had a chance to visit at least a few more times so that I can make a better judgement...

However, I was able to speed up this process a bit because I was invited to a "Chef's Table" or rather a "tasting" on Tuesday, November 19th when I had an opportunity to try an array of dishes, so now I am comfortable in sharing my views with you. 

The first time I went to Jamie's was for dinner and the second time for lunch... both times, the place was packed! 

The 2-story eatery has indoor and outdoor dining areas and seating for 400 people! 

First and foremost, Jamie's Italian is a "casual" style restaurant. You can dress comfortably, bring the kids and it is noisy. Just like it's name suggests, it is "Jamie's" Italian which basically means his "interpretation" of Italian cuisine, so if you are expecting very very "typical" style Italian food and/or pizza (not on the menu), you might be disappointed with some of the dishes. But, if you keep an open mind, you might actually enjoy some of his versions of Italian food... For example, on my first visit I wasn't crazy about the lasagna I had - not because it was bad, but because I prefer the classical version. Another example, among the main courses, there is a dish called "Beef Meatball" which is just one huge meatball served with a side of oozy polenta and black cabbage, so if you like "meatballs", be prepared to try something else, because my friend really liked it.

During our lunch on Tuesday, we tried lots of dishes and most I really enjoyed. The "guests" at the lunch were Kaya Demirer (also the owner of Frankie's Istanbul), Jamie's partner in Istanbul, two magazine writers, a representative from Jamie's Istanbul PR firm and myself. We also met Marcus (can't remember his last name - sorry!) who is the Operations Chef for Jamie's worldwide and is responsible for overseeing the kitchens in each country. 

Jamie's Italian doesn't have a huge menu, but there are still more than enough selections to choose from and we started off with a minestrone soup, which was very hearty with navy beans and a variety of vegetables in season...

The soup did need some more salt and unfortunately I didn't take the picture when it was first delivered. I didn't eat it right away, that's why you see the ring around the dish because I let it go cold a bit...

Next up were two "planks" as Jamie's call them... Cured Meat and Fish... 
Both of these "goodies" and my personal favorites, are served on a wood board and placed on 2 tomato can "stands" shown below, which is not only functional but a cute touch!

The Meat and Fish plank portions above are for 4 people and can be ordered per person at 22,5 TL and include excellent cured meats (fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and schiacciata picante), buffalo mozzarella and pecorino cheese with chili jam (excellent) and crunchy salad. The fish plank includes beetroot-cured salmon and a variety of shellfish in season. A Vegetable plank is also available at 12,5 TL/person.

We also tasted the "Crispy Squid" (17 TL) with garlicky mayo and "Fried Three Cheese Gnocchi with fiery arrabbiatta dip" (13 TL), which I forgot to take photos of... another appetizer we had before the pasta was "Posh Garlic Mushrooms on Toast" (13 TL)...

The mushrooms are pan-fried and placed on charred wholemeal levian rubbed with garlic and olive oil. The mushrooms were good, however, the bread does get a bit soggy and isn't crunchy.

The "piece de resistance" of our meal were the pasta and risotto dishes...

My personal favorites were the Putanesca (tomato sauce, capers, chilli, anchovies and Gaeta olives) and Prawn Linguine (fried garlicky prawns, shaved fennel, tomatoes, chilli and arugula - or 'rocket' as it is called in British english). Since I'm not a fan of squid ink pasta, I just took a small taste of the Crab Spaghetti, but those who enjoy it said it was good... but they said it just needed a little more "kick" or spice... Surprisingly, I also liked the wild truffle risotto although I do get a reaction to truffles (white and black). The pasta dishes are available in two sizes and range in price from 15 TL to 41 TL.  
Just when we were ready to say "no more", Marcus had other ideas and we were served two main courses...

The "Organic Chicken" (37 TL) portion is quite big and this is just a small portion of it but between the sauce (tomato, olive, chilli and caper), couscous and greens, it was very flavorful. The "Baked Salmon" (36 TL) was served with whipped lemony ricotta, but I personally found the salmon a bit dry.

Let's talk about the wine list now. I had a couple of glasses of Fontanafredda Barbera Italian red wine with my meal. The wine list is quite good for a casual style restaurant and all wines are also available by the glass. The price per bottle is moderate, but I personally feel (and I feel like this about a ton of other restaurants in Istanbul) that the wines are priced too high (20+ TL) by the glass.

At these types of "tastings", even if you are going to pop out of your pants, you still have to also taste the desserts and we were offered the following decadent treats...
Tiramisu, Tutti Frutti Lemon Meringue, Epic Brownie
If you like "tart" tastes, you will love the lemon meringue (16 TL) and chocoholics will definitely not be disappointed with the brownie topped with vanilla ice cream and caramelized popcorn (19 TL! However, the tiramisu (19 TL) does need some work (Marcus agrees) as it was a little too dry and needs more coffee/liqueur sauce.

