You can never really understand what a meyhane is until you have been to Samatya. Not until you have pulled your slim rakı glass out of an ehli keyif, closed your eyes to really concentrate on the clarinet solo being played by the wandering musicians at the table next to you, can you truly appreciate the Turkish meyhane culture. And not until, at last, you can no longer remain sitting, and join a group of dancing people you have just met, in the middle of the street, hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder, can you say that you have really let go.
Ali Haydar is that places, a Samatya classic, where the TV series ‘İkinci Bahar’ (Second Spring) with legendary actors Şener Şen and Türkan Şoray was filmed, as proven by their portraits that still hang inside. As for the rest of the décor, the small wooden tables, lace curtains, and light blue doorframes, speak of a kind of simplicity and earnest warmth that can only be found in the kitchens of our own family homes.
Similar to its overall disposition, the food is equally earnest, and deserves to be called so much more than delicious. Beginning with meze such as şakşuka (fried eggplant cubes in tomato and garlic sauce), içli köfte (bulghur balls filled with seasoned minced meat), çiğ köfte (pieces of raw meat mixed with herbs and spices), sigara börek (fried rolls of dough filled with cheese), and much more.
As the main dish, a mixed kebab plate arrived that included the soft meat of the Urfa kebab, fıstıklı kebab (kebab with coarsely ground pistachio), the most tender bits of tavuk şiş (chicken shish) we have ever tasted, all presented on a bed of buttered pide (flat bread) and grilled green peppers.
With a steady round of ice to keep our rakı cold, a few songs sung at the top of our lungs, and emotional bouts of conversation, we inevitable found ourselves in the street, dancing with strangers to the violin, clarinet, saz, and darbuka (goblet drum) music of Samatya musicians who know that those who come here, give in at one point or another. Şerefe. Hacı Hüseyin Ağa Mahallesi Samatya Meydanı Gümüş Yüzük Sokak No.6, Samatya; P: (0212) 584 21 62