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Istanbul

F&W's roundup of the best restaurants in Istanbul, from a glamorous kebab house to a decades-old meyhane (drinking house) with excellent meze. For more great restaurants, check out our guide to the world's best places to eat.

Restaurants

Balıkçı Sabahattin

An olive's toss from all the old city attractions, this idyllic seafood restaurant with a garden has sparkling meze—sweet roasted red peppers, smooth garlicky eggplant spread—and unimpeachably fresh, expertly grilled fish.
We loved: Fish kofte (meatballs) subtly perfumed with sweet spices; the whole grilled sea bass.

Ciya Restaurants

It's worth taking a ferry to the picturesque shopping district of Kadiköy on Istanbul's Asian side to eat at Musa Dagdeviren's unique restaurants. Presiding over three small places (two kebab houses and a modest café) on the same street, the fortyish chef researches regional peasant recipes from villages all over Turkey that have inspired a vast repertoire of intriguingly spiced salads, spreads, stews and kebabs.
We loved: Lahmacun (Turkish lamb pizza); kebabs with fruit, such as sour cherries.

Karaköy Güllüoglu

Recently renovated in faux-Ottoman style, this perpetually crowded shop close to the Galata Bridge is the source of Istanbul's flakiest böreks, savory pastries filled with spinach, cheese or meat. Its principal claim to fame, however, is the pistachio baklava, made from paper-thin yufka dough.
We loved: Su böregi, a kind of Turkish lasagna.
Insider tip: Get your böreks to go and eat them at the nearby Karaköy docks, overlooking the beautiful mosques across the Golden Horn.

Kösebasi Reina

The first kebab house in Istanbul to serve traditional eastern Turkish skewers in designer surroundings more than a decade ago, Kösebasi has spawned many imitators and the company's own wildly successful chain of restaurants. The most glamorous location is this one, open only in the summer, inside the nightclubby restaurant complex called Reina, with a stunning Bosporus view. Here, the encyclopedic roster of sizzling grills comes with the requisite trimmings, like herbaceous tomato salad with pomegranate, and addictive findik lahmacun (lamb-topped mini-pizza).
We loved: Cop Sis (tender cubes of lamb marinated in spices and milk); smoky chicken wings.

Mikla

Opened in 2005, Mikla is still drawing glamorous crowds to its Scandinavian-style panoramic dining room on top of the Marmara Pera Hotel. Finnish-Turkish chef Mehmet Gürs—Turkey's answer to Jamie Oliver (he's young, attractive and mediagenic)—puts a Nordic spin on minimalist dishes of local lamb, fish and vegetables.
We loved: Black Sea Hamsi (similar to anchovy) toasts with lemon foam; lamb-shank confit with lingonberry sauce.

Moreish

At this low-key 28-seat global bistro inside the Nu Pera complex in the restaurant-packed Tepebasi area, a duo of young local chefs prepare inventive, fusiony dishes like lamb chops with jasmine tea jelly. Owners Esra Muslu and Coskun Uysal (who cooked in Melbourne and London) manage to cook and personally tend to the tiny, spare black and white dining room—which, despite its high cool quotient, has a homey vibe.
We loved: Sea bass ceviche with noodles, seaweed and hot fish consommé poured tableside from a teapot.

Müzedechanga

The owners of Changa, Istanbul's hippest fusion restaurant, also run this hotspot inside the elegant Sakip Sabanci Museum on the Bosporus's European shore. The modern Turkish-Mediterranean mezes and entrées are fantastic, and the cocktail list features great drinks, including one infused with bergamot.
We loved: Fried beef tongue with a cheese crust; olive oil-braised celery root with pears.
Insider tip: Book a window table to enjoy a Bosporus panorama.

Refik

Over half a century old, this pleasantly worn meyhane (drinking house) on a back street of Beyoglu is still the favorite gathering spot of Istanbul's intellectuals. It has outdoor tables, authentically gruff owners, rivers of raki (Turkish anise liqueur) and textbook-perfect meze, like crisp, cheesy boreks or Black Sea baked anchovies.
We loved: Strips of crisp-fried liver served with onions and parsley.

Zuma

Confirming Istanbul's status as a newly glamorous international capital, last year three satellites of fashionable global Asian fusion spots have landed in town. Now the city has its own Spice Market from Jean-Georges Vongerichten; an outpost of London's designed-to-death Hakassan; and a brand new Zuma, another transcendentally trendy import from London. A swoon-worthy location on the European shore of the Bosporus gives Zuma the edge over the competition. The multi-level space, with a sushi bar, a robata grill and a lounge features a gorgeous Zen look, great cocktails and a skillfully executed menu of pan-Asian small plates.
We loved: Korean-spiced lamb with sesame cucumbers.

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