So the Food Jihadist is now eating in Turkey, but I must admit, I am not finding it very much of a challenge to enjoy the food. We arrived exhausted from a late night flight and in desperate need of some carbohydrates to refuel, so we dragged our feet to Konak in the Beyoglu district of Istanbul on Istiklal street.
Beyoglu appears to be the place for good eating: The winding back streets are overflowing with kebapcis (kebap shops), cheap bars, Turkish pastry shops, fresh fish and produce stalls, and meyhanes â€“ restaurants packed with locals sampling dozens of mezze and drinking the obligatory licorice flavored alcohol, raki. In short, this region of the city rocks, well at the very leasts it pulsates from the loud music blasted from it’s plethora of nightclubs.
Konak’s interior, with its high guiled ceilings and black-tie suited waiters, suggests it’s a much more expensive restaurant than it actually is. It’s location on Istiklal street makes it easy to find and means, unfortunately, there are a lot of tourists eating there. But Konak was good, very good. They are famous for the iskender kebap – doner lamb served on pide with yogurt and butter sauce â€“ but we had bigger and better plans for kebabs and, craving carbs, we ordered a pide with cheese (a thicker bread topped with garlicky white cheese and grilled in a coal oven) and a lahmacun (a very thin crust topped with minced lamb, tomato, and an array of spices). The lahmacun is traditionally finished with a handful of shredded romaine and a tart squeeze of lemon.
Both the pide and the lahmacun were delicious and piping hot, having just been pulled from the coal oven. The pide was very simple, bread and cheese, but sometimes (for me actually most of the time) bread and cheese are all you need. I appreciated the hint of garlic imparted to the cheese, and the crusty bits of burnt cheese that dotted the top pide. We easily tore the lahmacun apart, squeezing every last bit of lemon on top of it, and appreciating the acidity of lemon tenderizing the pungent little studs of lamb. All in all, a good meal, but not mind-blowing.
For dinner, we took a tip from Istanbul Eats (something we would do again and again and always be astoundingly happy with the results – hamdulillah for local food bloggers) and we went to Durumzade for an adana kebap â€“ a charcoal grilled spicy minced beef kebab â€“ and a tavuk sis â€“ a charcoal grilled chicken kebab. Four Turkish lira (2.6$ US) bought me one of the most delicious meals I have eaten all year. If you’re are in Istanbul, you have to try Durumazade.
This little kebapcis is completely unpretentious. A small room with dirty floors contains only two plastic tables for patrons, a large charcoal grill, a preparation table for the cook and a front case filled with skewered meat. The masterful chef (who also happens to be a very friendly guy) grills the desired skewer of meat over a hot flame. Then the meat goes onto the lavash â€“ outstanding homemade flat bread bubbly, rich, and fresh. He adds marinated onions, tomatoes, parsley, and sprinkles the wrap with smoky spices. The bread is then put over the flame allowing the hot juices of the meat to soak into the bread and mix with the onions, tomatoes, parsley, and spices. At just the right moment, the chef pulls the stuffed lavash off the grill, and then rolls up the durum â€“ Turkish wrap. A final heat over the hot charcoal flames crisps the outside of the wrap leaving it with lovely brown burnt spots.
I never thought the tastes and textures of a wrap could be so complex. Each component melds into the others but is also distinct. The onions, tomatoes, and parsley provide important contrasts cutting the buttery richness of the lavash and grilled meat. Lovely meat juices leave some parts of the lavash gooey, but other parts are smoky and crispy from the charcoal grill. This is delicious. We ate one for dinner, then promptly returned the next morning to eat one for breakfast. It was just that good.