Üstad Restaurant Istanbul Reviews
A place to enjoy the real Istanbul Feb 15, 2011
I have to tell a short story first, with some relevance, before the review. I was serving as committee member for the Advanced Solid State Photonics meeting in Istanbul. I encouraged my former professor, Ph.D. thesis advisor and friend of many years to attend. Another student (of the same professor) and contemporary of mine lives in Istanbul, so this was a nice time to get together for a dinner. This is the story behind how we came to have dinner at Üstad. This is not a place I would have ever found by myself otherwise.
It is located off Istikal Avenue, in the vicinity of Balik Pazari. It takes some meandering down neon lighted side streets, and even when you get to the street it is on, there are pitchmen on the street outside trying to get you to go into their restaurant. This is common in Istanbul. The only restaurant on the street with no pitchman outside is the restaurant called Üstad. This had to be the great local experience I was hoping for, and indeed it was.
This was, bar none, the best restaurant in local food and ambiance I had while in Istanbul. There is nothing too fancy about it in appearance, and a couple guys in the downstairs area watching TV is all you see when you walk in. Simple wooden tables and chairs, and not much in the ways of interior decorating otherwise. Upstairs to the dining area it is very much the same - simple tables and decor. I see no tourists here and this is definitely the place where the locals go.
The menu is Turkish cuisine with dishes not offered in most places that cater more to tourists. The food is absolutely the best I had in Turkey. As an added bonus, the restaurant has roving musicians that play live music (violins and drums) for the diners. It's quite nice and makes for something special in the experience here. I suppose they do cater to the tourists that might stumble upon this place, but it seems a standard routine even for the locals.
After the first dinner here with my professor, and Turkish friends, I returned again another night with other colleagues so they could experience this place too. I offer high praise for this restaurant in quality of food, service and ambiance. As I said, it's not real fancy inside but the experience is quite genuine. It's a place not many tourists know about, so I am pleased to be able to share the experience. I think it's a place to enjoy the real Istanbul.
Part of the The City of Sultans (Feb 11-18, 2011) travel blog
Part of the list Turkey: Hotels, Sights & Restaurants
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