Food has become an ever-increasingly important aspect of travel and it’s hard to deny that a country’s cuisine has as much to say about itself as any historical site or museum. Istanbul is no exception to this as every restaurant, dish and delectable bit creates a beautiful tapestry that illustrates the soul of the people.
After watching Anthony Bourdain’s version of Istanbul, Kelsey and I were craving for an authentic and home-cooked meal, to dine with locals and really dig deep into the cuisine and culture. Fortunately for us, we found the equivalent in the form of a restaurant – Erhan’s House aka Erhan Restaurant.
Dining at Erhan’s Restaurant was like being in a Turkish house. The food tasted home cooked, as if we had been invited into their humble abode and they wanted to shower us with their best dishes and Turkish hospitality. He welcomes all guests with open arms, saying “at Erhan’s House, this is your house.” And he means it.
Although it was a bit difficult to find (no thanks to Google Maps) we eventually came to the end of the street and found ‘the sultan’ as described by TripAdvisor reviews. Usually I’d be a bit hesitant for a place that has gimmicky touches like this, but here, it truly added to the charm.
Overwhelmed by the innumerable choices on the menu, we told Erhan to surprise us with his favorite and best dish. Arriving soon after was a large basket of pita and nan bread, and equally large dishes of yogurt dipping sauce and a tomato based vegetable spread (similar to salsa). Fresh orange juice accompanied the tangy sauce.
We dove into the bread, savoring the zesty yogurt sauce and anticipating the next course as we could smell delicious things being brewed in the kitchen. No more than 5 minutes later, Erhan came out with a flaming pot and beaming smile. Putting on a played up show, complete with a fire dance, he even let me have a whack at the pot. Finally, he accurately broke the vase and dished out the scorching kebab meat into a serving dish. Juicy and succulent, the mixture of lamb, beef, chicken, mushroom, tomato, onion, garlic, and pepper — otherwise known as a ‘Testi Kebab’ was met with giant helpings of rice pilaf and potato purée. (My mouth is watering as a type).
After serving us our meal from the terra-cotta pot, Erhan ushered Kelsey to take the stick and smash the pot, just for fun. And boy, did she break it.
Topping off the meal was a smattering of Turkish Delight, baklava dripping in chocolate sauce and a traditional rose-hip tea. Erhan scooted out to take food home to his dog, but not before inviting us to have breakfast with him the next morning — if only we were staying in Istanbul longer! (We had a plane to catch to Cappadocia at 7am).
On our way out, Kelsey and I laughed as I finally realized who the sultan’s demeanor reminded me of – my little brother, who frequently sports the similar scowl, one that resembles a teenager working a summer job at the fair and wishing he was still wrapped up in bed.
Erhan’s Restaurant, otherwise known as Erhan’s House is the prime location for an authentic Turkish meal in a humble setting. Far enough away from the streets teeming with tourists, but not on the outskirts of town, this small restaurant is filled with charm and is extremely inviting. We left with full stomachs and even bigger smiles, all due to the hospitality and kind nature of the owner and his staff. Prices are great – especially compared to our lunch (in comparison the same terra-cotta jar filled with meat was around 100TL at lunch, for two and at Erhan’s it was 65 TL.) Moderately priced for big portions – I’d highly suggest this place, especially if looking for a hearty meal on a budget!
Location: Binbirdirek Mahallesi Klodfarer Caddesi 29/E, Istanbul34122, Turkey (Old City)
Cuisine: Traditional Turkish (homestyle)