Crossing the Bosphorus for Dinner

Are we responsible parents? On one end we paid a premium to rent an apartment close to our jobs in New York so that we could reach the kids on a 10 minute cab ride should an emergency arise. On the other, we just left Ava and Kayan in one continent while we had dinner in another.

Istanbul straddles both Europe and Asia. It’s the only city in the world with this split identity, and it’s public transportation system is unique in being able to claim that it services two continents.

We have been living on the European side, which according to every guide book is all that exists of Istanbul. However, we have been intrigued to find out what lies in the Asian face of Istanbul. It’s been beckoning us from to cross the Bosphorus, whose waters we view see from our apartment.

Our New York City neighbors, whose two kids are Ava and Kayan’s very close friends, are also visiting Istanbul. We decided kids and adults would enjoy our own respective play dates, so we left the four kids in the care of a sitter and ventured across the Bosphorus in search of dinner.

Looking at Istanbul from the Bosphorus at dusk is one of the most spectacular sights. For 2 Turkish Lira each (about $1), we took the public ferry that pushed off from Karakoy just as the sunset call to prayer begun. From the dock, we could hear several mosques in unison, providing a haunting soundtrack to start our journey. Asia, our destination, twinkled on our left. Straight ahead, the smooth domes and sharp minarets of the multiple centuries old mosques on the Golden Horn looked alive in the evening light. The Galata Bridge was still holding on to its day time activity. It was one of those moments where I was struck by how lucky we are to be on this journey, soaking up centuries of history, being out on the water and crossing continents for the perfect meal.

We docked at Kadikoy and went to Ciya Sofrasi, a highly recommended laid back no-menu restaurant that showcases food from around the Turkey. After we gorged on a self service meze selection, our waiter brought little dishes of goodness. We tried everything on offer, from stuffed onions to stuffed lamb intestine. The most memorable part of our evening was dessert. Not ones to bypass a culinary experience, we asked for one of everything.

The plate had an assortment of preserved fruits and vegetables.

– Preserved green walnuts in a clove syrup. It tasted like Christmas.

– Slightly bitter but sweet orange rind, like marmalade without the goo.

– Cream that tasted more like butter, but it was a good way to cut out the sweetness of the various sugary preserves.

– Preserved olives. On first bite we couldn’t tell it was an olive, but the aftertaste revealed its identity.

– Preserved eggplant, cured in a vanilla syrup and stuffed with walnut. This wasn’t too big of a hit, but we were impressed that the curing process completely masked evidence of the vegetable.

– Preserved pumpkin with tahini sauce and walnuts. This was the most memorable dish of the evening. The salty tahini was a perfect complement to the crunchy pumpkin.

The entire meal cost four adults 125 Turkish Lira, one of our best values so far in Turkey. We were so engaged in our dining that we forget to consider the timing of the last ferry back to Europe. Luckily there was one at 11 PM. In contrast to the ride to Asia, the ride back home to Europe was much quieter. It seemed that most of Istanbul had fallen asleep. With the large ferry almost empty, and without the hurry of usual Bosphorus traffic, we felt that we had the city to ourselves. A steaming cup of cay (tea) is never far away in Turkey. The ferry canteen was still open and as we made our way back to the continent where our kids were, we enjoyed glasses of the Turkish staple.

When we got home the kids were engaged in their games and seemed oblivious to the fact that we ever left. We were responsible, even though we went to another continent for dinner. Yet another reason we love Istanbul.

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