Our lunch started at 1:00pm and I literally rolled out of Jamie's Italian at 3:30pm! I'm very happy that I was invited to get a "jump start" on tastings the dishes available at Jamie's Italian as it would have taken me a much longer time to try all these dishes over time.

My general view of Jamie's Italian? It is a very nice "casual" and "family" style restaurant; the dishes aren't "typical" Italian dishes (and that's okay); prices are moderate; service has improved since my first visit, but it definitely can be better and will I go back? Definitely! There are still many other dishes I want to try. In fact, I can go back just for the Meat and Fish planks! 

A final note... Jamie hasn't come to Istanbul yet to visit his latest venture, but I hear he plans on coming in early 2014! I hope I get a chance to meet him as a long time fan of his career!

Buono appetito! 

Note: Although quite big, it's not easy getting a table at Jamie's. Definitely try to make reservations (especially for the weekend) or be prepared to wait as a "walk-in". Also, you can also hang out at the bars and just order snacks and cocktails from their bar menu (which includes the antipasti and plank selections from the main menu) if you don't want a table and a big meal.

Jamie's Italian
Zorlu Center 
Levazım - Levent
Tel: (0212) 353 68 08

Stay well,

Monday, October 7, 2013

Guest Chef Paula DaSilva's menu at Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel...

Dear readers,

It has been quite a while since I last wrote a post in my blog! In fact, my last post was over a month ago on September 2nd! 

It hasn't been that I didn't have anything to write about - I always do, but it has been a busy month. First, I had to recover from my summer vacation in Alaçatı, Çeşme and just when I got my act together, I took a trip to my favorite city in the world - Paris! Of course, then I had to recover from that trip and here we are!

While in Paris, I received an email from  Artı Public Relations inviting me to a tasting menu prepared by Paula DaSilva at the fairly new (opened one year ago) Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel, which is literally a hop, skip and jump from my apartment, but alas because of bad weather (rainy and cold) on the day of the invite (October 1), I still had to take a cab. 

A subsidiary of Polat Holding, the Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus is the Holding's 2nd hotel in Istanbul and third throughout Turkey (Erzurum). The 5-star eco-friendly certified hotel is ideally located on Barbaros Bulvarı in Balmumcu which is at the half way point between Beşiktaş and Levent, basically the Financial district. The hotel has a total of 214 rooms and suites, an all-day dining restaurant (Art), a terrace bar (212 Bar) and all the other amenities you would expect from a 5-star property. 

As I mentioned earlier, it was a rainy and cold day, but still the view from 212 Bar (17th floor of hotel) where our private Paula DaSilva's tasting menu dinner was held was still breathtaking (but alas, I forgot to take a picture of just the view!)...

@212 Bar (Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel)
The table was beautifully set, and the fireplace warmed us up...
@212 Bar Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel
as we sipped our cocktails and waited for everyone to arrive. Our small, intimate group included Ms. Songül Sel, Deputy Chairman at Polat Holding, Ms. Anıl Boydaş Tınaz, the hotel's General Manager, wining and dining writers/journalists Mr. Teoman Hünal, Mr. Mehmet Yaşin and Mr. Mehmet Yalçın (I wrote mr. and ms. to make it easier to understand their genders), myself and other reps from hotel and PR company.

I usually like to do my "homework" before attending these types of dinners with guest chefs, but I went "cold" this time and had no idea who Paula DaSilva was before I attended and let her do most of the explaining...

Paula DaSilva
In my opinion, Paula is an excellent chef and I'm very happy that I had the chance to meet her and taste her delectable dishes... and the best part is, if you live or will be visiting Istanbul through the end of November, you will have a chance to taste her dishes too (but this time prepared by the hotel's Executive Chef Manuel Evan Sotomayor).

Briefly, Paula was born in Brazil, moved to the USA when she was 7 years old (Boston) and grew up around food as her parents owned restaurants first in Boston and then in Florida and as Paula called them, they were "mom and pop" restaurants specializing in Brazilian cuisine. The 33 year-old chef was the runner up in the 5th season of Hell's Kitchen in 2009; she was the Executive Chef at 1500 Degrees restaurant in Miami and now is the Executive Chef at 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida... 

The following are the dishes included in the tasting menu...

Cod Fish Croquettes (stuffed with potato, cream, spices) and Sea Bass Ceviche (top and bottom)

Sun-Dried Beef Tacos, "Coxinha" Brazilian Style Chicken Croquettes and Shrimp Tacos (left to right)

Oxtail Stew with Okra, Greens, Rice and Egg
Grilled Picanha (top round) with Vinaigrette, Grilled Corn with Cotija Cheese and Black Bean Puree
(top and bottom)
Chocolate Truffles, Caramel Flan and Passion Fruit Mousse (left to right)
I'm not going to bore you with details of every dish that we had, but suffice to say they were all very good. First, I would like to add that according to some interviews that I read on the internet conducted with Ms. DaSilva, she has stated that she doesn't like fusion and prefers to bring out the natural flavors of products. Her cooking technique has been referred to as "rustic" cooking and I totally agree. She is very good and blends her dishes with just the right amount of herbs and spices to bring out their natural flavors. Ms. DaSilva also joined us between courses to explain how she prepared the dishes and gave us information on the ingredients.

