Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spot News: 1 Guest Chef; 1 Museum; 1 Restaurant; 1 Airline

Dear readers,

From time to time I have decided to prepare posts titled "Spot News" and give you up-to-date info on different events, exhibition openings, etc. side by side along with my more long-winded posts on a variety of subjects!

So, here's the first of hopefully many many more spot news from Istanbul & around the world!

da Vittorio is one of Italy's renowned and respected 3 Michelin star restaurants and is located in Bergamo (about 40 km from Milan), Italy. The popular eatery's 2nd generation chef Enrico Cerea will be a guest chef at Aqua Restaurant at the Four Seasons Bosphorus Hotel between February 18 and February 23. The family-run da Vittorio received its 3rd Michelin star in 2009 and this longstanding family owned restaurant is managed by the Cerea family which includes mom, dad Vittorio and Enrico's brothers and sisters Roberto, Francesco Barbara and Rosella. 

Enrico, aka "Chicco" and Roberto, aka "Bobo" Cerea 
Now... the brothers Cerea will share some of their dishes with discerning guests at the elegant and refined Aqua Restaurant at the Four Seasons Bosphorus! 

A special menu has been prepared for the event which will be available during dinner on these dates and Enrico will also be preparing the delicacies offered during Sunday Brunch at Aqua Restaurant on February 23rd.

If for some reason you can't make it to this event, I still highly suggest you visit Aqua Restaurant for lunch or dinner... their Executive Chef Sebastiano Spriver is a fantastic chef and I've been fortunate enough to taste many of his innovative and delicious selections from refined Italian cuisine.

Reservations are highly recommended, so call Tel: (0212) 381 4059 for additional information. 

Two temporary exhibitions opened on February 5th at the Suna & Inan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum located in a restored historical building in the heart of the Pera District in Istanbul. Both exhibits can be visited until April 20th.

The first, Picasso: Engravings and Ceramics from the home of his birth" includes 56 engravings and 8 ceramics of Pablo Picasso's works from the Museo Casa Natal Collection located in Malaga and formerly his home and birthplace.

The other exhibit, titled Aurora: Contemporary Nordic Glass Art includes 51 works from 25 artists from Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Denmark.

Artist: P. Lake
While at the museum, make sure to visit the sections of the museum that include their permanent collection - you definitely will not be disappointed!

Visit their website for detailed information about the museum, exhibition and visiting hours.

P.F. Chang's is my favorite Chinese restaurant in Istanbul and I have been a customer ever since they opened a branch in Istanbul about  1 1/2 years ago and have eaten there many times with friends or from time to time have been invited to events.

I was just at P.F. Chang's, which is located in Etiler on Monday night with a group of bloggers and we are invited so that they could share their Valentine's Day menu with us.

The set "condensed" menu includes some of their regular dishes. The menu includes soup (Hot & Sour Soup) and a choice of two appetizers, 2 main courses, dessert for two (this is prepared special for Valentine's Day) coffee, tea and 1 glass of wine/each. The price is 190 TL/for two.

The following are just some of the samples we tasted and I must say my all time favorite is the Dynamite Shrimp! 

Dumplings, Salt & Pepper Calamari & Dynamite Shrimp

Beef with Broccoli & Crispy Honey Shrimp
Personally, I find the meat dishes a little too salty for my taste because of the sauces used, but the shrimp dish is excellent and the "Dali Chicken" also received high marks from the bloggers.

If you still haven't made a reservation for Valentine's Day, P.F. Chang's can be a good alternative... the food is very good, the service efficient and the 2 story venue (plus a 3rd floor for private events) is airy, spacious and comfortable. (Tel: (0212) 358 60 60)

P.F. Chang's /Etiler, Istanbul
Turkish Airlines, or THY for short is my favorite airline, and not only because I'm Turkish! I think THY has the best flight attendants, the fleet is constantly being renewed and new destinations are constantly being added.

So, for all my domestic and international flights, THY is my preference. I also find their "Miles&Smiles" program very easy: you can collect miles quickly with flights and a local credit card (I've gotten many many business class tickets with my miles on international flight very easily - even with "restricted" seating miles) and THY is a member of Star Alliance.

