Sinan saved the restaurant he knew would have the biggest impact on us for last – Adana Ocakbasi. I can sum up our experience in one word and save you the effort of reading through another long drawn-out review – Wow!
This is a hugely popular restaurant, a foodie’s Disneyland. Sinan’s wasta got us a table but, blimey, it was as snug a fit as my suit at my son’s wedding a few days earlier. The highlight of the interior for me was the mangal in the middle of the restaurant; this was taking an “open kitchen” to a different level. Abdul, the restaurateur among us, enviously eyed the mangal’s extractor hood – the kebabs cooking over hot coals were making so much smoke yet none was coming outside the mangal area – all sucked up by the hood. I wouldn’t be surprised if we found something similar appear at the next incarnation of his restaurant, The Meating Room.
Sinan ordered. The raki and condiments arrived first, each carefully chosen to compliment the kebabs to follow. There was Yoğurtlu Patlıcan, a delicious yoghurt and smoked eggplant dish; Gavurdağı Salatası, a salsa-salad of finely chopped tomato, spring onions and green peppers which got its tanginess from a heavy-handed drizzle of pomegranate molasses; and finally Soğan Sarımsak Mezesi, my favourite of the three – cooked (usually oven baked) onion and garlic – the perfect pairing for meat.
The first of the meats to arrive was the perfectly cooked (= slightly undercooked and juicy) liver, Ciğer Şiş. We wolfed it down in seconds. Next up was the Çöp Şiş (pronounced ‘chop shish’), a cotton tender Anatolian lamb shish kebab which was so soft and juicy and yummy that we ordered a second round. Although the Adana which followed was the star of the show, the shish was my favourite. The Adana was insane, an Iranian Koobideh on steroids. I usually find Adana too fatty but this was beautifully balanced. We had a second portion of this too. I wasn’t as impressed with the next two kebabs, Kaburga (lamb’s ribs) which I found too fatty and Uykuluk (sweetbreads) which I have never been a fan of.
We ended our meal with what Alex called the dessert of champions – slices of banana covered with kaymak (clotted cream) and honey, and Turkish tea which I didn’t have, choosing to stick to my raki (you shouldn’t mix your drinks ;-).
Visiting restaurants in Istanbul with Sinan is like walking into a Las Vegas hotel with Elvis – let’s just say we got a lot of attention wherever we went. Judging by how the staff treated guests at the other tables, I’ll say service is very friendly and fast. Although I did not like everything we were served, I am still giving this restaurant a 9/10 and that’s because what I did like, I liked to the extent that I actually dream about it (the shish in particular). If you are visiting Istanbul (or are lucky enough to live there), I highly recommend you try this restaurant. I guarantee it will blow your mind.
Xerxes (pronounced Zûrk’seez) – Food Adventurer Extraordinaire & Aspiring (=Amateur) Food Blogger – Shamelessly Exploring the Boundaries of Gluttony
Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join him on his culinary journey on Instagram: @ravenousxerxes or reach out to him via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.