I just wanted to recommend a couple of places in Sultanahmet that quickly became our favorites during our trip.
TURQUOISE RESTAURANT is a new restaurant in Sultanahmet. I believe it's across the street from Hotel Zuegma. The address is Cankurtaran Mahallesi Akbiyik Cassesi No: 40. While the menu items were fairly standard (kebabs, fish, etc) the presentation of the food and the wonderful service really stood apart. We loved the kebabs so much that we had them both times we ate there. (We tried both the chicken and the lamb.) The plate was very artfully arranged, the food very fresh and flavorful, and the attention to detail was amazing. For example, the rice was flavored with butter and fresh dill, and there was a drizzle of demi-glace on the rim of the plate. The staff was wonderful, and treated us as old friends whenever we saw them on the street. The decor is very pretty, with yellow walls, a lovely fireplace, and colored lanterns hanging from the ceiling. At the end of our meals, my husband and I were reluctant to leave, we had so much fun talking with Serdal, Dagistan, and Apo -- we could tell that they really didn't want us to leave either!
The other place I wanted to recommend is CAFE MESALE, a tea garden and restaurant right near the Blue Mosque. The address is Arasta Carsisi No: 45. We actually had avoided this place our first couple of days in Istanbul, because they had live music every night and had signs advertising Dervish performances. My husband and I had assumed it was just a tourist trap. Big mistake!! Sure, there were tourists there, but most of the clientele were Turks, drinking tea, playing backgammon, smoking nargiles and singing along to the live music! Once we "discovered" the place, we went there at least once a day after that -- always at least one stop for a night cap of tea and live music before returning to our hotel. The food was good, especially the lentil soup. The coffee was authentic, and again, the staff was just amazing -- we really felt welcome and they greeted us enthusiastically every time we arrived. One waiter took time to buy us tea, and sat with us for about a half hour, just chatting! We saw Turks patiently teaching tourists how to play backgammon, under the ever-watchful eyes of the waiters who happily "corrected" any wrong moves the tourist might have made! Don't assume this place is a tourist trap -- it's full of locals and a wonderful place to hang out!!
Comments and recommendations for Istanbul restaurants
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