Thursday, May 28, 2015

Newcomer to Karaköy: OPS Passage

Dear readers,

As I mentioned in my previous post, Istanbul's neighborhoods are developing so quickly, it is difficult to keep up with all the developments.

Karaköy is another one of those neighborhoods! Until a short few years ago, Karaköy was an area you just "passed" to reach other areas because there were no hotels, restaurants, cafes or bars to speak of! Now... it is the total opposite! I personally have a lot of catching up to do and have come to this area more often, but my biggest problem is that I hate traffic! This is the biggest problem we have in Istanbul, so I have to overcome my hate otherwise I will never leave my own neighborhood!

And... I did just that this last Tuesday night! I received an invitation from Kiraz Public Relations firm to attend a dinner at OPS Passage located in the "Fransız Geçidi" (French Passage) in Karaköy and I didn't say "no"!

First impressions are very important to me and my first impression of the venue and more importantly the energetic and congenial "husband and wife" team behind the project really impressed me! The name "OPS" is not new to frequent visitors to Karaköy as OPS Cafe opened in the area in 2012 and you can say OPS Passage is it's "sister" but with a totally different concept, design and menu.

OPS Passage
OPS Passage has an outdoor seating area which wraps around the beautifully restored building for 30 people and an indoor dining area for 60 people with an open kitchen and small bar area with stools. 

OPS Passage
I loved, loved, loved the decor! That's where the "husband and wife" team comes into play! The interior design's concept was prepared by Esin Sözer Kalender, the founding partner of Arketipo Design Interior Design who is also the wife of owner Yasin Kalender. She very effectively combined wood and copper to make the venue light, airy,comfy and inviting. I particularly liked the copper lighting fixtures, copper salt & pepper shakers and water and wine glasses!

OPS Passage
OPS Passage has a very extensive and diverse menu (emphasis on seafood) so when you invite 90 people to a tasting dinner... you have to narrow down the choices! So, a special menu including a selection of appetizers, salads, mains, small plates and desserts was prepared for us to choose from instead of a "typical" tasting menu where everyone eats the same dishes. This of course can be risky because the kitchen has to serve 90 people at the same time! Kudos to Yasin Kalender for taking this risk! I personally believe that this is a better way to "judge" whether you are on the right track or not. 

I did of course peruse the regular menu and did see some other dishes I would like to try the next time I go.

I attended the appropriately titled "Family&Friends" dinner with my sister Meltem. We decided not to order the same dishes so that we can taste each others choices and as starter I ordered the "Spicy Prawns with Avocado Salsa" and Meltem ordered the "Marine Platter"

Spicy Prawns with Avocado Salsa
Marine Platter 
As a footnote, I'm not very happy with the quality of the food photographs I took because we were sitting outside and the lighting was not that great. but I can't write about a place without photos, so I apologize for their quality. 

The "spicy prawns" were super spicy and right up my alley because I love spicy food. The avocado salsa was also very good, however I personally thought that the two different tastes did not "balance" each other very well, but separately they were very good. While the prawns were very spicy, the acidity of the salsa was not a good accompaniment in my opinion. The two tastes were battling on my palate. 

The quality of the fish (salmon, octopus, shrimp, anchovy, bonito, etc) was very good, however, the "presentation" of the dish failed the test. I always believe that you first have to "feed" our eyes and then "feed" our palate. Besides just the presentation, the plate should have also included edible greens and mentioned this to Mr. Kalender. 

I didn't order a salad, but my sister ordered the "Goat Cheese Salad"...

Goat Cheese Salad
She said she enjoyed the dish (which I forgot to taste). The goat cheese was spread on thin pieces of bread (4 in all) and topped with pomegranate sauce with a side of chicory lettuce. 

For our main courses, I had the "Poached Salmon" and my sister had the "Organic Chicken Leg"

Organic Chicken Leg w/sauteed spinach & almonds

Poached Salmon w/potato salad and chicory greens

I tasted my sister's dish and found the chicken cooked perfectly and it was moist. However, once again it was a very crowded dinner... the sauteed spinach was a little overcooked. Also, this dish also failed the "presentation" test. This could be overcome by using a smaller plate or positioning the food differently on the plate. My poached salmon was cooked to perfection and moist, however, instead of a cold potato salad I would have preferred grilled root vegetables or baked baby potatoes.
The piece de resistance of the evening was the dessert! Although we could have also ordered tiramisu or lychee, we decided to just try one dessert and we definitely made the right decision!

Baked shredded wheat pastry 
These delicate morsels are shredded wheat (menu says angel hair which is wrong) pastry stuffed with lychee and lime ice cream with caramel sauce! It was divine! 

In summary, we had a lovely evening! OPS Passage opened just a few short 3 months ago. I think they did a wonderful job in serving almost 100 people at the same time which is no easy feat! There are some problems with the presentation of the food and the "balance" of the dishes, but these are problems that can easily be fixed. It is at a fantastic location, beautifully decorated with a very efficient and congenial staff.

As far as the prices go, I can say it's moderate compared to other venues of the same caliber and range in prices from 12-48 TL for appetizers; 28-38 TL for salads; 25-48 TL for mains and 15-22 TL for desserts.

Furthermore, owner Yasin Kalender is new in the restaurant industry and before opening OPS Cafe 3 years ago, he worked in the Maritime Sector and was a captain for 10 years. He is energetic, very hands on and open to constructive criticism. So, I recommend you try OPS Passage for yourself and let me know what you think!

Bon apetit!

Stay well,

Supplied by OPS Passage

OPS Passage is open from noon to 1:00am on weekdays and from 10:00am to 2:00am on weekends. Brunch service is available on weekends. Reservations are recommended. The bar closes daily at 2:00am and they are very proud of their "special" cocktails.
Tel: (0212) 243 39 07. Their website is only in Turkish, but I still advise you to visit it to see the lovely photographs and the menu is in Turkish/English. 

P.S. The first question I asked Mr. Kalender is "why 'OPS' and what does it mean?" The answer was quite simple. In Greek and Roman mythology, OPS was the goddess of  the"earth and fertility"! 

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