Out for Dinner in Istanbul: Antiochia
One luxury of traveling is the ability to go out for dinner far more frequently than you would at home. I adore eating out, especially in new countries. Bonus points if there is no English on the menu and you have to play the "point and hope for the best" game. I recall one very interesting meal in Moscow three years ago where Ben and I played that very game. We won some and lost some. Pickled fish was involved. Good times.
Turkey was the first stop on our honeymoon. Ben and I had a few meals out in Istanbul - one was average, one was lovely but not traditional. And then we went to Antiochia. Antiochia is a popular restaurant nestled in the Beyoğlu area of the city, attracting a young and hip crowd (did I just write “young and hip”? I think I did). Anyway, this funky spot (is “funky” worse?) only seats a modest number of patrons and so you may have grab a drink at one of the many bars nearby while you wait for a table. When we visited Antiochia Ben and I did just that, snagging cheap (compared to Melbourne standards) cocktails pre-dinner one night. They make strong cocktails in Istanbul…just saying. I will forever foster simultaneous feelings of affection and repulsion towards pear-infused vodka.
Antiochia serves a great grill - traditional dishes done with a clean, modern edge. Something tells me it’s not the type of food a traditional Turkish mamma would make, but it’s everything you could ever want as an introduction to Turkish cuisine in a sleek environment.
Raki to start, the Turkish spirit which I found to be very similar in taste to Ouzo. I hope I am not grossly offending cultures by drawing a comparison, they may possibly be light-years apart but to me they taste very similar. And they both leave everything a little bit fuzzy after a few sips. Same same but different.
Their Shepherd’s Salad was pure, simple deliciousness. Fresh lettuce and tomato, generously dressed in pomegranate molasses and loaded with chopped walnuts. Perfection.
The toasted pita was warm and addictive. The tzatziki was thick and full and wonderful and the muhammara (a Turkish hot pepper dip) was really lovely - much drier and chunkier than others we tried. Appetiser deliciousness.
The grilled steak was fantastic - darling plump pieces of fillet cooked perfectly. The grilled pepper and tomato were wonderful additions to the dish (you often receive these as accompaniments to your dish in Turkey).
A second visit? Yes indeed. We had dinner at Antiochia on the last night of our honeymoon. Ben and I had heard great things about their durum wrap, although foolishly didn't order it on our first visit (where we made a rookie mistake and filled up on pita and muhammara). Our last night out started with some celebratory drinks at a nearby bar *enter pear-infused vodka* and ended with a gorgeous spread of Turkish food at Antiochia *enter enthusiastic menu ordering*.
Look at that spread...
It was all really really delicious. On this night we had the durum wrap, which was divinity. Thinly pounded, perfectly seasoned, spiced grilled mince, wrapped with their lovely pita and a little salad decoration. We were in love. We also tried the kofta that night, which were really delicious - a good amount of spice. And again the steak, salad, pita and dips. I've long been a fan of pomegranate molasses (check out middle eastern deli's for a bottle of this sticky golden goodness), but I'm yet to really get into nuts as a salad garnish. Nuts are more of an afterthought for me and I tend to stick to toasted pinenuts or almonds. Now I'm keen to get into walnuts - lots of them!
Istanbul is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, and so I thought that this post may be useful for some hungry travellers out there. You gotta eat, right? And you want to eat well, this I know. Antiochia is a great option when going out for dinner in Istanbul. Raki and pear-infused vodka is not necessary but encouraged.