Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Istanbul Cicek Pasaji lunch and wetburger snack

I’m struggling to write my last entry for my European backpacking travels.  It’s our last day here in Istanbul and tomorrow we fly back to JFK where we will endure another long door to door pilgrimage back home.

We woke up and finally tried a Turkish simit, which is a circular bread similar to the American sesame bagel.  The Mo and I opted for one with less sesame seeds.  We continued to venture out in search of a restaurant that Anthony Burdoine visited in Istanbul and recommended them for breakfast.  Upon arrival, we were not impressed.Upon arrival, we were not impressed so we picked up pastries at a local patisserie.

the Mo eating a simit in Istanbul

Turkey simit

 Komşu fırın

We walked to Eminonu pier by the spice market and took some pictures of an older mosque before hopping on the metro towards Sultanahmet area.  

On the ride, I met a friendly American expatriate who was living in Istanbul as an artist and blogger.  She campaigned for Obama with her fun pin adorned on her hat.  She advised that she would be doing an absentee ballot for the upcoming elections.
After receiving tips and information from the woman, the group walked towards the Blue Mosque.  Unfortunately since the mosque was still active, there was a prayer service undergoing and visitors had to return in a couple of hours when it reopened to visitors.

To kill time, we walked around the Sultanahmet area and explored the surroundings of Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years. Although we didn't go in, the outside of the palace gates looked similar to a castle from Disney World.

Next up, we hiked up to the Grand Bazaar market, one of the world's largest and oldest covered markets with over 3,000 shops. It was a bit overwhelming since the place was crowded and there was so much to see.  

We packed onto the metro like little sardines back towards the Beyoglu area where our hostel was.

For lunch, we headed to Cicek Pasaji, "Flower passage" in Turkish, its a famous historical passage off the busy Istiklal Avenue. Upon arrived, the maitre D's all competed for our attention to have a seat at their establishment and view the menu.  We finally chose "Sev ic Restoran" and enjoyed a very lovely lunch.

My shrimp casserole was rich and creamy and the fried zucchini and couscous with herbs was deliciously seasoned and fried to a perfect crisp  I think I will definitely try to imitate the recipe back at home.

The Mo headed back to the hostel to rest and I ventured out on my own to do some last minute shopping.  Usually I don't venture out on my own for safety reasons, but I felt extremely safe on the heavily touristy Istiklal Avenue which is like shopping on a smaller scale of Times Square in NYC with the street closed off to traffic and only allow for pedestrians.   I tried some Turkish delights and bargained with some of the street vendors before returning back to Bunk hostel to pack up our stuff.

Packing was a breeze since everything was pretty much dirty so I shoved it all in my internal frame bag.

Across the way from our hostel there was a barber shop that caught Mo's eye.  Since the Mo always wanted a straight razor shave, he walked in for the service.  To his surprise, the complete package also included a haircut and a massage.  He said the experience was great and it only costs $13.00 USD.

Since it was our last night, we wanted to to take full advantage of it and hang out in the city for the last few hours.  The Mo and I grabbed a few drinks on a small side street of Istiklal Ave where locals and tourists gathered for drinks and conversation.

After a little buzz, the two of us walked over to Ponte restaurant for dinner based on reviews I've read online.  The restaurant was a bit difficult to find as its on the 7th floor of a big building with no sign.  Being on the 7th floor, the roof top terrace had a beautiful panoramic view of Istanbul. From our table, I could see the pier, the mosques and the stunning Bosphorus river.  Since it was in the evening on a high floor, the winds were breezy and the temperature dropped so it was a bit chilly.  Luckily, the restaurant provided throws for their patrons to make the dining experience more enjoyable.

 The restaurant itself was pretty empty because all the patrons opted to sit on the roof top deck for the amazing view.

The extensive menu included Turkish, German, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese.  We started with a couple glasses of wine and shared a fried Spanish seafood basket that included calamari, shrimp, fish cubes, crab claws and potato wedges.  Although it wasn't what I expected, the appetizer was tasty, it was like something we would get on the NH seacoast after a long beach day.

For dinner, the Mo got a mouth watering Greek Gratined Paper steak dish with jalapeno peppers and cheese and I had the Chef's filet grilled to perfection, medium rare, just how I love it.

The ambiance was romantic and the meal was amazing and it was definitely a great way to end our trip.

We headed back to our room and met our friends who was also heading out for dinner.  We sat with them as they ate and exchanged our account of our last day in the city.

As one last final hurrah, Sin and I ventured back to Istiklal street for t-shirts and a wetburger.  The wetburger always came up in my google searches for foods to try in Istanbul and I wasn't going to leave without trying it.  I hyped it up all vacation and would be very disappointed to leave the country without a morsel.

Walking Istiklal street in the wee hours of the morning is interesting.  Most of the girl were hot messes stumbling in their stiletto's and the guys were just as bad.

Wet Burger

We finally found the wet burgers in a steaming display case where locals were inline waiting for the burgers along with doner kebabs.

The burgers were definitely wet with oil and a tomato paste.  It was delicious and it tasted similar to the American "sloppy joe" with the exception that the burger patty itself was intact and not grounded like the sloppy joe.

What a great night to end our vacation!

We woke up the next day and our shuttle was there to pick us up to bring us to the airport.  The Mo and I finally got our Asian food fix at the airport and had some fast food mall-type lo mein and fried chicken at the airport before our flight back to the U.S.

The return Delta flight was much better than our departure flight.  We had our own screens to watch movies, more snacks like hummus and ice cream and of course the same unlimited beer and wine.  The Mo took advantage our of 2 free cocktail spirit vouchers and ordered red label whiskey. The flight was a breeze considering we were traveling on the anniversary of the tragic September 11th.

on my 5th full glass of white wine
After 22 hours of leaving our hostel in Istanbul, including an airplane ride, commuter rail ride, 2 taxi rides, a 4 hr Fung Wah bus ride, we were finally home in our own bed!