In brief ... the "Sea Bass Ceviche" was excellent and I could have eaten a few more servings. She had added just the right amount of lime juice and the red onions added an extra "kick". 

The "Sun Dried Beef" used to prepare this dish is a Brazilian specialty and is a product she brought with her from the USA. It  was very good as was the shrimp tacos with avocado and cabbage. 

The "Oxtail Stew" was surprisingly better than I thought because I am not a fan of oxtail, but the okra was crispy and the spinach and peppers (not spicy) and spices used masked the taste of the oxtail for me.

"Grilled Picanha" or top round used is not a commonly use cut of meat and is a little bit tough compared to other cuts of meat. The grilled corn with cotija cheese (similar to Pecorino Romano cheese) was very very good.

All three desserts were delicious! Who says Executive Chef's can't bake! The chocolate truffle was one the best I've had; the flan was light and creamy and the passion fruit mousse was fluffy and moist.

Also, we were served a selection of wonderful Chilean wines which I had never tried before and each one complemented the grouping of dishes we had very well. 

What better way to finalize our Brazilian feast, but with a good old cup of Turkish coffee I say...

As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, all of these dishes will be available through the end of November at Art Restaurant located on the first floor of the hotel... (the restaurant also has an outdoor terrace dining area for smokers)
Art Restaurant @Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel
Unfortunately, 212 Bar is just that - a bar and food is not served, but definitely a place worth visiting for cocktails and to enjoy a lovely view of the Bosphorus from it's indoor perch or two outdoor terraces on either side. 

Happy dining!

Renaissance Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel
Barbaros Bulvarı No. 145 Balmumcu  - Beşiktaş
Tel: +90 212  340 70 00 

Stay well!

Monday, September 2, 2013


Dear readers,

It has been 8 days since I returned to Istanbul from my second and final summer vacation in Alaçatı/Çeşme! As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I totally enjoyed my nearly 3 week stay in July so much that I decided to return to Alaçatı in mid-August instead of going to Bodrum. And, during this trip, my good friend Nur came too and Luka stayed in Istanbul at his "big sister" Tuğba's house where he spent a lovely week with his doggie friends!

During this last visit, I went to Fogo every single night for the bar scene and had dinner there on two occasions. Like I mentioned in my previous posts on Fogo (for details, read the posts) - Fogo was my favorite spot for dining as well as for the lively bar scene!

However, I did get an opportunity to "discover" two new restaurants that I wanted to share with you! I did go to one other place, but to be quite frank, I was very disappointed although others have given the venue high marks (??), so I won't include this "disappointing, yet always full" restaurant because it definitely does not live up to my expectations!

Once again my two new "finds"are located in Alaçatı! Although I did visit the Çeşme peninsula, I can say that I spent the majority of my time in Alaçatı although I did visit some beaches in other parts, but when it came to wining and dining, I personally feel the best places are in Alaçatı!

The first newcomer is Just Meat... 

Although the restaurant is located on the highly populated Kemalpaşa Street, it is an oasis because you can still have a very comfortable and pleasurable meal without having to "share" your dining space with the throngs of people that walk up and down Kemalpaşa Street on any given night!

Just Meat/Alaçatı
Nur and I went to Just Meat on our first night in Alaçatı and had dinner with the owner Esra Özkan, who is a longtime friend of Nur's and someone I have gotten to know and enjoy the company of in the last few years. 

me with Esra Özkan, owner of Just Meat
Esra has been at this spot for many years and previously she had a restaurant called "Tipsy" and last year it was Biber Bar. However, with the changes in the laws regarding turning down the volume of music to a whisper after midnight, she decided to convert the bar to a restaurant and good that she did!

So, now it's time to talk about the food! After we sat down at our spacious table and chatted for awhile and ordered a bottle of Turkish red wine (the wine list includes a nice selection of local and international wines), we decided to start off with a cheese platter (30 TL) ...and between the presentation and delightful selections, we ended up eating everything on the plate! 

Cheese platter at Just Meat/Alaçatı
I realize the photo of the cheese platter can be seen in my picture with Esra, but I wanted you to see it up close and personal! I liked the fact that she included Wasa bread and a delectable chutney-like sauce she picked up from Chios Island in Greece (a 45-minute ferryboat ride from Çeşme).

