Balikci Sabahattin (The Fisherman)
Located in the Sultanahamet, down some alleyways and stairs, next to the Armada Hotel - my friends and I sat outside under a large umbrella (which protected later from a light sprinkle), the smell of grilled fish wafting by. We started with a bottle of raki, an assortment of cold and hot mezes (the calamari was crisp, feather light, firm not chewy or doughy). The cold mezes were delicate, restrained - an obvious sure hand seasoning each dish. Just point to what looks good and dive in. We each order grilled fish - blue fish, red mullet and bonito - all very flavorful, but just a tad dry - and a couple bottles of Turkish white, Dessert consisted of stuffed figs and some type of quince dessert. The setting is relaxing - the food is well prepared. The total bill came to almost 200 million (about $120) but for three people and the quality, not to mention in the Sultanahamet area - quite reasonable.
Sinaga Mahallesi Ibadethane Arkasi Sok. No 10, Zeyrek-Fatih
I waited here due to rain as my guide went for his car. Located in front the Byztanine church, Pantokrator Monestary, in the Fatih area - this restaurant has a great view of the Golden Horn, and the Galata Tower. I ordered a small meze platter - which was pleasant. But what was really great was the complimentary dish of pickles - these were so good. This restaurant also has a huge terrace - which I'm sure in the spring and summer is great.
Located in the Spice Market on the second floor - the food here was fine. My guide and I order some smoked aubergine - I had kofte, he boiled lamb. Everything was fine - we did catch the restaurant near the end of lunch which may explain why certain mezes weren't available. While I wouldn't say this was a must do - the location is convenient and the turquoise tiled room makes for a pleasant setting.
Balikpazan Nevizade Sok., No. 19, Beyoglu
Located on Nevizade - if you have trouble locating this street just ask. We went on Friday night - the whole area was jam packed with people - real riotous scene - quite fun and light hearty. Yes, you will be approached by numerous restaurants asking you to dine at their establishment. I can't tell you about the quality of the other places.There is seating outside at Boncuk but I don't believe they take reservations - just get there early on a friday or Saturday night. We ordered a flurry of mezes, salad (my friends thought the dressing was a bit too vinegary but the produce was very good) and raki. The calamari here was doughy and chewy. Mezes dish prices ranged from 2.000.000 to 6.000.000. For the life of me - I can't remember if we had main dishes - I just remember us devouring the mezzes, mainly because we had been with guides all day and were ravenous.
Istikial Caddesi, No. 102-104, Beyoglu
Located on Istikail Caddessi - we stopped off here for dessert - lured in by the glistening variations of baklava in the window. I ordered the pudding made with shredded chicken breast - which had similar flavors to rice pudding but a unusual (but not negative) texture,. My friends baklava variations failed to impress - but there are numerous dessert places on Istikal Caddessi. Istikail Caddessi was thronged with people.
Kariye Camii Sok. N0. 18 34240, Edirnekapi
Located right next to St. Chora (must see Byzantine mosaics and frescos) - specializes in Ottoman cuisine. A neutral toned understated dining room. The dishes are very different than regular Turkish cuisine - some of the dishes were from a sultan's circumcision fete. The dishes were more complex and subtly spiced. One friend ordered smoked aubergine - which was delicious and beautifully presented. My other friend had a hummus dish that incoporated cinnamon and raisins - very interesting. I had stuff grape leaves with sour cherry - the sour cherry was overwhelmed by the vinegar. We all had various lamb dishes. I would recommend this place - and will definitely come back next time I'm in Istanbul.
Tugra, Cirgan Kimpenski Hotel
Ciragan Caddesi 32, Besiktas
This hotel is huge - does not have the intimate scale that the Four Seasons has but it was a palace in it former life. Situated on the bosphorus - -live farsi music playing. My friends and I did the tasting menu (89.000.000 TL) with dishes such as pan-fried lor cheese sauteed with black olives and char-coaled red bell pepper; Ottoman style braised lamb with dried plum and apricot, served with pilaf rice ; sea bass, dorado and grouper cold stew prepared with Ottoman style garnishes. The quality of the meal was very good - the service was attentive yet something about the room didn't make this an astonishing evening. I'm not sure - maybe it was where our table was located or the enormity of the room. Jacket was required yet numerous people arrived casually dressed - which may have detracted from the surroundings. The Turkish Merlot we had was fantastic. Make sure to walk around the grounds. I believe there is also a Sunday brunch outside on the terrace
Istiklal Caddesi, No. 211, Beyoglu
This was probably the only meal that was average - we made the mistake of ordering one of those large assortment platters. The gozleme were okay - nothing special. The freshly grilled chicken kebabs were very good - but most everything else seems to have been sitting around for a while. I would recommend ordering individual dishes anywhere you go - even though there are numerous restaurants that have trays of all-ready prepared food.
