If you’re looking for an unforgettable food adventure, Istanbul is the place to be. This vibrant and bustling city offers a diverse range of culinary experiences, from traditional Turkish cuisine to Middle Eastern delicacies. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Istanbul, where you can indulge in the rich and flavorful dishes that have made this region famous.
Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, with Middle Eastern flavors and dishes playing a significant role in the city’s gastronomy. The fusion of traditional Turkish cuisine and Middle Eastern influences has resulted in a unique and vibrant food scene that is a must-try for any foodie. In this article, we’ll guide you through the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Istanbul, where you can savor the rich and aromatic flavors of the region’s cuisine.
A brief history of Middle Eastern cuisine in Istanbul
Middle Eastern cuisine has a long and rich history in Istanbul, dating back to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were renowned for their culinary skills and developed a sophisticated cuisine that blended local ingredients with Middle Eastern spices and flavors. Some of the most popular dishes that originated from this period include kebabs, Turkish delight, and baklava.
Today, Istanbul’s Middle Eastern cuisine continues to thrive, with restaurants offering a wide range of traditional and contemporary dishes that highlight the region’s culinary diversity.
The Top 5 Middle Eastern restaurants in Istanbul
Here are the top 5 Middle Eastern restaurants in Istanbul that you shouldn’t miss:
1. Hünkar Beğendi
Hünkar Beğendi is a popular restaurant that specializes in traditional Ottoman cuisine. The restaurant is located in the upscale district of Beşiktaş and features a cozy and elegant ambiance. The standout dish at Hünkar Beğendi is the lamb stew, which is served on a bed of creamy eggplant puree.
2. Meze by Lemon Tree – **Closed Forever
Meze by Lemon Tree is a trendy and contemporary restaurant that offers a modern take on traditional Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine. The restaurant is located in the hip neighborhood of Karaköy and features a stylish and chic interior. The menu at Meze by Lemon Tree includes a range of mezze platters, grilled meats, and seafood dishes.
Mikla is a Michelin-starred restaurant that offers a fusion of Turkish and Scandinavian cuisine. The restaurant is located on the top floor of the Marmara Pera hotel and offers stunning views of Istanbul’s skyline. The standout dishes at Mikla include the roasted lamb with fennel and sumac and the grilled octopus with hazelnut and apple.
4. Asitane Restaurant – Closed for Renovation
Asitane Restaurant is a historic restaurant that specializes in Ottoman cuisine. The restaurant is located in the district of Fatih and features a traditional and opulent decor. The standout dishes at Asitane Restaurant include the almond soup with chicken and the lamb stew with apricot and quince.
5. Nusr-Et Steakhouse
Nusr-Et Steakhouse is a world-famous restaurant chain that has gained popularity for its expertly grilled meats and impeccable service. The Istanbul location of the restaurant is located in the trendy neighborhood of Nişantaşı and features a luxurious and elegant decor. The standout dish at Nusr-Et Steakhouse is the Tomahawk steak, which is served tableside by the expert chefs.
The Best Dishes to Try
When dining at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Istanbul, there are several dishes that you must try. These include:
Turkish meze platter
A meze platter is a traditional Turkish appetizer that includes a variety of small dishes, such as hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves, and grilled eggplant. It’s a great way to sample a range of flavors and textures.
Kebabs are a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine and come in many variations. Some popular types of kebabs in Istanbul include Adana kebab (spicy minced meat skewers) and Şiş kebab (marinated lamb skewers).
Baklava is a sweet pastry that is made with layers of phyllo dough, chopped nuts, and honey syrup. It’s a popular dessert in Middle Eastern cuisine and is a must-try when in Istanbul.
Turkish delight, also known as lokum, is a sweet confection that is made with starch, sugar, and flavorings such as rosewater or citrus. It’s a popular treat in Middle Eastern cuisine and is a great souvenir to take home.
Dining Etiquette in Istanbul
When dining at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Istanbul, there are a few cultural customs and etiquette to keep in mind. These include:
- It’s customary to remove your shoes before entering a restaurant or home.
- When sitting at a table, wait to be seated by the host or hostess.
- When eating, use your right hand to pick up food and eat with.
- It’s considered polite to leave a small amount of food on your plate to indicate that you are satisfied.
Istanbul is a food lover’s paradise, and the Middle Eastern cuisine on offer is a testament to the city’s rich culinary history. From traditional Ottoman dishes to modern twists on Middle Eastern flavors, there’s something for everyone to savor. Be sure to visit one of the top Middle Eastern restaurants in Istanbul to indulge in the flavors and aromas of the region’s cuisine.
Q: What is the difference between Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine?
A: Turkish cuisine is heavily influenced by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, but also has its unique ingredients and techniques.
Q: What is the best time to visit Istanbul for foodies?
A: Anytime is a good time to visit Istanbul for foodies, but the city is especially vibrant during the summer months.
Q: Can I find vegetarian options at Middle Eastern restaurants in Istanbul?
A: Yes, most Middle Eastern restaurants in Istanbul offer vegetarian options, such as stuffed grape leaves, falafel, and hummus.
Q: Is it customary to tip at Middle Eastern restaurants in Istanbul?
A: It’s not mandatory to tip at restaurants in Istanbul, but leaving a small amount (around 10%) is considered polite.
Q: What is the most popular dish in Turkish cuisine?
A: The most popular dish in Turkish cuisine is probably the kebab, which comes in many different varieties.