I always seem to have a "story" before I write about a place and will continue with this tradition with this post too!
About 4 years ago I met Seyfettin Taştan, the owner of Uskumru (which means mackerel - apropos for a seafood restaurant!) Restaurant through a mutual friend at a Wine Tasting event. He told me about his then "new" restaurant and I told him I would visit as soon as I could. Then I started hearing kudos about Uskumru from friends who had very good experiences there...
Last week after I returned from a trip to the Burgundy Region in France (have been travelling quite a bit lately), my good friend Didem came over for coffee and told me that she organized a "girls lunch" at Uskumru and would I like to come! So, almost 4 years after I told Mr. Taştan that I would visit his restaurant... I finally had a chance to go yesterday! And... I must say I am sooo disappointed that I didn't go sooner and now I must make up for lost time!
Yesterday was a gorgeous day in Istanbul - crystal clear blue skies, sunny, no humidity and with a light breeze when we got together with Didem's friends and my sister in Rumelihisarı on the European side of the city to take Uskumru's shuttle boat service to Anadoluhisarı on the Asian side of the city for lunch at 1:00pm. One of the great things about some of the restaurants on the Asian shoreline is that they offer free shuttle service from the European side which is great so this way you don't have to worry about bridge traffic!
Eight of us piled into the boat and started snapping shots of the Bosphorus on our quick hop (tops 5 minutes) to the other side...
The trip was a little wavy but like I said we were at Uskumru in minutes!
The "9th" in our group was already waiting for us at our waterfront table as she was already on the Asian side. Didem had already "pre-ordered" for us so we didn't have to worry about making any choices ourselves which was an excellent idea and she did a great job with selecting just the right amount of food!
Before our appetizer or meze as it is called in seafood restaurants in Turkey arrived, we munched on excellent corn bread and green olives in tomato sauce which were both delicious (there goes the diet!)
The best "friend" of a seafood feast as far as I'm concerned is rakı (similar to arak, but definitely not as sweet as ouzo) and on this glorious sunny day that was my drink of choice! So, I highly recommend you try a combination of rakı, meze and fish!
Very quickly (and thank goodness - we were starving!), first our salads arrived and then our meze!
|Leafy green salad with parmesan cheese (top)/tomato salad with red onions and parsley (below)|
Quite simply, we had sea bass served with slices of white onions in a pesto sauce which was perfect! The fish was very very fresh... the pesto sauce, not common at seafood restaurants - was excellent and the sliced white onions added an extra zip! The eggplant puree was also very good and obviously prepared with quality eggplants and ingredients!
I always say this and will say it again... every salad is NOT good and probably one of the hardest thing to prepare! Not only do the ingredients have to be fresh, fresh, fresh and in season, the dressing is also crucial! These two salads where the best salads I have ever had at a seafood restaurant! The leafy green salad was finely chopped (just the way I prefer it) with hints of parmesan cheese throughout with an olive oil and lemon dressing. The tomato salad was incredible because the tomatoes were beefy and ripe and the sauce was prepared with some pomegranate syrup, but not too much to mask the olive oil/lemon dressing...so the sauce was good enough for "dunking" and we did!!
I was so engrossed in "oohing" and "aahing" over the food and the splendid view and weather that I was missing the conversation at our table! With 9 women, as it was, 3-4 conversations were going on at the same time!
Next up was our hot appetizer... grilled calamari with soy sauce with a hint of pomegranate syrup (hence the color)...
I love calamari but I am usually disappointed when I order it grilled because usually it is very "rubbery" or "tough". But, this one was quite good - it was soft and had more flavor than others I've had in the past...
The "true sign" of a good seafood restaurant is the quality of the fish and how well the chef cooks it! So, although we had fantastic appetizers, I was hoping that the fish didn't fail the grade... and it didn't!!
Turks are definitely not into eating fish with lots of sauces and prefer plain old "grilled" fish above all others! Sometimes fish is salted and baked, but never, or hardly served with sauce! I know I am going on and on and giving huge kudos to Uskumru but they definitely deserve it because the sea bass and red mullet where cooked to perfection... moist and delicious and fresh! I also thought the onion was an interesting touch as most restaurants serve fish with arugula, tomatoes and red onion... but this was a baked white onion.
We ended our delicious feast with fresh fruit...
I don't think I had this much fun, good conversation and food with a group of women (more than half I just met yesterday) in a long, long time! It was about 4:30pm when we head out to take our boat ride back to the European side...
and this is us (minus one)... all content and happy after a great lunch! We decided we need to do this more often with this group at other places along the Bosphorus shoreline this summer! So, if you live in Istanbul or travelling to our lovely city this summer, make sure to visit Uskumru for lunch or dinner!
|(me, sis Meltem, Emine, my dear friend Didem, Ayşe, Melek, Çiğdem, Tuğçe - left to right)|
One final note on seafood restaurants in Turkey: 9 times out of 10, there is no menu. Instead, the cold meze selections are brought to your table on a platter to select from. The waiter will tell you what hot appetizers are available and also the fish selections of the day . I strongly advise that you ask the price of the fish before ordering (prices change daily) so that you are not surprised when the bill arrives! Usually a meal will run you between 100 - 150 TL (alcohol included) if you don't overdue it. Enjoy!
Körfez Caddesi No. 55 Anadoluhisarı
Tel: (0216) 460 10 00
(Reservations for lunch and dinner are highly recommended - ask for details about their free boat shuttle service at that time)
Stay well and bon apetit!