Sunday, 31 July 2011

July cooking!

Wow, that's a month already! This month I didn't cook much as we were away for a whole week, and it's a bit too hot to cook sometimes. This is what I managed this month, some of which I talked about in separate posts here:

The bottom right shows a Krispy Kreme... that's not my cooking hahaha...
Hopefully I'll be able to cook more in August! 

Friday, 29 July 2011

Art exhibition in Taksim, Istanbul: Patricia Piccinini

We came across a very interesting exhibition in an art gallery in Taksim, Istanbul. Three floors of the gallery featured artworks by the Australian artist Patricia Piccinini, and I must say they're all fascinating!!!

There were two types of works displayed, Piccinini's 'automotive' works and her sculptures informed by her interest in bioethics. I especially love the latter range - on close inspection some sculptures are actually quite scary, as they look so real, but the concept's really interesting!

In case you're wondering, that's not my hand. 

A must-see in my opinion!

Food hunting in Istanbul...and guidebooks

The food in Istanbul's quite good in general. Since our Rome trip last year we've been more careful in selecting restaurants when travelling, and because of that we had some good food in Munich. I suppose we were scarred by the Rome trip - the food there was the most horrible of anything I've eaten when travelling... we're truly traumatised. After the Rome trip we've been really diligent in researching restaurants and bringing different guidebooks with different suggestions, and so far I can report that what guidebooks recommend are usually quite okay. (Note: mentioning doesn't equal to recommending!) 

Speaking of guidebooks, I used to use DK about 5 years back, because the pics are really nice to look at and the DK Top10 guides are good enough if you're only spending a short time (say, 3 days) in a city. However, DK's major problem is that the information is very limited (because most of the space is dedicated to pics) and it's definitely not in-depth enough. I had DK's guide with me a few years back during a week-long Paris trip and it's really not enough, we ran out of places to visit in the end! 

So now I don't use DK anymore...instead, I use Lonely Planet, Time Out, Frommer's, and Rick Steves. None of these is so good I don't need the others, so for longer trips I tend to bring a few titles, just to have a different opinion on things. Lonely Planet and Time Out offer more content, of course, but sometimes LP is too long-winded, and the last thing you want when visiting a particular place is to read chunks and chunks of words. Frommer's is concise and informative enough, but the chapters aren't divided too clearly and the layout is a bit confusing. Rick Steves is good…for idiots, or people who don’t want to think too much and want a lot of advice. (Don’t ask me what nationality it caters for.)

So what I ended up bringing to Istanbul: Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, Frommer’s Day by Day and Rick Steves. The long list means we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to special walking tours of must-see places such as Hagia Sophia, but I do think so many titles is a bit too much. However, when it comes to restaurant recommendations, the more guidebooks you have, the better.

Istanbul is not as bad as Rome – we had only one good meal in Rome (strictly speaking, in Vatican City), and it’s because we had had too many horrible meals that we finally decided to look for one recommended restaurant in the guidebook (Time Out) we had. In Istanbul, however, you don’t always have to rely on guidebooks, as the food is quite similar in many places (especially touristy areas), but I do think the ones recommended in guidebooks are slightly better and more value for money in general. I mainly went to Frommer’s for restaurant recommendations, and they were all quite good.

Finally, some food pics! Lots of them! 

Daruzziyafe. The first restaurant we went to, as recommended in two different guidebooks. It's situated in a spacious courtyard and the ambience is impeccable (if you don't mind the occasional mozzie), but it's apparently for tourists only, with English-only menus and prices to match. 

'Sultan's Delight' - basically, braised lamb over aubergine puree. It's really overpriced (by Istanbul standards) at around 25 lira (9+ quid) - about the same price you pay for a main course here in London! And did I mention the portion's very, very small? It looks like an appetiser more than a main course. 

My aubergine moussaka - quite nice but nothing special about it. The portion's bigger though. 

Karadeniz Aile Pide ve Kebap Salonu (not to be confused with its neighbouring joint with the same name with the sign 'Dolphin'; that one's a copycat).
Honestly, I can't remember the names of all these dishes anymore. Some kind of lentil soup... 

