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Spanning from the historical borders of Persia to the outskirts of Vienna and down into the depths of North Africa, the erstwhile Ottoman Empire has profoundly influenced Turkish culinary traditions. Today, Turkish gastronomy presents an expansive array of choices that includes meze, a variety of soups, an assortment of meat and vegetable courses, olive oil-infused dishes, pilafs, and a selection of pastries, milky desserts, the classic Turkish delights, and traditional ice cream.
Nestled within the vibrant heart of Istanbul, Hamdi Restaurant is a culinary landmark with three strategically placed outposts in prominent neighborhoods. The founding venue graces Eminönü, where I’ve savored their offerings multiple times; they also welcome guests in Pera and Şişli, both situated within Radisson Blu hotels.
The flagship restaurant perches atop a tower adjacent to the Misir Bazaar (Egyptian or Spice Bazaar), where it commands stunning vistas. When evening descends, the panorama of the Golden Horn, Yeni Camii (New Mosque), Bosporus, Galata Bridge, and Galata Tower becomes truly mesmerizing.
With a capacity of over 300, securing a reservation is essential. Be sure to request a table by the window or on the summer terrace to fully embrace the view, as the buzz of diners fills the space from lunch through dinner.
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Hamdi Arpacı, the culinary visionary behind Hamdi Restaurant, was among the cadre of kebab virtuosos who journeyed from Urfa to find success in “The City,” a moniker for Istanbul since Byzantine days. Istanbul itself derives from “is tin polin,” a Greek phrase for “to the town,” a reminder of its days as “Konstantinopolis,” the Byzantine Empire’s glorious capital.
Today, the restaurant stands as a paragon of fusion cuisine, where diverse culinary traditions blend seamlessly. In the realm of fusion gastronomy, Turkish cuisine is renowned as a trailblazer.
Hamdi encapsulates a paradise for grilled meat aficionados, with its southeastern Turkish kebapçi flair, serving a plethora of interesting meze starters and a wide range of superbly prepared grilled meats. Signature dishes such as Siş Kebap, Adana Kebap, the savory Yoğurtlu Kebap, succulent grilled lamb chops, and the authentic İskender Kebab are all without parallel.
The menu also features regional specialties like Turkey’s and Armenia’s Lachmacun or Pide Lachmajoun, reminiscent of Italian pizza but with a unique twist: a thin flatbread crowned with a richly seasoned mix of diced tomatoes, minced beef and lamb, and fragrant herbs.
Not only does Hamdi offer exceptional food and a thoughtful wine list, but it also boasts a backdrop of spectacular scenery.
Be sure to leave space for the restaurant’s famed pistachio baklava or the indulgent katmer, a flaky pastry filled with crushed pistachios and creamy kaymak.
When it comes to beverages, the raki — a potent anise-flavored spirit — is noteworthy, along with an impressive selection of Southern Turkish wines and several raki varieties. For a non-alcoholic option, try the ayran; this refreshing yoghurt drink, diluted with icy water and a hint of salt, surprisingly complements the smoky flavors of the grilled kebabs perfectly.
Discover more at: www.hamdi.com.tr.
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