A food fanatic’s adventures in Istanbul

If you know me personally, or follow me on Twitter, then you know I’m a food fanatic with a serious appetite for delicious and mouthwatering food. Therefore, one thing that I always like to explore when I travel is food. I’ve been to Istanbul 3 times: 2007, 2010 and 2013 and it offered me an amazing eating experience every single time.

If you’ve been to Istanbul, you’ve certainly heard of – and been to – Istiklal Street. It’s arguably the most famous street in Istanbul, packed with retail shops, lots of restaurants and cafes, bookstores, gift shops and bars. Anything you can imagine can be found there.

The first thing you notice as you walk down Istiklal Street is the large number of street food shops. You’ve got small carts selling corn on the cob, roasted chestnuts and baked goodies called “Simit” which are circles of bread with sesame sprinkled over them. Occasionally, you’d find a similar cart with molten chocolate fountains. Where you get a cup filled with either white or milk molten chocolate and choose some additives such as nuts, fresh fruits or cookies. Yummy!

Milk Chocolate fountain

Milk Chocolate fountain

A very famous and tasty street food is “Kumpir”. This is basically a large whole potato, roasted in a special oven and then cut open, stuffed with butter and cheese while hot to make the inside of the potato creamy. Then you have a large salad bar where you can choose up to seven additions to your Kumpir. This bar includes pickles, mushrooms, Russian salad, pasta salad, sausages, chili and other stuff. Imagine the possible combinations! Trust me when I say this, no matter how bizarre a combination you make, it still tastes amazing.

Kumpir (Roasted Potato) stuffed with...well a lot of things!

Kumpir (Roasted Potato) stuffed with…well a lot of things!

What would a visit to Istanbul be without having dessert? Turkish cuisine is known for mouthwatering sweets, such as Turkish Delights, or Lokum, which is like a gelatin based soft candy with many flavors. You can practically find it sold everywhere in Istanbul.

Turkish Delights have so many flavors and can be found almost everywhere

Turkish Delights have so many flavors and can be found almost everywhere

I can keep ranting about the different dessert shops in Istiklal Street and famous shopping malls, but I’d like to tell you  about a very special place that I stumbled upon in my last visit. It’s called Meze by Lemon Tree and it was truly the highlight of my trip.

It’s a small restaurant/pub off Istiklal Street in front of Pera Palace Hotel in the Beyoğlu district. The place is cozy and small and can host only about 20 people, yet is usually packed and reserved in advance. It is famous for its Meze’s or appetizers. They have a couple of shelves displaying their fine assortment of Meze’s that will make your mouth water in no time. The main courses are great too but the Meze’s are the highlight of the menu. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the appetizers, as they didn’t survive long on the table (went straight into my stomach). And for the sweet ending, I ordered a very delicious

dessert containing banana slices, cream, roasted almonds and cashews drizzled with sweet syrup. This one actually survived long enough for me to take a photo. I also wrote a review on TripAdvisor about the restaurant, if you wanna check it out.

Dessert at Meze by Lemon Tree

Dessert at Meze by Lemon Tree

Of course there are many other things I’ve seen, places I’ve been to and restaurants I’ve eaten at in Istanbul that are worth mentioning but maybe I’ll write about them later. If you’ve been to Istanbul, please share your eating experience.

P.S. All the photos in this post are mine. You can share them on other websites as long as you link back to my blog. Thanks.

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