NOVEMBER 2019: Our list has a bit for everyone. The all-time greats as well as the new kids on the block, the posh and the downright shabby that have great food as well as great atmosphere are all in our newly put together list. Our favourites include ‘Best Fast Feast of Europe Award' recipient Karadeniz Döner as well as the timeless Latife Hanım Meyhanesi. If you want to taste great kebab in a casual setting look no further than Zübeyir Ocakbaşı or Beyti for a grander kebab dinner experience. If you are a CEO looking for fine dining options your choices could be Paper Moon for lunch and Sunset for the dinner. There are also the Turkish classics in historic settings which made impressive returns such as Pandeli at the entrance of the Egyptian Market and Sarnıç in the historic Peninsula.
Welcome to the Time Out Istanbul EAT List. Istanbul's best restaurants, handpicked by our local food editors. Everybody knows that Istanbul is one of the greatest foodie cities in the world. It encompasses a myriad of cuisines, great service, unique settings and very talented chefs. Our spectrum runs from great street food vendors to fine dining that Alain Ducasse would go crazy for. The places in our Eat List guarantee you a good time as well great food. They are simply the best restaurants that the great city of Istanbul has to offer.
The best restaurants to eat at
Asım Usta, the proprietor of the tiny Beşiktaş doner shop is without a doubt a national treasure. He has been feeding hoards of people patiently queuing in front of his for decades with his über delicious döner inside home cooked pide. His marination method is his own and so subtle that you do even have to season it yourself before eating. Karadeniz Pide Döner Salonu is also a recipient of Chowzter Awards as the Best Fast Feast of Europe Award. This is most definitely one of the most important pit stops for any gourmet traveller to Istanbul.
Passing by Latife Hanım Meyhanesi on Bekar Sokak off İstiklal Caddesi, you wouldn’t think twice about the nostalgia it exudes for the first years of the Turkish Republic. The standard portrait of Atatürk looms, photographs of early Republican-era women line the walls, and Bülent Ersoy and Zeki Müren records play on repeat. What surprises is that Latife’s menu and prices are much better than those at Taksim’s other, let’s say, shambling meyhanes. Once the mezes arrive, the transportation to a different era is complete. Before us are mung beans, zucchini almond paste, lakerda (pickled bonito) and fava-bean paste made with olive oil specially imported from Cyprus. As for the main course, we recommend starting with octopus in a clay pot (though it is a bit pricey), and moving onto the liver dish (which comes with plenty of onions). At the end of the meal, try the Cypriot macun (a gooey traditional Ottoman candy). Even though it may leave your mouth feeling a bit odd from the stickiness, it has an interesting taste. Latife Hanım Meyhanesi sets itself apart from its local competition with its inventive meze options and is worth every kuruş. For those who enjoy their rakı best with a cigarette, there’s even a small smoking area.
Spreading out over three floors in downtown Taksim, Zübeyir Ocakbaşı was opened in 2006 by the grill-master Zübeyir. It has since established a reputation as one of the best grills in Istanbul. The sumptuous ribs, liver and gavurdağı salad go nicely with their legendary kebab dishes. For those with a sweet tooth, we suggest you end your meal with their moreish quince dessert.
In 1945, when the weary days of the war were over, Beyti Güler and his father opened a modest roadside eatery in Küçükçekmece with four tables. The fame of their delicious döner kebap soon spread and the intimate affair became a 200-seat restaurant that was the talk of the town. In the late 1960s, Beyti Güler’s restaurant catered daily to Pan American Airlines, and during his first state visit to Europe, President Nixon ate Beyti’s döner in his private aircraft. To meet growing demand, Güler moved his restaurant to the upscale residential neighborhood of Florya in 1983. Güler continues to run his restaurant and holds the distinction of being the only man alive to have a kebab dish named after him. Though Beyti kebap is now served in meat restaurants and street food stalls throughout the country, it doesn’t really compare with the original, which is made from a cutlet of lamb wrapped around a loin, while its common namesake is usually made with mixed, kneaded meat. The restaurant is in close proximity to Atatürk Airport so it might be a good idea to taste Beyti’s beyti on the commute to and from your flight.
A restaurant that lovers of Italian cuisine cannot give up, Paper Moon’s menu features a majority of pizzas, pastas, salads, carpaccios and veal dishes. Zucchini and prawn penne, black taglioni (smoked salmon and pink sauce), octopus carpaccio with arugula, and among the pizzas, Valtellina (with arugula and bresaola), are among the restaurants most preferred specials. When it comes to dessert, customers enjoy the tiramisu and the napoleon. If it’s your first time eating here, we recommend leaving the choice up to your waiter. With its urban and classy décor and modern atmosphere, for some Paper Moon is the place for a nice night out, while others prefer it for an evening drink or to go out to lunch. Their prices are a bit steep but with their wonderful food, hospitable and professional service and the restaurant’s consistent popularity, justify the cost. Paper Moon’s kitchen closes at 00.00 while the bar is open till 01.00.
