Friday, October 23, 2009

Drinks at Four Seasons Hotel (Istnabul, Turkey)

After walking around Istanbul, we were getting tired and need a rest and a cool drink. We have wanted to see the Four Seasons hotel because it is suppose to be stunning.

The Four Seasons is indeed a stunning hotel. It was created from a grande palace. This is the view from the terrace. So beautiful.

The terrace was very full with people enjoying their food, drinks and the amazing view.

It was too early for alcohol; so we ordered the terrace specials. The first drink was a strawberry orange special (the pink drink) and the second drink was an apple mint special (the green drink). Both were very refreshing and tasty. The drinks were accompanied with mixed nuts and olives.

The view of the hotel.

The view of the terrace. Its expansive, enormous and simply chic. I was very impressed with the friendliness of the staff. The view is amazing and the hotel is really beautiful. Maybe one day, I can save enough money to actually stay at this hotel.

Masa Restaurant; Istenye Park Shopping mall (Istanbul, Turkey)

This is going to sound strange to you; but one of my objectives of the day was to go to Banana Republic to buy t-shirts. Yes, you heard right. Banana Republic makes amazingly soft and yet rugged t-shirts. Since we do not get them in Asia or Europe, and we read that there was one in Istanbul. Banana Republic was our first stop of the day.

The Banana Republic (where they had a men's section) was at the ultra-stylish Kanyon shopping mall. Harvey Nichols was also in this shopping mall. I was delighted to find out that there was a sale on t-shirts at Banana Republic. So, I bought several. Then our next stop was the ultra chic and 'IN' shopping mall at the moment in Istanbul. It is called Istenye Park. Its amazing, it seemed like every beautiful and rich person of Istanbul was at this shopping mall. Its tha place to be seen and show-off.

After walking around for a while. It was time for lunch and we decided to eat where the beautiful and chic Istanbulers were eating. The restaurant is called Masa and it reigns as the center point of the outdoor shopping mall. We wanted to eat in the al-fresco terrace but it was packed and had a long waiting list. However, the inside of the restaurant was empty (I guess because you cannot be seen or show off from the inside). We did not mind because it was getting hot and it cooler inside the restaurant.

The first dish was grilled lamb salad. This was a very tasty dish. So, simple but hearty and filling.

The second dish was minced lamb kebabs. I can eat hundreds of these things. They were grilled very nicely. Every bite was full of spices and herbs.

The third dish was grilled lamb chops. Grilled very nicely. The lamb was tender and juicy. Did not need any sauce with this dish because the lambs were already so tasty.

This is the very busy terrace that we could not get a sit. I was very sceptical at first that a place like this could make such good food. Just because of the sheer size of the place and the amount of people. I just assumed this would be a factory that made mediocre food. But, I was proven wrong. It was very good.

Park Hyatt breakfast (Istanbul, Turkey)

We woke up early to have our final 'tourist' day in Istanbul. There was still a lot of places we wanted to see. We headed down to the lobby for breakfast.

The Park Hyatt does not do anything half-way. Even the cutlery and plates they use are very beautiful and stylish.

The breakfast consist of buffet and you get to order a hot dish from the breakfast menu. We first ordered a mushroom and tomato omelette with Turkish cheese. The omelette was cooked perfectly. Not over cooked but very soft to the touch of the fork. The Turkish cheese added a very nice flavour to the normally ordinary omelette. This was a very good choice.

The second hot dish was french toast with fresh red berry sauce. I am a sucker for french toast (if its done well). These were amazing. They used very good bread, which already was a great start. Cooked to perfection; the bread lightly soaked in the egg batter, fried to a golden brown outside and soft inside. But, what was also amazing was the fresh red berry sauce that accompanied the french toast. Sour, tangy, acidic and sweet. Fantastic flavours to add to the french toast.

The bread & pastry counter. We were in bakery heaven. What stood out was the Turkis round bagel like bread covered with sesame seeds. So good!

The cereal, fruit and jam counter. Too many choices and not enough space in my stomache for all of it.

The dinning area was stylishly simple and chic. The staff is incredible!!! They truly understand what the word 'service with a smile' means.

Park Hyatt & Kosebasi Restaurant, (Istanbul-Turkey)

We arrived back to Istanbul. I was actually very happy to be back. This time; we decided to stay at the Park Hyatt which is in the very chic neighborhood of Nistanasi. Lots of chic shops and cafes around the area. We heard lots of great things about the hotel and we also got a very good rate. The hotel is very modern with amazing friendly staff. The building used to be an apartment building and they renovated it to its modern glory.

