First of all, we owe a huge thank you to antman and everyone else who made Istanbul recommendations here. We had so many great meals because of what we learned on this board.
General overview: we loved the food. There was a group of us, including kids. The kids were welcome everywhere, no problem. We had mezes at many places, often 10 or more at a meal, and I can’t say which mezes we had at which place anymore. Some of my favorites: marinated sea bass in a lemony mustard sauce; a spicy red pepper salad—red pepper, parsley, onion, garlic, all minced together and very spicy; some sort of greens in a yogurt salad; all kinds of eggplant, especially roasted and smoked with a pomegranate sauce; roasted red peppers; and hummus. Most places served a regular yeast bread which was not that interesting or tasty. I vastly preferred the few places that offered a pita like bread with the mezes. Favorite hot mezes were tiny local fried fish, fried calamari, and grilled octopus. In general, the mains were plain and came with no side dishes. Coming from my Western ways, I prefer to have more “tastes” on my plate. Restaurants seemed to serve either meat or fish, not both. For fish, it was grilled or fried, and served only with some arugula and lemon, maybe a slice of tomato and lemon. The fish was grilled excellently, but I would have liked some sauce, maybe a side dish to go with the plain fish.
Day 1. Dinner at Tarihi Sultanahment Koftecisi. We stayed in Sultanhamet and needed somewhere close and easy. Kofte (meatballs) were very light and spongy, which I think is more of an acquired taste. Nice white bean salad and pickled peppers. A note for the literal (including one of the kids with us): kofte are actually patties or logs. Our 7 year old felt [i]extremely[/i] betrayed.
Day 2. Lunch at Sura Bialik, which overlooked the Sea of Marmaara. We were looking for another place recommended here, but it was closed for lunch, and would up at Sura because there were signs directing us. Probably our most expensive meal. Actually quite delicious, even though geared to tourists. Several cold mezes, fried mullet, and grilled sea bream. The best dish was a perfectly grilled octopus meze—it was the best octopus we had anywhere.
Dinner at Abracadabra. Took us a while to get there from Sultanhamet—roads closed for festivals and we were in a taxi. We sat outside on the terrace and it was a great atmosphere with the sea and the views. We had several hot and cold mezes. Standouts were the borek: a duck borek—triangle shaped phyllo with roasted duck—and a cheese straw shaped borek with pastrima. We were nearly full and shared one main, which was plainer than expected. It was supposedly artichoke stuffed with lamb, but they were just cooked in the same pan and served with rice. We had a wonderful waitress and our first raki. After this, we mostly stuck with beer and wine.