Thursday, September 17, 2009

Takanik Balik seafood restaurant (Istanbul)

Our first dinner in Istanbul. We were ready and prepared (so we thought). We had a very long list of great places to eat in Istanbul from a very reliable source. We chose a seafood restaurant for our first dinner in Istanbul. We even asked the hotel we were staying in to reserve a table for us before arriving in Istanbul.

We got into a taxi in front of the hotel and off we went. We very excited; but excitement became curiosity because we were sitting in the taxi for more than 45 minutes and we were still driving and driving and driving. It seemed strange that the restaurant was so far. We read the map before going to the restaurant and did we not think it was this far. The problem with taxi drivers in Istanbul is that they do not speak English (why should they, we should speak Turkish), so we were not sure if the taxi driver understood us or not. After driving and driving and driving; even the taxi driver finally stopped and asked someone for directions.

We drove past lots of very nice restaurants. We thought we were in the right area because we were next to the sea and there were lots of seafood restaurants. The taxi slowed down and turned into a lane and when the taxi reached the end of the lane, the taxi driver showed the guy the piece of paper with the name of the restaurant and asked if this was restaurant we were looking for. The man on the street said yes. We got out of the taxi but we were not convinced.

The taxi left and we followed this big and fat man with a walkie-talkie calling his colleague in the restaurant. We followed him into a very very very dark restaurant, we followed him upstairs and to our amazement. The restaurant was empty. We were the only people there. There was something very strange. It felt like in a mafia movie. We were actually scared. My friend acted quickly and pretended that his iphone rang; "Hello Mark, where are you? Oh, I see the restaurant in front of the street. OK, we will see you in one minute." My friend looked at me and told me; "We are in the wrong restaurant; Mark is waiting for us in front of the street." We both jumped up and ran out of the restaurant.

So, that was our first dinner experience in Istanbul. Being brought to a mafia restaurant where we could have been killed.

We walked out of the lane very fast and walked around the area and found this lovely seafood restaurant with lots of locals. That was a good sign and a decision maker for us.

The restaurant was in front of the lane that entered the mafia restaurant. While sitting in the restaurant, I was hoping that the big and fat mafia man did not walk out of the lane and see me in the restaurant.

We first ordered the house salad. A mix of corn, cucumber, tomatoe, lettuce, beets and carrots. All mixed with a very nice vinegrette (I have to apologize for the quality of photos. It was my first evening in Istanbul and I was not sure if I would offend the restaurant staff by taking photos with a flash).

The second dish was crispy calamari with a yoghurt sauce. The calamari was lightly fried to a pale gold brown. Slightly crispy and the calamari was very fresh. Not chewy. The yoghurt gave a nice contrasting sour taste.

The third dish was grilled fish. The perfect size for two. Perfectly grilled, the fish was still tender and flaky inside. With a dash of lemon, it was perfect.

The fourth dish was deep fried sardines. One of my favourite dishes. Deep fried to a deep brown. The sardines were very fresh.

We ended the meal with a Turkish tea. My first one. Presentation wise, its very nice. Turkish tea is very bitter but has a nice taste.

The restaurant gives you a choice of dinning inside or outside. We chose outside because the weather and temperature was lovely.

When we arrived, the restaurant was packed with locals. Families, friends and couples eating. A very comfortable and cozy neighborhood restaurant. The service was quick and pleasant.

So, even though the beginning of the night was out of a Alfred Hitchcock movie; it actually turned out to be very nice. We will need to find the original restaurant we were looking for in our next trip to Istanbul.

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