Since we arrived very late into Istanbul, we decided to eat at the restaurant right NEXT door to the hotel. We were lucky that it is considered to be one of the best in town. The restaurant is called Kosebasi and is considered one of the best kebab restauarnts in Turkey by TIME magazine. And; Kosebasi was voted "One of the top 50 restaurants on Earth" by 14,000 readers of the Conde Nast Traveller. And, Kosebasi again received the highest rating in the 2009 Zagat Survey. I can keep going on and on and on about this restaurant but I am sure you get the picture. This is one of the best restaurants around and we were going to eat there. Yeeeppeee!

The first dish was artichoke with potatoes & carrots slices. A very refreshing dish It came cold, nice presentation, the artichoke was very fresh, a nice consistency and was tasty.

The second dish was Turkish yoghurt. Very creamy, rich and sour. You never need sauce when you have a whole dish of yoghurt. It goes practically with everything.

The third dish was humus. Creamy and tasty. I always enjoys humus; a simple dish but very satisfying with good bread.

The bread at the restaurant was incredible. The bread arrived at the table warm and they were puffed up like balloons. You crack them open, break a piece off and use it to accompany the the other dishes like the humus. The bread was crispy but tender inside.

This dish was a complementary (very nice of them). I was not sure what it was but it reminded me of a mini-pizza on the bottom and on top was a mini-calzone. The pizza was simply made with fresh tomato and herbs and the calzone was filled with cheese. Both were tasty.

The fifth dish was a parsley salad mixed with tomatoes and herbs. A very refreshing dish; a dish full of contrasting flavours, sour, tangy and acidic. Very nice.

The sixth dish was a fresh tomato salad. I think ever since I arrived in Istanbul, I have never eaten so much tomatoes in my life. I have had tomatoes in every meal I have had. I am not even complaining. The tomatoes in Istanbul are so full of taste. On top of that tomatotes are good for your health and fights cancer.

The seventh dish was minced lamb and grilled to perfection. A simple dish but I just love it. I can eat this stuff all the time. The lambe had a fabulous flavour.

The eighth dish was lamb chops. They sure know how to cook their lamb in this restaurant. So juicy and tasty at every bite.

The red wine we had was Doluca, Kave 2006. Another very nice Turkish wine what paired with the food perfectly. Drinking well with lots of fruit and the acidity was not overwhelming.

We were the last ones at the restaurant. As you can see; the waiters cleaned up the al-fresco dining area and left us alone. The main restauarnt is across the street. The staff were sitting there waiting for us to leave. We felt bad and asked for the bill.

If you want to know more about Kosebasi; please click on:


Olympic Airlines

We only stayed in Athens for one night. We flew back to Istanbul with Olympic Airlines. I heard many horror stories about Olympic Airlines, such as the service and food. I was very scared!

However; the plane was ok. Nothing to complain about but nothing to recommend as well. The air-hostesses were friendly enough. No issues at all; until..............................................

The food tray was put on my table! I could not figure out what was the main course. I think it was a sandwich. White bread with a funny looking piece of meat (not sure if it was pork or beef or vegetarian), a slab of funny color cheese. I was not in the mood to even open the plastic. So, I left it alone and waited for a very nice dinner in Istanbul.

Coffee Break (Athens, Greece)

After seeing the Acropolis museum and the Acropolis. We decided visit the center Athens. The shopping district of Athens.

We took the metro. When you come up from the metro; you are greeted with the City Hall.

We were hot, tired and thirsty. We ended up at the very chic area where the coffee shops were and where the beautiful Athenians were hanging out. We decided on this coffee shop because we saw a guy drinking a coffee drink that looks very tempting.

The drink was a blended mocha. It was smooth, rich, creamy and absolutely coffee delicious. A Starbucks blended drink will never be able to compare to this amazing drink. On top of that; they give you free chocolate cake (which was very moist and yummy) to accompany your coffee drink. I was in coffee heaven. I just love the idea of getting free pastry with your drink order. Amazing!

Here I am staring at the beautiful Athenians sitting at the coffee shop across from us.

Acropolis (Athens, Greece)

I have heard so many stories about the Acropolis. Finally, I have the chance to see one of the greatest pieces of art or architecture or both. We also heard that the Acropolis museum finally opened (lucky for us). That is one of the key reasons why we came to Athens; of course to see the Acropolis but also the new museum.