I'm definitely not an "expert" on business lounges around the world, however, I have visited some in Europe (Paris, London, Spain, Italy) and by far, the THY Business Lounge in Istanbul is beyond compare. It is very spacious, the food, drinks, services and amenities are beyond compare. Can you imagine, the THY Business Lounge is 3,500 square meters, however, since THY flies to 105 countries around the world and as Istanbul has become a major "transit" passenger point, the lounge was having a difficult time handling the influx of business class passengers especially during the morning "rush hour" flights! Many times I was unable to find a place to sit due to the crowd.

Of course THY was aware of this problem, so in a few short 2,5 months, the Business Lounge was expanded and an additional 2,400 square meters was added and opened to the public just yesterday - February 11.

The following are some pictures of the new Turkish Airlines Istanbul Lounge annex, located at the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul which includes a whole host of new seating areas, golf simulator, miniature race car track and much more! I can't wait to visit the new annex! ( 

Stay well,

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tom's Kitchen Istanbul: "Comfort Food" at its best...

Dear readers,

With the opening of Zorlu Center in Istanbul at the beginning of October 2013, we now have an influx of wonderful new internationally recognized restaurants and popular Turkish restaurants under one roof! 

I have pretty much been a "regular" at the mall which is literally steps from my apartment (3 minute walk!), but I can't say I really "know" everything about the mall because I'm too busy trying out and tasting my way through all the "non-fast food" eateries every chance I get, so no wonder I've gained weight! Of course, I have also been travelling quite a bit lately, so that hasn't helped either! In fact, I returned a couple of weeks ago from a wonderful trip to San Sebastian, Spain and I plan on writing posts about my travels as well! 

I've already written about Jamie's Italian and Morini and now it's time to write about Tom's Kitchen! The list is quite long and I have many other restaurants to write about at Zorlu Center, but just need the time to get to it!
Tom's Kitchen opened at the end of November 2013 and is located on the "main level" or rather the "outdoor" section of the mall and is surrounded by the major fancy and deluxe international and local brand retailers (Louis Vuitton, my personal favorite; Stella McCartney, Dior, Miu Miu, Prada, Beymen, Vakko, Bulgari and the list goes on!) 

The eatery is pretty spacious with three sections: an indoor area with an open kitchen and bar; and two outdoor dining areas.

The main reason why many of the restaurants have "outdoor" sections at Zorlu is to accommodate customers who smoke, but unfortunately, the outdoor section of the mall has been encased with glass panels because of the wind and cold weather. As a result, smoking is currently not allowed and has definitely affected the business of restaurants located in this area of the mall (Tom's Kitchen, Parle, Morini). The glass panels will be removed once the weather heats up and the problem will disappear.

I went to eat at Tom's Kitchen for the first time on December 2nd and I have been back at least 3-4 times since then for a dose of good old "comfort food"! However, I have been to Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea, London, so it wasn't a totally new experience for me.

Owned by internationally acclaimed British chef Tom Aikens (with Turkish partners for the Istanbul branch), the menu includes a smorgasbord of comfort food delights! Although Chef Aikens is obviously not in the kitchen, he is very "hands on" and has come back and forth to Istanbul to monitor the developments and of course "gets in the kitchen" on these visits! On one of his visits, I had an opportunity to introduce myself and chat a few minutes and found him to be very friendly and down to earth.

Okay, I can hear you saying... "let's get on with it... talk about the food"! 

So, let's start with the "starters"... of course, I won't be able to list the whole menu, but starters include Tom's "classics" like "Steak Tartare"; "Chicken Liver & Foie Gras Parfait and the dish I tried "Spicy Crab Cake with tomato salsa"

It was very good and flaky, but I usually prefer a little more "kick" and to my personal taste, the crab cake could have been spicier. 

On the day I had the crab cake, I didn't want to overdo it and wasn't very hungry so I ordered a side dish: steamed spinach (also buttered spinach available), which hit the spot in my quest for "comfort food" that day!

