When the temperatures rise, no one stays inside. It is then that the portrait of Istanbul changes to paint pictures of apartment balconies full of people conversing and enjoying the warm summer time breeze, and of course, the view. It is this view, of the historical and the modern side by side, that pulls people outside, when the hot weather allows them to gaze for a longer period of time at something unmatched anywhere else in the world. It is also in the city’s many venues on rooftop or waterfront terraces, where, day or night, Istanbul blushes from all the compliments it receives and blinks a little from the flash of cameras that try to possess for a moment its endless expanse of beauty.
The upward journey begins a few miles outside of the city in Kandilli, where a restaurant named Borsa speaks proudly of a lunch or dinner menu that presents classic Turkish dishes as they were intended. If the taste of a simple artichoke cooked in olive oil with fava beans, carrots and potatoes for starters isn’t enough, the sea view, which stretches out in a turquoise haze, is enough to keep any diner. Roasted lamb shank with charcoaled eggplant puree and rice or grilled baby beef fillet with garlic potato puree and seasonal vegetables is only a small segment of what can be savored. From there we find ourselves on the top floor of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum where brunch and lunch is served facing the lush greenery and specks of sea view from a 19th-century Ottoman mansion. The exceptional food at müzedechanga abides to a contemporary Turkish-Mediterranean persuasion and is thoroughly unforgettable due to the endless innovation that lies at the core of the restaurant’s success.
For a cafe view of the Bosphorus with ferries gliding by on a daily bed of glistening noontime ambers, three destinations are on the itinerary. For those with art-driven inspirations, a day at Istanbul Modern, the city’s center for modern art, is clearly satisfying. The Istanbul Modern Café is then the place to rest your tired museum-wandered feet and look out upon the water while sipping and eating something light. If you would rather avoid the museum environment, The House Café in Ortaköy is a viable option with the classic interior design firm Autoban look of minimalism via marble, brass, oak, and walnut. Included, of course, are view of the Bosphorus Bridge and stately, baroque Ortaköy Mosque in full sight.
For an even more informal taste, Aşşk Kahve, residing on the waterfront of the Kuruçeşme neighborhood, is the place to sit down and have a conversation with friends over a cup of coffee and a very delicious grilled cheese sandwich. With so much focus on the seaside, it is only normal that a yearning for seafood might arise, leading us to the fish restaurants located at the base of where the main dish comes from. Bebek Balıkçı in the Bebek neighborhood is situated right on the water, where fresh fish and meze (cold starters) are served in an upscale atmosphere for lunch or dinner. While the entire selection of meze arrives on a platter to be chosen visually, the selection of fish changes on a regular basis, so make sure to ask your waiter what that day’s catch includes. Being able to eat fresh fish while the sea breeze makes its way through the restaurant’s open space is an amenable Istanbul experience at its best.
In Cihangir, at the very top floor of the Hotel Villa Zurich is Cihangir Balık, a large wrap-around terrace whose sea view extends all the way to Kadıköy on the Asian side. Perfect on a summer day with the breeze raising a napkin or two from its place, Cihangir Balık serves another assortment of fresh fish for lunch or dinner as well as a fresh multitude of meze. A suggestion is the grilled sea bass which arrives in a state so soft, the fork is almost unable to do its work.
Yet when the nighttime arrives, Istanbul’s view undergoes a costume change and out goes the glistening sea and blue horizon and in comes the city dressed in black, with the artificial golden glow of lights illuminating nocturnal life. As such, dinner time and drinks become the protagonist, and the city has much to offer far away from the crowded streets. Located right by the bridge with a stunning view of the water, Reina’s three restaurants, Köşebaşı, Park Şamdan, and Dragon, are worth a visit, with reservations a must especially on Fridays and Saturdays. While Dragon offers a menu of Chinese dishes, Köşebaşı’s kebab is truly noteworthy, and Park Şamdan’s Turkish and international menu is always a winner. If you are in the mood for some Asian food, Istanbul does not disappoint.