We had an early breakfast at the hotel and took the metro to the Acropolis. You have to walk about 10 minutes from the metro to the museum. We arrived at 10:00 am and there was nobody. We paid for our ticket and walked in.

Walking to the museum; we could see the Acropolis sitting high on the hill. The Acropolis museum is absolutely amazing. I cannot do the museum justice by trying to explain how beautiful it is or trying to explain the very long history of the planning for the museum to finally open.

You can read more about it at:

After walking through the museum; we climbed many steps to get to the Acropolis. But along the way, there were amazing geological sites like the amphitheater.

It was a sunny and very very hot day. Due to the heat; it seemed like the effort to walk up to the Acropolis was more difficult. However; when we arrived at the top, it was worth the climb. Though the Acropolis is being renovated and cleaned up (it has been going on for several years now) and the locals say it will never be finished. It is a stunning sight to behold.

I would suggest you go to the museum first before walking up to the Acropolis. In the museum there is an open theater that runs a video explaining the magnificent history of the Acropolis. So; when you are up at the Acropolis, you appreciate more what you are seeing because you understand the history.

The front view of what is left of the Acropolis. What you will notice is that there is no vegetation on the hill. It is only rocks and stones. I am not sure why this is but we were all looking for shade from the blistering sun rays.

Alatsi Restaurant (Athens, Greece)

We arrived late afternoon to Athens. We took the train (metro) from the airport to the center of Athens. We were very lucky that there was a metro station very close to our hotel. We stayed at the Hilton (apparently the best hotel in Athens). We walked from the metro station to the hotel. When we arrived at the hotel. We were surprised how the hotel check-in was not as friendly as in Istanbul. We had some issues about checking in and we did not get the room we booked; but that is too long a story to write about.

What was interesting was the restaurant we were going to eat at in the evening.

We read about a great Crete restaurant. It had fantastic reviews and it is considered one of the best restaurants in Athens. We reserved a table from Bangkok before leaving for our trip just to make sure we got a table when we arrived in Athens. What we did not know and was a great coincidence is that the restaurant was only one minute walk from the hotel.

We arrived around 9:00 pm. The restaurant was about only 20% full (Athenians eat very late). The decor was simple, casual and elegant. Mostly wood and white colours.

We started with two glasses of Greek white wine. Not bad at all.

Alatsi is a restaurant that serves rustic & hearty cuisine of Crete. Altsi means 'natural sea salt' in Crete. It is the latest regional food craze to hit Athens. In the Ilissia neighborhood, chef Dimitris Skarmoutsos dazzles with his cooking.

The first dish was grape vine leaves stuffed with rice & accompanied with Greek yoghurt. A nice start to our Crete dinner. Unique flavours and textures.

The second dish was wheat husk with tomato and capers in olive oil. This was a very strange dish due to the wheat husk texture; dry, brittle and course. The wheat husk itself does not have any taste; very bland and dry. The only flavours came from the olive oil, tomatoes and capers. This was not my favourite dish.

The third dish was snails boubouristi fried in olive oil, vinegar and rosemary. A very nice way of cooking snails. The olive, oil, vinegar and rosemary gave the snails a rich and suculent taste. The only issue I had with this dish was that it was dry; there was not enough sauce to keep the snails moist.

The fourth dish was rabbit stewed in wine. An amazingly rich and flavourful dish. I do like rabbit and this dish did not disappoint. The stew was very flavourful with lots of stewed vegetables. The consistency of the rabbit was a bit dry (but that is normal for rabbit), but overall very nicely done and a very good dish.

The fifth dish was pilaf made with rich meat broth and sheep-milk butter. A huge portion that was rich & hearty. The pilaf had a creamy consistency full of meat flavour. An incredible dish.

The red wine to accompany our dishes was a Greek wine; Nostos Grenach 2006. Medium to dark blackcherry colour. Lots of herbs and black berry aromas. Medium to full bodied with hints of olives and truffels.

A Crete dessert. Slightly deep fried dessert covered with honey. Fluffly & light, slightly sweet with the honey.

The service was very attentive and nice. The clientelle was chic & stylish. The atmosphere was cosy & casual. The food was authentic, eclectic, hearty and delicious. A really great restaurant.

Alatsi Vrasida 13 Athens, Greece 11528 phone: +30 210 721 0501