Starched white tablecloths, the smell of spices, and plenty of bustle and clamor accompany the plates of spicy kebaps at Istanbul’s favorite Anatolian restaurant. From the ground it looks like a tourist trap, particularly given its location near the Spice Bazaar, but in fact it’s packed with locals. Try your hardest not to fill up on the delicious meze and the warm balloons of traditional bread (even if they do come straight from the oven)—because the main attraction here is the meat. You’ll want to save room for lahmacun (something like a pizza topped with spicy ground lamb) or for the kebap with Malta prunes or the lamb skewers with eggplant. (Watch out: the grilled green peppers on the side vary wildly in intensity; a large bite of the wrong one could leave you sidelined for the season.) Afterward, retire to the tiny Oriental sitting room for tea, a smoke, and traditional Anatolian sweets.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.