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.
An olive's toss from all the old city attractions, this idyllic seafood restaurantwith a garden has sparkling meze—sweet roasted red peppers, smooth garlicky eggplantspread—and unimpeachably fresh, expertly grilled fish.
We loved: Fish kofte (meatballs) subtly perfumed with sweet spices; the whole grilledsea bass.
It's worth taking a ferry to the picturesque shopping district of Kadiköy onIstanbul's Asian side to eat at Musa Dagdeviren's unique restaurants. Presiding overthree small places (two kebab houses and a modest café) on the same street, the fortyish chefresearches regional peasant recipes from villages all over Turkey thathave 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.
Recently renovated in faux-Ottoman style, this perpetually crowded shop close to the Galata Bridgeis the source of Istanbul's flakiest böreks, savory pastries filled with spinach, cheeseor meat. Its principal claim to fame, however, is the pistachio baklava, made from paper-thin yufkadough.
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.
The first kebab house in Istanbul to serve traditional eastern Turkish skewers in designersurroundings more than a decade ago, Kösebasi has spawned many imitators and thecompany's own wildly successful chain of restaurants. The most glamorous location is thisone, open only in the summer, inside the nightclubby restaurant complex called Reina, with astunning Bosporus view. Here, the encyclopedic roster of sizzling grills comes with the requisitetrimmings, 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.
- Opened in 2005, Mikla is still drawing glamorous crowds to its Scandinavian-style panoramic diningroom on top of the Marmara Pera Hotel. Finnish-Turkish chef Mehmet Gürs—Turkey'sanswer to Jamie Oliver (he's young, attractive and mediagenic)—puts a Nordic spin onminimalist dishes of local lamb, fish and vegetables.
- We loved: Black Sea Hamsi (similar to anchovy) toasts with lemon foam; lamb-shank confit withlingonberry sauce.
At this low-key 28-seat global bistro inside the Nu Pera complex in the restaurant-packed Tepebasiarea, a duo of young local chefs prepare inventive, fusiony dishes like lamb chops with jasmine teajelly. Owners Esra Muslu and Coskun Uysal (who cooked in Melbourne and London) manage to cookand personally tend to the tiny, spare black and white dining room—which, despiteits high cool quotient, has a homey vibe.
We loved: Sea bass ceviche with noodles, seaweed and hot fish consommé pouredtableside from a teapot.
- The owners of Changa, Istanbul's hippest fusion restaurant, also run this hotspot inside theelegant Sakip Sabanci Museum on the Bosporus's European shore. The modernTurkish-Mediterranean mezes and entrées are fantastic, and the cocktail list features greatdrinks, 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.
Over half a century old, this pleasantly worn meyhane (drinking house) on a back street ofBeyoglu is still the favorite gathering spot of Istanbul's intellectuals. It has outdoortables, authentically gruff owners, rivers of raki (Turkish anise liqueur) andtextbook-perfect meze, like crisp, cheesy boreks or Black Sea baked anchovies.
We loved: Strips of crisp-fried liver served with onions and parsley.
- Confirming Istanbul's status as a newly glamorous international capital, last year threesatellites of fashionable global Asian fusion spots have landed in town. Now the city has its ownSpice 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 locationon the European shore of the Bosporus gives Zuma the edge over the competition. The multi-levelspace, with a sushi bar, a robata grill and a lounge features a gorgeous Zen look, great cocktailsand a skillfully executed menu of pan-Asian small plates.
- We loved: Korean-spiced lamb with sesame cucumbers.