No idea what this is called... 

Kofta (Turkish meatballs) with pilaf - I love how Turkish people cook their 'rice'!!! 

The meal ended with complementary apple tea. Lovely. 

Tamara, with a rooftop overlooking Blue Mosque. Though it's situated in the touristy Sultanahmet area, everything's reasonably priced, and bread and dips were free! (Bread is generally free when you dine in a proper restaurant, but many restaurants charge tourists for water and bread...)

An assortment of meat with pilaf

Pide - I once had this in a Turkish restaurant in Shenzhen, China, with different toppings. This one pales in comparison, with only one topping in each pide...

Buhara 93 Restaurant in Sultanahmet. Stuffed peppers - almost every restaurant does this, but some do it well and some are only so-so. These ones were good!
For some reason, the peppers in Turkey are all bitter, but a lot of times they just grill some peppers as a side dish. The longer ones are all spicy. 

A 'house stew' of the restaurant - it's easily the best dish I had during the trip! The meat was so tender I can tell it's been cooked for a looooooong time... a really lovely dish.  

Ah...I can't remember what these are! 

Complimentary dessert - how lovely! 

Buhara Restaurant (not to be confused with Buhara 93 Restaurant!). **Avoid this restaurant if you can**. It imposes a bread and water charge, and on top of the service charge your waiter would tell you explicitly that you need to tip him!
The grilled fish dish was okay, but it's nothing special...some restaurants overcharge tourists on fish dishes especially. 

Cold aubergine appetiser - the waiter told me one's hot and one's not, and I thought he meant 'hot' = spicy, so I ordered the 'not hot' one, and ended up with this... -___-"

Beef chunks with yoghurt - underneath you get a bed of fried potatoes

(Totally forgot what restaurant this is). Again, no idea what this is... 

Stuffed courgettes - I don't think they are really courgettes, but I don't know what they are! 

Stuffed aubergine with rice

A dessert place right next to Sultanahmet tram station, you can't miss it.
I asked the waiter what this is and he said 'saffron'. I asked again and he seemed annoyed, 'It is called saffron in every language.' What the...I was asking what exactly this is, not an ingredient in it! 

Pudding - very sweet and milky

(Again, no idea where this was...) Yet another stew dish

Stuffed aubergine again

One of the 'street restaurants' in Aksaray that are very popular at night.
Chicken doner - super cheap at 2 lira (less than 1 quid)! 

Stuffed vine leaves - the white ones were better than the more common green ones

Another stew..

Potato and chicken 'ball' 

A random restaurant in Taksim.
Spinach and chicken 'ball'.

Stuffed aubergine again


Namli Restaurant (with deli).
Mezze dishes!!! They're sold by weight, and you can pick whatever you like from the counter and have it weighed together with the dish. The hummus with pine nuts and bacon is to die for! 

Asian side of Istanbul: Kanaat Lokantesi. doesn't look good here but was great.

Baked aubergine and meat dish

I was told this is 'aubergine salad' - it smelled burnt, and I couldn't eat it at all... 

Ziya Sark Sofrasi, near Topkapi Palace.
Hummus, nothing special, tiny portion, 6 lira (2+ quid)

Grilled meat with pilaf. Love the pilaf, there was barley and small noodles in it, but the portion's TINY...

Kofte with pilaf and chips

Gem of the trip: Urfali Haciusta in Aksaray, where we had our last meal in Istanbul.
It may not be the best food in the world, but this place which is not touristy at all (no English menu, no staff spoke English, 13 lira is 'ten three') is lovely. We could barely communicate (there's no English menu, we had to point at everything and ask what meat it was and the answer would be 'meat'), but everyone tried their best to help. All appetisers and tea were complimentary, no one tried to fool us! 

A spicy appetiser - again, no idea what it is

All 'appetisers' are supposed to be wrapped in these bread sheets. 

My main dish: grilled chicken - spicy 

Grilled lamb mince - very yum! I don't normally like lamb dishes but this was good...
Overall, the food in Istanbul's lovely! :)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...