Alan Richman names Istanbul as the next food city to visit in next month’s issue of GQ, finding it “the most engaging city [he] know[s].” The layout of the city itself lends well to a lot of exploration, as “Istanbul isn’t just one city but a metropolis of water, connected by ferries to islands.”
The critic makes comparisons to Paris, another city known for its gastronomy and a surplus of scenic spots. He finds the Seine, unlike the Bosporus, to be moody and—invoking an age-old perception—claims that Parisians are none too friendly to Americans. He concedes that the coffee in Paris trumps what’s served in Istanbul, but goes on to give a dozen or so reasons why Istanbul can compete with the City of Love.
Take meze. He clarifies that it is not “simply a collection of miscellaneous starters; it is a way of life that incorporates eating, drinking, and socializing… [It] was there to promote hospitality and make me feel welcome, which it did.” He name-checks several restaurants (Borsa, Ciya, Yasemin in Burgazada), but it’s his favorite Balıkçı Sabahattin that is the stand out.
Other things we learn from his tour of Turkey’s largest city: Yogurt is an obsession; eggplants are amazing nearly every restaurant you go; and junk food is a part of the everyday fold (imported courtesy of the U.S.). Even the super-size phenomenon has made it there.
Not that every experience left a good taste. At 360 Istanbul, Richman saw hints of the “neo-Continental cuisine, familiar food intended to appeal to tourists distrustful of the food in the countries they’re visiting.” He’s partial to contemporary fare (as opposed to Ottoman Empire cooking) and found that kebabs were generally unappetizing as they were always cooked well-done.