As per its name, Sunset is located in a prime position to watch the sun set over Istanbul and is also especially captivating on a full moon. The menu offers Japanese, Modern Turkish and Sushi. Japanese chef Hiroki Takemura has his own menu while Hüseyin Aslan prepares the Turkish and international selections. Lamb shanks, kebab with puréed aubergine cream sauce, silverbeet dolma, and yoghurt kebab are among chef Hüseyin’s menu. When it comes to dessert, sakızlı muhallebi (milk pudding with mastic), ekmek kadayıfı (oven-baked shredded pastry soaked in syrup) and kabak tatlısı (pumpkin dessert with syrup and walnuts), are recommended. Despite not being an exclusively Japanese or suchi restaurant, Sunset is home to some of the best sushi in Istanbul, thanks to Thai sushi chef Prasat Thongkhu and his team. Sunset also offers an extremely wide array of wines, as well as champagnes, port and whisky, which can be enjoyed before, after or with your meal.
Around the turn of the century, Pandeli, the son of a Greek shepherd from Niğde, moved to Istanbul and started what was to become a legendary culinary career. After working odd jobs as a dishwasher and a barber’s apprentice, Pandeli began selling piyaz (bean and onion salad) and köfte (meatballs) in the vicinity of where he would later open his eponymous restaurant. After half a century of operating eateries across Istanbul, Pandeli opened his current restaurant on the upper floor above the entrance of the Spice Bazaar, a location allocated to him by order of the state after his previous restaurant was looted during the 6-7 September pogrom of 1955. Hardships have always been part of Pandeli’s saga and the legendary restaurant closed down in 2016 due to financial difficulties. Now, thanks to new investors, the Istanbul icon has once again opened its doors and is looking as good as ever with Abdullah Sevim, its chef of 20 years, back in the kitchen. Pandeli’s hünkar beğendi, slow-cooked lamb served on a bed of charred eggplant puree, remains unparalleled, and the famous eggplant pie served with a leaf of döner kebap on top is still one of our favourite dishes in the city. Round it off with the oven-baked quince, which comes slathered with thick syrup and clotted Buffalo cream. As Pandeli is closed for dinner, stop by for lunch before or after visiting the historical peninsula. Pandeli is only open until 18:30 and no alcohol is served.
What is it? A chic restaurant that dwells inside a historic water cistern. Why go? To dine in an unforgettable setting. Head over to the Historical Peninsula’s Soğukçeşme Sokak for a dining experience unlike any other. Situated inside a 1500 year-old cistern, Sarnıç Fine Dining Restaurant is a bucket-list worthy spot for tourists and city-residents alike. This historic structure of a restaurant, with its giant columns and mesmerizing domed ceiling, provides an extraordinary ambience. As for the food, the restaurants Ottoman inspired menu is an absolute treat. We reccomend ‘The love story of Hero and Leander’ (40 TL), a traditional vegetable patty dish with a kinoa twist, topped with walnut stuffed meatballs and tsatsiki. Go for the ‘Magnificent salmon trio’(68 TL) for a plate of smoked salmon, salmon tartar and a fillet of teriyaki. As a main course, we suggest ‘the Venetian in the harem’ (140 TL), a truffle-oil infused beef medallion dish served with oyster mushrooms and goat’s cheese. You’ll also get the chance to listen to some live music while enjoying your food at this unique restaurant.
One of Istanbul's iconic restaurants and a popular lunch spot, Karaköy Lokantası is perhaps best known for its heavenly hünkar beğendi, a remnant of Ottoman palace cuisine made with slow-cooked beef on a creamy bed of mashed eggplant. At dinnertime, Karaköy Lokantası becomes one of the meyhanes in town with its outstanding meze. The fava bean purée is an excellent starter while the grilled octopus is our favourite main dish on the menu. Best enjoyed with a glass of rakı.
One of a number of restaurants opened by White Russians fleeing the Russian Revolution, Rejans was frequented by many interesting characters throughout the years including Mata Hari, Greta Garbo, Atatürk, Agatha Christie and, according to urban legend, a number of spies when the city was teeming with film noir style espionage in the 1940s. After its 80-year run on a quiet backstreet off the hustle and bustle of Istiklal, Rejans closed its doors in 2011. Following a four-year hiatus, however, the folks behind 360 Restaurant set out to bring this historic eatery back to life, renaming it 1924 (though Rejans was in fact founded in 1932). Picking up where Rejans left off, 1924 is an eatery that combines the old and the new, paying tribute to its precursor without completely relying on the past. Russian classics like pelmeni dumplings with leek, beef stroganoff and chicken Kiev are made exceptionally well here. The restaurant also draws inspiration from Eastern European cuisine to add colour to the menu, as Russian fare on its own might seem a bit too ‘country’ for a restaurant like 1924. A strong suit of the menu is undoubtedly the desserts section, featuring delights like the chestnut cream profiterole. 1924’s homemade vodkas make for a great aperitif or digestif and the lemon infused variety is our hooch of choice. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the salmon vodka, which is certainly not for the faint of heart. 1924 is a place to visit for its historic feel as well as its go