Hasan is my fixer, my concierge, my tour guide. He is the protector. When I am in Istanbul – or wherever else in Turkey he and I might be at the same time – I have to get in touch with Hasan. I’ve known him since my teaching days in Ankara back in 1997 when he was dating my department head at the school. Now the husband of the amazing Ask Linda in my book, he has become a great friend with super powers for making cool things happen.
I say “I wonder what apartments are going for in this neighborhood” and his phone is already to his ear. Ten minutes later, a trusted real estate agent grabs a chair at our coffee shop table and we are off to look at a couple places nearby that are for sale. Show up at a restaurant with an hour-plus wait? Hasan has us seated in five minutes. But best of all, if I am hungry, Hasan knows the best places I would never stumble across on my own.
That’s how I ended up at Temel Reis Akçaabat Köftecisi, a restaurant that serves Kara Deniz or Black Sea pide. Black Sea pide? What’s that? I’ve been to Turkey plenty, even lived there a year, so I’ve consumed my share of pide, the oblong sort of Turkish pizza. What could be so different? Well, for starters, in this nation of lamb, the meat used on these pides is beef. And unlike the open pizza-like pide I was familiar with, these were kapalı or “closed” pide, with the crust folded over the top, creating a flattened torpedo of delicious.
Our food mission required us to take a ferry across the Bosphorus from the European side to Üsküdar on the Asian side, not really much of a tourist destination. Akçaabat is a town along the Black Sea, just west of Trabzon. Hasan tells me their pides are famous for butter, and I can remember traveling along the Black Sea coast and dining on seafood just swimming with it.
But it wasn’t just the pide that was special. The köfte was also particular to Akçaabat. Countless towns in Turkey — İzmir and Tekirdağ, for a couple examples – have their own style of making köfte, a Turkish meatball. Each variation has a town name in front of it so you know what to expect. Akçaabat köfte is wider and flatter than most, and softer due to the abundance of crushed rusks (twice-baked bread pieces, think croutons) in the meat mix before they are grilled.
The staff appeared to know Hasan and set us up with menus, but Hasan did all the ordering.
Here’s some Black Sea pide. Yes, it already comes with butter in it, but they provide you with a bit more to smear on when it’s ready. Note the proper etiquette for butter application. Pinkies out please.
This particular style of pide is filled with cheese, butter and these cubes of braised beef.
We had this on our third trip here that week. Yuvarlak peynirli (round pide with cheese) This one has an egg (yumurta) on top. Very nice for dipping each piece into.
Kavurmalı sebzeli pide (pide with roasted vegetables) for the health conscious among you. But they also have baklava, in case you were wondering.
Truth be told, after our first visit, we went twice more in the following week, including a trip with blogger James Clark who happened to be passing through Istanbul and didn’t need much coaxing. There are other places where you can find a Kara Deniz Pidecisi, but this one is great and has the benefit of being a little bit off the typical paths tourists take here. Afiyet olsun!
If You Go:
If on the European side, take any ferry to Üsküdar. It’s about a 23-minute walk from the ferry landing to the restaurant. Find a dolmuş (shared van taxi on a set route) up the hill and it will take you not even five minutes. Here’s a map:
Temel Reis Akçaabat Köftecisi, Valide-i Atik Mh. 34664 Üsküdar/İstanbul
If you are looking for last minute holidays to Turkey, give holiday providers Thomas Cook a try: http://www.thomascook.com/lp/1×7-last-minute-holidays
Visas for Turkey are no longer given on arrival (as of 10 April 2014) but rather paid for online at the Turkish government run evisa site
Istanbul has two international airports: Istanbul Atatürk International Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) on the Asia side, which gets flights from some of the budget airlines such as Pegasus and Anadolu, plus a few Turkish Airlines flights as well. A third airport is in the planning stages.