Körfez, Istanbul

May 28, 2009

To arrive at Körfez, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, from Sultanahmet we had a sightseeing taxi ride in the light Sunday evening traffic on May 24, 2009. After crossing the Golden Horn on the Galata Bridge, we drove north along the European side of the Bosphorus. There were big crowds on foot along the road en route to Inönü Stadium. They were dressed in black and white, many carrying black and white flags, the colors of their team, Beşiktaş, which would be hosting its crosstown arch-rival, Galatasaray, at 8:00. We passed the super luxury hotel, Çırağan Palace. As we went north, we saw many busy waterside parks; the neighborhoods became more and more fashionable. We passed through very chic Bebek and saw the sign for Poseidon, the fish restaurant for which we had cancelled our reservation the night before due to the heavy traffic.

Our driver phoned Körfez to say that we were approaching the rendez-vous with its boat, which we spotted alongside the road under the Rumeli Hisari castle and came to a quick halt. Another couple was already on board and we took off as soon as we had boarded.

 Looking back after the boat left the dock.


The boat went further north and east under the newer of the two Bosphorus bridges as it crossed into Asia. It finally swung into a little cove and docked right at the dining terrace of Körfez.

We were seated at a table in the front corner right on the water. These were our views of the cove and of  the restaurant’s terrace.

This is the boat returning with the next group of diners.

We ordered a bottle of Kavaklidere Narince. We had concluded that Kavaklidere is the best large Turkish wine brand. Narince is one of its prestige products, aged twelve months in French oak barrels. The website says that narince is an indigenous Anatolian white grape variety with strong distinctive aromatic character and ability to integrate with oak. We thought that the wine was delicious, perfect with fish and not overly oaky. We ordered a second bottle. A bread basket and olive oil for dipping was put on the table.

Unlike other restaurants in Istanbul, we ordered our mezes from the menu, not from a tray. But they did come in bowls, as elsewhere. We had

Küp Manca
Char grilled eggplant prepared with green peppers, paprika, tomato and garlic “Spicy.”

Ahtapot Salata
Octopus with kummel, thyme and olive oil

Seafood dolma
Traditional dolma with a twist. Swiss chard leaf stuffed with squid, octopus, seabass and shrimp.

These were all very good. They were nicely spiced and prepared with care, not just routinely, as many mezes seem to be.

Linda’s hot appetizer was
Kalamar Izgara
Grilled calamari
Char grilled calamari served over noodle

Mine was
Kalamar Karamelize
Caramelized calamari
Caramelized in virgin olive oil with white wine, sugar, bay leaves, cayenne, red onions, pepper and thyme.

I enjoyed this as the Turkish spicing made it more interesting than plain squid without being overly complex. The caramelization applied more to the onion rings than the squid rings. 

Our main course was:
Seabass in salt.
This is the house specialty, sea bass covered and baked in salt, served with butter and soy sauce.

krn kro

This was absolutely delicious, one of the best pieces of fish I have ever had. The butter and soy sauce, while not Turkish, was subtle and just right, adding a bit of umami. A bowl of mixed vegetables was served alongside; they added some substance without competing.

For dessert Linda had a
“Chocolate Truffle.”


I had a
Kabak Tatlisi

This traditional Turkish pumpkin and hazelnut dessert was rich, but not too sweet. A fine finish to a fine meal. The bill was 409 TL ($275) which I thought was quite reasonable for everything.

The view of the terrace after we got back on the boat for the return trip.

The boat took us back to the same roadside dock; the boatman had called for a taxi and he escorted us to it on the other side of the road. The taxi driver knew a bit of English and informed us that the Bosphorus road was clogged with Beşiktaş fans celebrating their 2-1 victory so we would have to take the Autobahn. As we were near the entrance to the bridge it was easy to get up on the superhighway and we found ourselves on E80, the same Autoroute which passes through Nice, beginning in Lisbon and ending at the Turkish-Iranian border. We circled around to the west of Istanbul. It was interesting to see the many new neighborhoods and business districts. We arrived home after a fast, smooth ride.

The evening was an excellent one with exquisite food in an exotic, romantic setting.


Unfortunately we have this from the Istanbul Eats blog:

We just received news that Körfez’s last fish will be served on July 22, 2009. The building was sold and will be converted into a private residence.

Well, that is too bad. I hope it turns out not to be true.



2 Responses to “Körfez, Istanbul”

  1. Galen Says:

    What a splendid evening! You both seem so relaxed in the midst of all the splendors of scenery and cuisine. We anticipate your version of the salt baked seabass in NYC.

  2. sue girdwood Says:

    Oh, Michael. Just when I felt as if I was settling back into life in Sydney, up pop your blog posts and accounts of wonderful meals and pictures of you both looking so happy and relaxed with Istanbul all around you, and the old wanderlust rears its head again.

    The salt-baked fish sounds wonderful. How would they have managed to flame the salt — as it appears to be in one of your photographs? I imagine some sort of alcoholic substance poured over it?

    Glad it was such a lovely excursion,


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