In the backstreets of Kadıköy, lies an unassuming fish restaurant called Balıkçı Lokantası. Opposite the Sok Supermarket in Teyyareci Sami Sokak, a street parallel to the Kabataş/Kadıköy Iskele (Ferry Terminal) and with an amazing mural just one hundred metres to the left on the same side as the restaurant, you will find this place.
We came to be at this resto because it’s a favourite of Frits and Yasmin, residents of Kadıköy for a while. Simple is what you would call the décor, nothing fancy. With about 12 tables, most of them downstairs inside, about five up in the small mezzanine area and a few for outside dining, the focus really is on the fish, with no alcohol served.
Likewise, there is no menu, just your trusty waiter to help you choose from the available fish selection. Marc and I chose five different types of fish, two mezes and a simple salad for the five of us to share. With the hard decisions made, we headed back upstairs to our table, where Slawka, Yasmin and Frits were waiting for us.
First out of the kitchen came the Ezme and Smoked Eggplant (Patlıcan) mezes. The Ezme, which is a traditional staple of the Turkish meze scene is simply tomatoes, onions, chilli or hot peppers chopped finely and mixed together with parsley, sumac, garlic, lemon, oil and pomegranate molasses. This one for me was quite nice with good flavours and not too spicy. The addition of some more Nar Ekşili Sos (pomegranate sauce) would have added to my enjoyment. The patlıcan had the smokiness of the eggplant on the forefront of the palate but the texture was a little thinner than expected.
The first fish out of the blocks was the Balık Köfte (fish meatballs.) I detected spring onions, chilli and garlic and perhaps there were a couple of other spices mixed in. Altogether this was a surprising taste that was not dissimilar to a Thai fish cake minus the fresh lemongrass and coriander. Therefore my taste buds were very happy to have a little bit of spice and a good balance of ingredients.
The second of the fish to emerge from the kitchen was the lightly crumbed/battered Mezgit (Whiting.) I’m not sure exactly what it was coated in but it seemed like a cornflour or semolina batter, light and slightly browned. Wow! This was a soft and juicy fish. I must admit I’m a lover of white fish and Whiting is quite common in Australia. This was the first time I had eaten it here in Turkey.
Quite quickly in succession came the Minekop (in English I don’t know) and the Levrek (Sea Bass.) The Minekop was juicy and tasty. I liked that it flaked into large pieces when you pulled it off the bones. The Levrek was nothing special compared to the other fish on the table.
To finish off our selection, out came the sizzling John Dory Güveç (Stew) on a hotplate. We weren’t expecting a stew but it was a nice bubbling surprise. We all discussed what we thought the ingredients were and came up with tomatoes, onions, Turmeric or curry powder and perhaps some saffron. Overall it was a lightly spiced fish stew with a slight bitterness at the end of the palate. The John Dory was chunky and had a good bite to it, holding itself together nicely.
With our tummies full of fish it was time for a cup of çay (tea) and some dessert. A share plate of Kabak (pumpkin), Muz (banana), peanuts and syrup arrived. I’m not a lover of the Turkish pumpkin desserts because I just can’t get past our use of pumpkin in savoury dishes in Australia. This dessert however, was not too sweet and the pumpkin was warm and not too stringy. This created quite a smooth and agreeable texture.
The only thing left was to find out how much it cost. As we hollered ‘hesab alabilir miyiz’ (bill please) we were anxious to see exactly how much this had all cost us, considering there was no menu to see any prices. Quickly dividing by five, we were all astonished to learn that this fish feast had only cost us each 35TL, sensational value for money. My other experiences with fish restaurants without menus had ended before in a hefty surprise and cost of between 120 to 200TL (but including alcohol.)
We descended the staircase with huge smiles on our faces having enjoyed a quality fish feast of five different varieties for a relatively small cost. Ok, there is no view for the restaurant to factor into the price, but if it’s a good quality fish experience you require, don’t hesitate to pop on over to Balıkçı Lokantası. Put it on your list of places to try, you won’t be disappointed.
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