After our pleasant boat trip on the Bosporus, my girlfriends from Beirut and I were hungry. Water travel, however brief, will do that to you every time.
We came off the boat in Eminönü and were faced with the question where to fill our stomach, in style and with great food. By chance we bumped into some other sightseers from Beirut, like us in Istanbul for the Madonna concert. They warmly recommended Hamdi Restaurant, located right next to the impressive New Mosque, Spice Market in the back, glorious views of the Bosporus in front.
And what a great recommendation it turned out to be. In the late 1960, chef Hamdi Arpaci came from his native Urfa in Turkey’s southeast to Istanbul. I have fond memories of Urfa, one of my absolute favorite destinations in Turkey, because of the fabulous sites, mesmerizing views of the plane of Mesopotamia, silver filigree and cuisine.
Influenced by nearby Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, Urfa cuisine’s food emphasis lies on kebabs and köftes with special spices and rich combinations of ingredients such a crushed walnuts or pistachios mixed into the meat. The fillings of böreks (pastries) are juicier than anywhere else and melt in your mouth as your teeth crack the paper thin pastry.
All these delicacies chef Hamdi brought to Istanbul where he started out with a humble food stall at the edge of the parking lot in Eminönü where many of the Bosporus ferries dock. From there , fame spread and finally resulted in the 5 story building which houses the restaurant today, the quality of his southeast Turkey food undiminished. Not surprisingly, the restaurant is much in demand and you have to wait to be seated in the downstairs lobby. Who cares? Between us we sampled the menu up and down and even ordered seconds of the Urfa kebab.
Prices are neither cheap nor outrageously expensive, just average for Istanbul.
Disclaimer: this post has in no way been sponsored by Hamdi Restaurant. We paid full price.