Ordekli Bakkal Sok. No 7, Kumkapi
I had read negative reviews about the Kumkapi area - tourists being ripped off. However - I found an article by an food writer who lives in Istanbul - who recommended this meyhane. The taxi dropped us off at the pedestrian mall -and we were prodded to eat at various restaurants ("I have 5 children feed, please eat at my restaurant") We found Kor Agop but there was only one other table filled - I was bit concerned as we sat down - especially when the small band began to play a bit too loudly. We ordered various mezes, salad, fish and two bottles of white Turkish wine. The fish was quite good - moist and flavorful. I think the total bill only came to 71.000.000 TL (fish was actually more expensive in other places on the Bosphorus) The band of course serenaded our table for a tip - but hey, go with the flow and have fun - I imagine this area is packed Friday and Saturday. Can't comment on any of the other places here. One note - my hotel did recommend taking a taxi to this area - that the surrounding area can be unsafe.
Iskele Meydani No. 4, Anadolukavagi
This restaurant is located in Andalu Kavagi - the last ferry stop on the Bosphorus before returning to Istanbul. After walking up to the Genoese castle we stopped here for lunch and sat on the second floor which has a nice view of village - and it's right near the ferry stop. We order a assortment of mezes - the white bean and sardines were great - some raki and turkish white . For our main entree we all ordered jumbo shrimp. These were horrible - mushy and an ammonia smell - we should have sent them back ( next restaurant - no doubt) The manager had recommended lufte - the seasonal fish at the time. This meal was more expensive than Kor Agop in Kumkapi - maybe because they have a monopoly on visitors. There are other numerous restaurants in the village.
Seasons Restaurant, Four Seasons Hotel, Sultanhament
Tevkifhane Sok. No. 1, Sultanahmet
My friends were leaving for Munich in the morning so we decided to have dinner at the Four Season. The food is very well prepared - the room is pleasant. Modern updated turkish dishes and international dishes are offered. The Sunday brunch ($30 US) is a popular scene for the well to do Istanbulites.
Gumusyuzuk Sok. No. 7, Samatya
Reviews had praised this specific location for their kebaps. The restaurant also has views of the marmara Sea. Had lunch here - everything was delicious - the "raw" kofte, the lamucun, the pistachio kebabs, the walnut dessert - everything. Unfortunately the upper floors and terrace weren't open for lunch so we only had a partial view of the sea. The room is very nicely decorated in maroons and cream whites. The only odd thing was they don't serve alcohol/wine until the evening (possibly 9 pm - might have been due to Ramazan - not sure) Great little neighborhood - small children playing, the food vendors splashing their produce. I would recommend this specific location highly.
Soganci Sok. 7, Cihangir
A bit hard to find but the view is top notch. A very hip vibe and upscale crowd. Ordered a bottle of Turkish sparkling wine - Tradokya - which was crisp, dry and very enjoyable. Watching the mini boats and traffic from this perch was relaxing and fun. My friend and I ordered cocktails and raki for the next few hours. The restaurant serves more international food - I ordered a tomato/turkish white cheese salad and my friend order chicken fingers with potatoes - which were both fine and took the edge off all the alcohol. The terrace was closed for the season - but if the view from the bar is any indication, it must be great.
Mavi Balik (Blue Fish)
Muallim Naci Caddesi, No. 64/2, Kurucesme
Great place to have lunch after touring the Dolmabache. A panoramic view of the Bosphorus and Bosphorus Bridge. The grilled calamari and fish were very good. Terrace is open for the summer - if you're looking for a place to have diner during sunset, I would recommend this place. The Turkish white, Ozel Kav, was prefect with the fish. Former name was Mavi Yesil (Blue Green)
Yenikoy Caddesi, No. 80, Tarabya
Located in Tarabya - the green blue Bosphorus literally wraps around the main dining room. A large display of fish and a large fish tank greets you at the entrance. We started off with stuffed mussels, smoked salmon, cheese and melon, octopus salad, a bottle of raki. The freshly baked Ramazan bread was still warm, chewy and delicious. For fish, my friend ordered lufte and I ordered sea bass.Both fish grilled perfectly - the flesh was moist and infused with the scent of the grill - really quite good. The temperature had dropped considerably and the mist that developed looked like ghosts dancing on the water. A cab back from Tarabya to the Sultanhamet area cost 20.000.000.
My friends and I were there for the beginning of Ramazan. Small Ottoman like houses, selling various foods, were built between the Blue Mosque and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. Salep (so wonderfully satisfying on a chilly evening), profiterols, gozleme, baklava, baked potatoes, etc, etc, etc were avilable and incredibly inexpensive - a festive fun scene.
My Turkish friend and I went to Camlica, the highest point in Istanbul, located on the Asian side - take a ferry to Uskudar then a cab to "big" Camlica, the view of the Bosphorus Bridge and the lower Bosphorus is great. "Small" Camlic's views are not as good. There were restaurants there but did not try being that we had dinner reservations in Tarabya.
I'll post more regarding hotel and activities