We stopped by No 19, as it is partway up the trudge to Taksim Square from our guesthouse. We asked to see a menu, and the lady there said "I don't have a menu, because I change the food every day. I can explain to you what I have". Intrigued and encouraged by her friendliness (and good English) , we went in. We've gone in almost every day of our trip so far now, and it's not for lack of options.
No 19 is a petite restaurant serving traditional Turkish and Syrian food, being the background of Aylin, chef, owner and manager. It is still fairly new, but there are nearly always other patrons there to enjoy the cooking and hospitality. The decor is cheery and bright, with good music in the background.
The food is simple, fresh and different every day, with a vegetarian option available. Things we have tried so far include tomato/red pepper soup, lentil soup (astonishingly good), manti (Turkish ravioli) with yogurt, chicken curry, stuffed peppers and vegetable stew, with very nice steamed bulgur and bread to accompany. Finally having learned our lesson about large portions, my husband and I generally order just one or two dishes to split between us, and Aylin kindly obliged, serving half portions on separate plates for each of us. Everything we tried was delicious, and Aylin is clearly proud of the food she serves with a beautiful smile. Prices are on par with everything else in the area, or possibly a little cheaper, and the quality is excellent.
Aylin also helped us out with tips on places to see around Istanbul, and generously shared a recipe for her special spice mix, while we were on the subject of the Spice Bazaar. She also described how easy it is to make the steamed bulgur (although I suspect my efforts will not match hers). Aylin is thinking about offering cooking lessons with a friend - if this happens, don't miss the opportunity.
Great food in lovely company - don't miss out!
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