Kadıköy Restaurant Owners and Chefs On What To Try From Their Menus

Istanbul’s Kadıköy neighbourhood was once a sleepy part of Turkey’s bustling cultural capital
Istanbul’s Kadıköy neighbourhood was once a sleepy part of Turkey’s bustling cultural capital | © DB Pictures / Alamy Stock Photo
Gamze Kantarcıoğlu

Kadıköy resident Gamze Kantarcıoğlu asks the owners and chefs of his favourite restaurants to weigh in on what to try from their menus. Here are the top restaurants to eat at in the most vibrant neighbourhood on Istanbul’s Asian side.

Istanbul’s Kadıköy neighbourhood grazes the southern shores of the Bosphorus, and was once a sleepy part of Turkey’s bustling cultural capital. In recent years, the neighbourhood has become popular, with an influx of visitors who hang out in the many cafés, art galleries, coffee shops and bars here. Our list includes flavours to fit a variety of palates, including one of the oldest restaurants in the area serving traditional Turkish food, and a hip bar that serves street food with a twist.

An artsy neighbourhood on Istanbul’s Asian side, Kadıköy is filled with little cafés, bars, galleries and markets

1. Cibalikapı Balıkçısı

Restaurant, Turkish

Cibalikapı Balıkçısı is a typical meyhane (Turkish tavern) that mainly serves seafood and mezes (appetisers). The restaurant has some 150–200 meze recipes in its archives, which include elements from Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Turkish cuisine. All these are not always available, but the menu is changed regularly to add new recipes from the archives. Behzat Şahin, the founder and owner of the restaurant, recommends trying ‘pickled fish from the palace’ (pickled sea bass), an appetiser they discovered in the first known handwritten cookbook by Ali Eşref Dede, from the 1700s.

2. Aida Vino e Cucina

Restaurant, Turkish

Aida Vino e Cucina might have an Italian name, but it isn’t a classic Italian restaurant. Located in the heart of Moda in Kadıköy, Aida offers fusion food that includes influences from Northern European, Ottoman, South American and Japanese cuisine. The owners of the restaurant, Elif Uluhan and Andrea Cariglia, are a couple passionate about good food, wine and travelling. They recommend trying the risotto croccante ai frutti di mare e funghi, saying, “We cook risotto with shellfish, such as mussels and scallops, and then burn them until they become crispy on the outside. After placing it on the plate in a dome, we pour a light, spicy cream sauce with shrimp, mussels, squid and mushrooms on top.”

3. Yanyalı Fehmi Lokantası

Restaurant, Turkish

Make your way to Yanyalı Fehmi Lokantası if you want to try some traditional Turkish food. One of the oldest restaurants in Kadıköy, founded by Fehmi Sönmezler in 1919, this institution aims to bring old recipes such as casserole, wrapped lamb liver and stuffed pepper to new generations of foodies. Ergin Sönmezler, one of Sönmezler’s great-grandchildren, says their signature dish beğendi kebap is the one to try. “We roast eggplants and crush them with cheese. We serve it with meat stew on top.” Yanya meatballs and pasha kebap are among his other favourites.

4. Basta! Street Food Bar

Restaurant, Street Food

Interior of Basta! Street Food Bar
Courtesy of Basta! Street Food Bar
Basta! Street Food Bar was founded by two talented chefs, Derin Arıbaş and Kaan Sakarya, who launched Basta! after having worked at several fine-dining restaurants in Europe. The duo wanted to make high-quality street food at accessible prices. “We realised that chefs don’t cook street food,” says Sakarya, “and Kadıköy is a great place to do this, because it is a crowded, lively, young and modern neighbourhood. We are happy to be here.” They recommend trying signature dishes such as the lamb rib burrito, the Basta! rice pudding and the lentil soup with oranges.

5. Aralık Moda

Restaurant, Turkish

Aralık Moda serves traditional Turkish food with a modern twist. Their liver waffle and Bosnian meatballs stand out on the menu, but managers Olcay Güneş and Serkan Can strongly suggest also trying the stuffed chard. “We cook the meat in molasses broth for eight hours in a heavy fire, shred it and then wrap it in chard. We serve it with smoked yoghurt.”

6. orōro Sushi Bar

Restaurant, Japanese

This Moda restaurant reinterprets Japanese cuisine with a special emphasis on sushi. Expect the classics like California rolls and salmon maki, though experimental eaters will also enjoy the restaurants’s specials such as the Suzuka roll with caramelised walnuts and sea bass. Co-founder Ceyhun Saraçoğlu says, “We don’t use ready-made sauce, and we constantly invent new recipes. The crunchy bakudan roll is one of our favourites, with tempura shrimp, tofu, asparagus, beetroot crisps and special miro sauce.”

7. Brasserie Noir

Restaurant, French

Brasserie Noir is located on the one-way Bağdat Avenue, one of the fanciest streets in Kadıköy, lined with luxury fashion stores and offices. The restaurant’s French-inspired menu includes a popular warm goat’s cheese tart and crispy beef with sweet sauce, as well as street delicacies like lamb intestine (kokoreç). Co-founder Oğuz Kaan Ermeç says, “For us, eating is full of joy. And we’d like to share this pleasure with people who feel the same.” The chic decor – think white tablecloths and red chairs – makes it a great place for a romantic dinner.

8. Muutto Street Food and Meze Bar

Restaurant, Turkish

As the name suggests, Muutto’s menu includes mezes and some inventive street food. Their lamb-liver burrito with sumac (a lemony spice), halloumi, tomatoes and onion, is especially popular. There are six other original burritos that cater to both meat lovers and vegetarians. Chef Umut Karakuş says, “Our goal is to fit a delicious plate of food in a burrito, and what we do could be called ‘new generation street food’.”

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