Delicious notes from Istanbul

Simits!

Pastry seller in Istanbul

The first time we went to Istanbul, we did it all wrong, committed all the classic tourist mistakes. We stayed in a middle of a tourist trap, did no research before the trip, relied on unreliable guidebooks. In our brief defence, the trip was a bit of a last minute decision, but still, I’m not proud. We enjoyed the sights, but found that above all we wanted to be in the more interesting parts of the city, and spent a lot of time outside Sultanhamet. We loved Üsküdar most. Overall, we had a reasonably good time, but got hassled in touristy places and were above all somewhat disappointed with the food we found. We thought the food would be better, easier to find. It’s rarely like that, though, of course.

This time, I did it all right. I did the research, choose accommodation strategically, and took time to explore the areas I that grabbed my attention when they did. I had a fantastic time. Istanbul turned out to be one of those cities where you need to dig below the surface to discover its true charms. It’s not surprising though, given its tourist appeal; I’m embarrassed at our past naivety.

Here are a few of my delicious notes from my September trip to Istanbul. With thanks to these excellent sources of information and inspiration: Delicious Istanbul, Eating Asia and Istanbul Eats.

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Eating Oxford: Edamame

Edamamé, 15 Holywell Street
Oxford OX1 3SA

The small but cosy Edamame serves authentic Japanese home-style food to many an enthusiastic customer. Indeed, though slightly off the beaten path, it attracts a pretty little crowd every day, and rightly so! The setting is unpretentios, simple and cosy, and the food is absolutely gorgeous: simple, but delicious! Despite the fact that there is no booking, it doesn’t open every day, and it serves sushi only on Thursday, this little gem of a restaurant remains a firm favourite among the Oxford foodies.

I loved absolutely everything I’ve had there: yakisoba, pork curry, salmon hotpot, mixed fish with sushi rice, shoyu ramen, etc. I wholeheartedly recommend  the yakisoba noodles, stir fried with mixed vegetables and seasoned minced pork (or chicken), topped with seaweed powder, pickled ginger, dried fish flakes. The flavour combination is out of this world! The curry was just right – gently spiced, flavoursome, velvety.

If you happen to be in Oxford, Edamame is the perfect place to go for lunch. The food comes out quickly, so there’s not much waiting involved, which is great if you only have an hour for lunch. There is often a little queue, but you do get seated very quickly. Also, with rice and miso soup included, it’s very good value, with prices ranging from £6 – £9 during lunch time.

If if I were asked to name one negative point, it would be that the style of eating is sometimes too fast for my tastes. Sometimes, I like spending two hours or more over dinner, just chatting to my friends, and enjoying multiple courses.

I was going to write something like ‘The message is: we want another, bigger Edamame’ but I guess that wouldn’t be the Edamame I know and love then. It’s cosiness and quirkiness are, for me, just a part of its charm.

SUMMARY

Food – 5/5      Delicious!

Service = 5/5      Always friendly and quick.

Ambience = 4/5     Small, but cosy.

Value for money = 5/5     Excellent, especially at lunch times.

Disabled Access.   Yes. There is a ramp that enables wheelchair access.

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DID YOU KNOW? Edamame are fresh green soy beans, served with sea salt.

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Eating Samobor: Samoborska pivnica

SAMOBORSKA PIVNICA
Smidhenova 3
10430  Samobor
Phone: 3361 623, 3361 333
E-mail:
gelas@zg.htnet.hr
Contact person: Matko Kovacic

Facilities: Parking place, Disabled access

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SUMMARY

Food: 5/5

Service: 5/5 Atmosphere & Decor: 4/5

Would I eat there again: Absolutely! I’d come back just for the perfectly barbecued cevapcici!

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If you ever visit the gorgeous little town of Samobor, which you must do (!),  I definitely recommend that you drop in Samoborska pivnica or the Samobor Beer House! It offers what every good beer house should offer: a variety of perfectly grilled meats and homemade sausages. They also serve Zagorje strukli, a strudel-like pasta with cottage cheese, which is a speciality of the Zagorje region. In addition, you can get here the local Samobor specialities such as bermet (an aperitif made of red wine and citrus fruits, made to a special recipe of the Filipec family), samoborska mustarda (Samobor mustard, made to a secret recipe by the Filipec family again) and samoborska kremsnita, a type of custard slice that made this little town near Zagreb famous all over Croatia.

The beer house is pleasantly decorated, with beautiful vaulted ceilings, and an exhibition of paintings for sale. It also has a patio, so one can sit outside. The place was not like your usual beer house, but with just a little bit more of everything: tasteful decor, excellent food and service. The service was particularly good: fast, friendly and very professional.

We had a fantastic mixed grill here, along with some side dishes of chips, beans and mixed salad. From the grill, I would definitely highlight the cevapcici, minced beef and pork kebabs, which were possibly the best cevapcici I’ve ever had! They were deliciously juicy and barbecued to perfection! The beans were also to die for, cooked in a vegetable sauce, and finished off in the oven afterwards. Alongside the grilled meats we had the inevitable ajvar, and the famous samoborska mustarda (Samobor mustard). I quite liked the Samobor mustard, it was rather spicy, slightly sweet and smoky.

With all the beer we had, we forgot to have bermet, sadly. And the desserts and the kremsnita? Trust me, there was no space left for the desserts! Also, I hate to admit that the three big eaters that we are did not manage to finish off their fantastic mixed grill… We don’t like to admit this, but we were defeated by the sheer size of it…

Yeap, we will definitely come here again!

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