Istanbul Restaurant

Rating: 2.7. From 40 votes.
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2 Reviews
012 6710426

Palestine St near Jarir

We had heard about Istanbul Restaurant from another member a few months ago, and he had had only good things to say about the place. So finding ourselves on Palestine Street one evening (just opposite Jarir Bookstore), we decided to give Istanbul a try, and see if the food was as good as our friend had said it was.

This small restaurant sits on the corner of a row of shops beside Maher Barber, and just across from McDonals. The interior is nothing spectacular; its the food here that really impresses. One side of the restaurant is flanked by neatly laid out tables while along the other, display cabinets show off the restaurants finest cold appetizers; baba ganoush, humous, and finely wrapped vine leaves. Next to the cabinet stand large refrigerated glass tankards filled with various juices, such as mango, strawberry and orange  and all are fresh.

Visible from the dining area is the open plan kitchen with its fiery coals grilling all kinds of kebabs. If youre a fan of meat, Istanbul is sure to impress. Over four different varieties are available  chicken shish taook, meat kebab, awsal (lamb pieces), and a mixed chicken kebab. Skewered quails are also available (alsaman Tair) which looked good.

In addition they serve numerous other meat-filled dishes; we ordered two stews; awsal forn (in the oven), a thick mix of meat, potatoes and various vegetables, as well as a dish of bamia (okra) stew, (a slimy mix with added tomatoes and meat). Despite the bamias slimy texture (which is to be expected), the stew was one of the best dishes on offer.

With so much to choose from, we decided to eat in; the cashier seemed surprised, perhaps because the restaurant was empty or more likely because there were only two of us, and we ordered enough for six! He kindly offered to package up any leftovers as takeaway should we not manage to eat all we had ordered. A nice touch.

After ordering a range of kebabs, two of the stews (bamia and awsal), some bread and appetizers (baba ganoush and humus), we sat down at a small table beside the window and waited for our drinks to arrive (mango juice). The deep orange mango juice came in large tankards that wouldnt look amiss on a pirate ship. The thick sweet drinks set us back SR6 each and were almost a meal in themselves! So if youre planning on dessert, you may want to choose a medium size, as after ours we hardly had any room for anything else!

The food at Istanbul is generally very good. The real crowd pullers appear to be the kebabs as you literally receive them fresh off the grill; the shish taook and awsal were also particularly good. The minced meat kebab, however, was a little coarse, and more of a disappointment, mainly due to a few unexpected additions in the mince that were hopefully only gristle.

As for the appetizers, the baba ganoush was smooth and creamy, and not too smoky as is often the case elsewhere where the eggplant is charred beyond recognition, resulting in a taste akin to burned toast. The humus was faultless, with the fresh taste of tahina and chickpeas really standing out. The bread is also worth mentioning (this was an additional order, not to be confused with bread served with the meat); it is as fresh as you can get, hot out of the oven, and went perfectly with the humus and baba ganoush. The awsal stew was probably the least satisfying of all, mainly due to its blandness. It reminded me of an Irish stew, so perhaps if you are a fan of that, this will appeal.

Istanbul is incredibly good value with prices sure to delight customers; a meat kebab will only set you back SR12, the shish taook a little pricier at SR17 and appetizers around SR6-7. All in all we spent a fraction of what we would have elsewhere in town, and with more to show for it too (the cashier was right as we took plenty home!)

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