I am not a huge burger eater. In fact I probably have one or two a year if at all, and I never, ever eat at fast food chains. Decent burgers in Istanbul are as unusual as snow in July— they just never taste right. After spotting a fairly new burger joint off Istiklal called Mano Burger, whilst in the midst of an odd craving for a patty, Tilly and I decided to try our luck. The place was packed with trendy young Turks, and the décor had an element of garage-chic. The menu was simple, about six choices of burgers, all with a Turkish twist to them— in place of American cheese melted a salty hellim from Cyprus, instead of ketchup or a mustard was smeared a smoky baba ghanoush. Intriguing.
We both ordered the "Ototoman": two patties, caramelised onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and the afore mentioned baba ghanoush and hellim cheese, nestled between the halves of a sesame seed bun. Wow. If only they had a root beer to wash it all down with! The fries were a bit lacking, but who cares when the burger is that good.
Feeling satisfied and desiring a cocktail after an uneven day— I had been running around like a madwoman trying to prepare for my Kathmandu trip in the midst of some strange dramas— we peeled ourselves off our chairs and wandered across the street to Tünel, in search of a nice place to unwind. To our delight, passing in front of us was a modified tram car pulled by the usual one, that had been converted into a stage for a rock band! This is what I love about Istanbul— this passion for invention.
In the sardine-crammed alleys of Tünel, we managed to find an outdoor table at a café which surprisingly offered a martini on the menu. Finding a martini (and a good one, at that) is as rare as finding a good burger, but since we were feeling lucky, we decided to order one. We were soon disappointed to discover that "martini" meant Martini & Rossi, the brand of vermouth— something neither of us wanted. We had found a burger, so perhaps we could tell the bartender how to craft us a lovely cocktail.
Though I patiently explained the contents of a gin martini, I was presented with something yellowish in a tumbler that reeked of Southern Comfort. How Southern Comfort ended up in there is beyond me, so I explained with a series of diagrams to a nodding waiter and bartender, what goes into a martini and how it should be prepared and served.
The diagrams seemed to have helped somewhat— while the cocktails were mixed decently, there were ice cubes in the martinis, which were served in margarita glasses with lime wedges. We eventually got our olives, which though were not pitted, were absolutely delicious. While certain things aren't readily available in Istanbul, there's always someone willing to help you get what you want or need.
Şahkulu mah. Galip dede cd. No: 5 Tünel / Beyoğlu / İSTANBUL
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