An anonymous mini-mall in Asagaya is an unlikely venue for this gem of a restaurant, run by the jovial Elif Ozeri and her family since its opening back in 2004. Consisting of an open kitchen, a long counter and half a dozen tables lined up along the wall, Izmir is a small, comfy and inviting place. Adding to the homely atmosphere is the almost complete lack of touristy knickknacks that pass for décor at many of the city’s other Turkish eateries (many of which aren’t actually run by Turks, mind you). While the tables are fine for parties of three or more, couples are usually directed to the counter, where they can stare at the rotating kebab grill and be served drinks straight from the kitchen.
And what about the food? Discounting the gorgeously plated and flavourful but overpriced and somewhat pretentious fare at Azabu-Juban’s Burgaz Ada, Izmir’s offerings make a very strong case for best Turkish eats in Tokyo. Although the signature döner kebab wasn’t exactly world-beating on our last visit, the other meat dishes are excellent – we’re big fans of the fittingly spicy and chewy Adana kebab, while the İskender kebab is decadently creamy and voluminous enough for two.
Those less than enamoured with animal flesh will want to focus on the meze appetiser selection: go for one of the karışık meze combo plates for a taste of homemade hummus, both light and spicy mixtures of veg and yogurt, and the herby tomato stew known as acılı ezme. You’ll need to order it separately, but only hardened carb haters would pass on the ekmek bread, which combines particularly well with the spicier meze.
Returning to the heartier fare, one dish that Izmir does particularly well is mantı – the Turkish take on gyoza or ravioli, if you will. These bite-sized dumplings are stuffed with ground mutton and drenched in a garlic-heavy yogurt and tomato sauce, making them the ideal companion to a couple glasses of Efes beer. Adventurous imbibers will also want to try the anise-flavoured Yeni Rakı, a distilled liquor available both by the glass and the bottle.
With calorie-counting seemingly an unknown concept in the kitchen, Izmir sure isn’t the place for dieters, and small eaters may find themselves stuffed halfway through a meal. Still, if at all possible, you’ll do well to leave room for dessert; the baklava is absolutely heavenly, while the sticky dondurma (ice cream) also deserves consideration. Plan on spending around ¥6,000 per person, including drinks – it’s possible to fill up with less, but with so many enticing treats on the menu, you’ll have a hard time holding back. Waistline, was good knowing you, but…
Passage Asagaya 2F, 2-13-2 Asagaya-Kita, Suginami-ku
|Opening hours:||6pm-12midnight (11pm) / closed Mon|
|Transport:||Asagaya Station (Chuo, Sobu lines), north exit|