One of the things I usually can never say no to is bread! Although I try to stay away from bread so that I don't fill up too much, the bread at Tom's is so good and unfortunately so is the butter (the French brand President), so I do indulge!

Besides the "classic" starters, Tom's has a list of other starters which include "Endive Salad", "Baked Scallops", "Burratta" and my personal favorite "Roasted Tomato and Mascarpone Soup"... just writing about the soup makes my mouth water and I could definitely have some right now - talk about "comfort food"!

After the starters, there is a section on the menu called "Sharing Dishes" (for two) and they are: "Charcuterie Board (foie gras, smoked duck, ham, beef rosetta); "Fish Board" (fish cakes, mackerel pate, cured salmon, anchovies); and "Seven Hour Confit Lamb" (served with mash potatoes and balsamic onions). I'm looking forward to trying the Charcuterie Board one day.

Now, on to the mains... once again the menu includes Tom's "classic" mains and other mains. There are 5 Tom's classics and I've had 3 of them: "Shepherd's Pie" (my favorite); Organic Chicken Schnitzel (delicious) and "Macaroni Cheese" (with or without truffles), which hits the spot each time, but for some reason I don't have a photo of the Mac n'Cheese, but take my word for it... it's good and I prefer mine with truffles!

The other "classic" mains are "Beef Burger" and "Filet Steak" and there are 4 main courses: "Roasted Lamb Rump"; "BBQ Chicken"; "Aubergine and Herb Cake" and "Calves Liver".

If you are now asking yourself "where's the fish & chips?" obviously that's listed under "Fish" on the menu!  I still haven't tried the "Beer Battered" Seabass & Chips" because I try to stay away from fried food, but some of my friends have tried it and say it's excellent... the other "Fish" dishes available are "Fish Pie"; "Sea Bream"; "Baked Fish" and "Fish Cakes".

The menu also includes a bunch of classic sides dishes to accompany your meals. Before going on to the desserts, there is also a "Local Cheese Platter" with a total of 4 types of cheeses (6 pieces each) which is a great idea for an afternoon or early evening snack with wine!  

On the subject of wine... I do wish Tom's Kitchen had a more varied wine list (by the glass and bottle) and not rely too much on one particular brand. There are many local and international brands that deserve to be on their wine list.

Now... let's talk dessert! Something I should definitely live without, but can't! I have a love/hate relationship with sweets and succumb to these delectable delights for long stretches at a time and then go "cold turkey" and don't touch the stuff for months! Unfortunately, I am not in the "cold turkey" stage now, but should be!

The list is quite long - with puddings, cakes (cheesecake), "White Chocolate & Passion Fruit Creme Brulee", a "two share" section (Baked Alaska & Ice Cream Sundae)... and I tried the "Cinnamon Doughnuts" (with apple & raisin compote filling and side of vanilla yogurt)...

The doughnuts were good, but not quite what I expected... I thought the filling would be gooier and sweeter, but it was a little dry and the "dough" of the doughnut a bit took thick. I guess I'm sort of a Dunkin Donuts kind of girl!

Wow... after writing this post, I realized I haven't been to Tom's Kitchen for a while and need to make a stop really soon because it's cold, windy and sunny on and off in Istanbul and the "best" time for some "comfort food"!

To sum up, Tom's Kitchen at Zorlu Center is definitely worth a visit. I love the homey and casual decor; the food is good; prices medium to high and the service good.


Tom's Kitchen
Zorlu Center - Zincirlikuyu/Istanbul
Tel: (0212) 353 66 77
Open daily from noon to 11:00pm for lunch & dinner

Stay well,


Sidebar: Tom's Kitchen also serves breakfast which is available from 8:00am to 11:45am Monday-Friday and from 10:00am to 11:45am on Saturday-Sunday. The list is quite long and includes everything from croissants, bagels, porridge, cereals to all sorts of egg dishes; pancakes and waffles and sandwiches which you can enjoy with fresh fruit juices, "eye-openers" (i.e. Bloody Mary) and a selection of tea and coffee. Or you might want to try a "Full English Breakfast"! One of these days I hope to finish up my morning chores in a timely manner so that I can try the breakfast treats!