Lifestyle & Culture

Day 2 in Istanbul: Chef Elena’s guide to finger-lickin’ great food on the Asia side

(Editor’s note: This is the second of two posts about exploring the foodie scene in Istanbul. You can see Day 1 here about the Europe side. Terry Boyd also contributed to this post.)

This is Day 2 of my eating out guide for Istanbul – let’s take a ferry and cross the Bosporus to the Asia side for some treats! Even though most historical buildings and tourist spots are located on the European side, it’s Kadiköy that can boast vintage shops, artists’ galleries and other hidden gems.

This area of Istanbul is the most democratic one. I would also highlight the Göztepe Nature Park – if you get there in the winter, it’s still as enjoyable as the summer when everyone gets out for a picnic or a run.

Breakfast: Pembe Yalı  Restaurant & Café

For a more of a fine dining experience, check out this spot – it features a stunning view on the Bosphorus and a filling Turkish breakfast. Frequented by tourists for being quite Instagrammable, it is nonetheless a great place to try something more or less authentic. Turkish breakfasts, or kahvaltı, are quite filling on their own, so make sure you are hungry before you go. You can also order some of the items which compose the breakfast, separately. And by the way, if you’re accustomed to the traditional Turkish breakfast of black olives, white cheese, honey, village bread and black tea, this ain’t it. Pembe Yalı is more attuned to Western tastes.

San Sebastian, or the “burnt” cheesecake in the Basque style (125 Turkish lira, or about 6 euros), is one of the favourites among tourists and locals alike, so give that one a try, too!

Even with the decline in value of the lira against the euro, this is not an inexpensive place, with the main fixed Turkish breakfast going for about 9.25 euros.

Pembi Yali

Anadolu Hisarı Mh. Toplarönü Sokak No:4/1 Beykoz – İstanbul

Lunch: Falafella Kadikoy

Moving on to a more democratic chic part of town, where liberty rules and reigns! It shows in many more younger people expressing themselves via clothing, appearance in general and behaviour in public. A refreshing place to be, especially if you live in a more conservative neighbourhood, i.e. Umraniye, like I do.

Falafella was the spot I have visited the most in the last months of summer, since grabbing a humus, pita and falafel was just too easy and I jumped happily at the opportunity to eat on the go. They have a small garden and a few more tables inside, so I would suggest coming at lunchtime when there are fewer people than in the evening.

The exterior of the falafels is crisp with a tender texture inside, so I must say they are very balanced and thus make a great protein lunch. There are meat and lots of vegetarian options, so don’t hesitate to pass by if you are veggie or some of your friends are.

Falafella doesn’t have a website. But they get a 5 out of 5 stars rating on Tripadvisor (five reviews).


Caferağa, Moda Cd. No:53A, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul

Desserts: Ethique Vegan

I discovered this place thanks to a vegan friend of a friend who has been vegan and has been desperately on a lookout for great desserts in town. He has almost given up until he found this spot over
here on the Asia side of Istanbul. The guys only opened in June and all their products are plant-based.

I wouldn’t have heard of them if it wasn’t for this recommendation since they didn’t show up when I Googled “healthier and vegan pastry options in Istanbul.”

I took a raspberry mousse dessert (right) and some macarons and was quite satisfied with both of the desserts – if no one had told me they were vegan, I would have just considered them to be great pastry pieces.

Pastries average 50 Turkish lira, or about 2.50 euros. A great spot located in the middle of nowhere, thus perhaps worth taking the desserts with you and enjoying them by the sea or simply sit down at the shop to take in some sunshine outside.

Ethique Vegan

Göztepe, Volkan street Pırlanta Sitesi B Blok No:1/1D, 34720 Kadıköy/Istanbul

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Derin Arıbaş, left, and Kaan Sakarya

Dinner: Basta Neo Bistro

When I came to Istanbul to stay in March, I learned of an initiative launched by a colleague and friend – director of Moscow Food Academy Aliona Ermakova. She set up a Telegram channel where professionals in gastronomy abroad can write an introduction about themselves and help others find a job, meet up for coffee, etc. I saw Derin Arıbaş and Kaan Sakarya featured on the channel and thought I had to drop them a line and taste their food.

This is their second Istanbul project after their Basta! Street Food sister spot. And they are celebrated chefs who have worked top restaurants. (Derin Arıbaş was the chef at three-Michelin star restaurant Astrance in Paris.)

Dig in Istanbul” writes:

“… this casual spot is the perfect rendition of a bistro with slightly more inventive recipes using local produce and making them shine in elegant recipes. Both founding chefs are considered the naturally gifted and unnaturally industrious wunderkinds of Turkey’s gastronomic elite. They are the types Bourdain would probably hangout with, tough boys in leather jackets, who don’t make a deal out of it.”

Basta Neo Bistro is about high-end world cuisine including a number of dishes using lamb … and it’s not inexpensive.

I must say this meal was by far one of the most coherent feasts I attended whilst in Turkey – the light, the sound, the food, the atmosphere served a purpose to create a place that resembled Italy and France alike. I had a great time there – if you value great service and well-worked dishes (especially the sauces), I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

Basta Neo Bistro

Caddebostan, Operatör Cemil Topuzlu Cd. No:39, 34728 Kadıköy/İstanbul


See more of Elena’s Dispatches posts here in Dispatches’ archives.

See more about Istanbul here.

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Elena Kalmykova is a pastry chef, gastronomic guide, arts lover and passionate traveller. She’s originally from Moscow, Russia. It was her love for pastry that led Elena to study and then work in a Parisian pastry shop, a 3-star Michelin restaurant, then at a 5-star hotel.

She loves to discover new technologies as well as the latest trends in food, great spots to eat or drink and share her knowledge.

You can follow her on Instagram at elena_kalmykova.

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