Besides the menu items which include a few appetizers (i.e. cheese platter, deli platter, etc.), salads and main courses, from time to time the chef prepares a "daily special", and the special the night we were there was called "Kırgız Mantı" (Kyrgystan style ravioli) (20 TL) which was absolutely delicious and was fried mantı stuffed with minced meat and served with yogurt sauce and herbs - delicious!. It was so good, I could have eaten a second bowl on my own as we shared one portion with Nur!

Kyrgystan style ravioli at Just Meat
We were thoroughly enjoying the ambiance, music, good conversation, great food and the true test was coming up - the main course!

I love meat, but don't eat it as much as I used to, but do try to eat meat two times a week! And Just Meat has a good selection of meats and lamb at reasonable prices. 

Nur and I opted for the beef tenderloin... (52 TL)

Beef Tenderloin at Just Meat/Alaçatı
and Esra ordered Rib Eye Steak... (58 TL)

Rib Eye Steak at Just Meat/Alaçatı
I can honestly say that the Beef Tenderloin I had at Just Meat is the "best" I have had in ages!!!!! The quality of the meat was exceptional and cooked just the way I like it (medium) and I really didn't need a knife to cut it!

Just Meat opened this season and is located at No. 99 on Kemalpaşa Street and I highly suggest you try it for yourself if you are a meat lover - you will definitely not be disappointed! (Tel: (0232) 716 06 02) 
Just Meat/Alaçatı

Nur and I didn't make dinner plans for our last night in Alaçatı and decided to "try out luck" although it was a Saturday night and usually if you don't have a reservation, you are out of luck at dining at a known or "good" restaurant. We were lazy and hung out at our hotel's (Alaçatı Kapari Hotel - read my post on this wonderful hotel) pool and decided to "wing it" for the evening! 

So, we decided to try our luck at finding a place to eat in 
Hacımemiş Mahallesi. Once again, I wrote about this area in Alaçatı in my previous posts, so I don't want to repeat myself. But, just to recap... it is definitely an "up and coming area" with many very good restaurants and boutiques clustered in a 4-5 block radius.

We got to Hacımemiş around 7pm and started our search and stopped at Eflatun...

Eflatun looked like such a nice place and we decided to ask to look at the menu, but found out there wasn't one... we found out from the owner/chef Nalan Kocaoğlu that the restaurant opens around 8pm and that cold and hot appetizers and main courses are prepared daily, but change - hence no menu. The place looked so nice that we asked if there was a table available and we lucked out and made reservations for 8:30pm and got the last table as there was a cancellation.

I got back to Eflatun (which means purple, violet in Turkish) before Nur and ordered a glass of wine and got some scrumptious bread to tide me over until dinner - which I ate with no butter!

Nur came shortly thereafter and we went inside the restaurant to choose our cold appetizers from the open display...

Cold appetizer selections at Eflatun/Alaçatı
Everything look so good, but we limited ourselves and just ordered cold spicy köfte (Turkish style meatballs), fava bean spread, pastry stuffed with lor cheese, and stuffed squash blossoms. Each was priced at 10 TL/portion and sufficient for two people to share! Most importantly, the appetizers were absolutely delicious! 

For our hot appetizer, we ordered fried pastry stuffed with shrimp (forgot to take picture) and decided to share one main course: Robespierre ...

Robespierre at Eflatun
I'm so glad we decided to share our main course because it was huge (40 TL) and it was cooked to perfection! The meat was flavored with sage, garlic and rosemary; the arugula was so so fresh and the dish topped with quality Parmesan cheese. The shrimp pastry (20 TL) was also very very good and although fried, hadn't soaked up any oil.

After all this food, neither one of us had any room left for their homemade desserts, but they did sound awfully good and I'm sure they too would have been very good!

I was curious about the place and the chef/owner so I tried to have a short conversation with her as she ran around getting the dishes ready...

Nalan Kocaoğlu/owner and chef at Eflatun/Alaçatı
In short, Ms. Kocaoğlu opened Eflatun a couple of months ago in a lovely restored building in Hacımemiş and will be open year round as she has an indoor dining area. She is originally from Istanbul and used to be a partner at a restaurant called Peymane in Beyoğlu.

Indoor area at Eflatun/Alaçatı
I'm so disappointed that I discovered Eflatun on my last night in Alaçatı, otherwise I would have definitely made repeat visits to taste all the delectable dishes prepared at this lovely restaurant! (2012 Sokak No. 9 Hacımemiş, Alaçatı; Tel: (0232) 716 68 58; 

with my friend Nur at Eflatun/Alaçatı
However, Nur and I were still happy that we had the chance to have a great eal - with no reservations - our last night in Alaçatı and then parted ways to meet friends to cap off the night! I of course went to Fogo to hang out at the bar and say goodbye to some of my "new" friends that I made during my stay...

I had a lovely time in Alaçatı this past summer and can't wait to go back next year!

Stay well,