A Stir The Pots Post

Istanbul Act VI: Istanbul at 360 degrees

by | Sep 16, 2008 | Uncategorized


So finally we were ready to visit Mike at 360. Hopping into a cab, we entered the trafficked streets. Dilara instructed the driver with directions as well as music choice:  Turkish classical. Arriving, Dilara promenaded into the congested streets, me in tow, when we bumped into a friend from her school years. He queried me on why I would come to cook in Istanbul instead of just enjoying it. I told him Dilara is Svengali and cast a spell on me! He didn’t seem all that surprised. I guess she does that to more than me.


We parted company with her friend, and then Dilara decided to show me Mehmet Gürs restaurant. Called Mikla, it is situated atop the Hotel Marmara Pera. Apparently it was closed, and the host at the door eyed us suspiciously, but Dilara explained we just wanted to look into the dining room. The setting was what I’d call “modern austere,” but it had a spectacular view overlooking the city. Out on the terrace was a swimming pool where  seated guests sipped drinks on the deck.

On our exit, we talked about the restaurant Dilara had worked before opening Abracadabra. Called Cezayir, she had become disenchanted the way it turned into an industrial kitchen. Its demise made her want a less constrictive and typical restaurant.We talked about her current business partner Mike Norman who was her first chef. He had told Dilara that she had a natural touch for food, convincing her to go into business.


When we reached the entrance of 360, the doormen wasn’t all that friendly. It seems that my shorts, Hawaiian shirt and Dilara’s Bohemian aura just weren’t cool enough! She gave them a curt remark and one armed the behemoths as I quickly followed two steps behind.

The place was packed with what looked like a chic high heeled social set. Generally the sort of loud and anonymous crowd I usually ignore. Regardless, it was interesting. We were seated with Mike’s partner who sported a white outfit, his head shaved bare like Ali Velshi.  Bald men in Turkey seems to be the current look , though Dilara later confirmed it’s more for comfort from the heat.  We sipped some wine, which the father of Mike’s partner claimed was watered down. I concurred as he puffed a delicious smelling Cuban cigar. Mike’s partner, obviously embarrassed asked if I wanted one. I declined as he went to investigate the watered down beverages.

On stage there was somewhat risque cabaret show. Two Eastern European looking waifs dressed in scant black dresses inviting crowd participation for a dance; think of Robert Palmer’s “Simply irresitable”video very 80’s!  We excused ourselves and  searched out for Mike. Dilara took me out to the terrace where we got the 360 namesake view of a night scene of Istanbul, amazing indeed.


Mike appeared  but was busy with clients and checks. He said he would join us in a minute, Dilara told him about the watered down wine. He rolled his eyes offering me a beer, and would he would join us shortly.

Dilara decided to make  a nostalgic side trip down to the kitchen to show me the back of the house operations. We met Dilara’s former chef de cuisine at Abracadabra and Cezayir, Zeki Eser’le. There were several members of the crew who also were former employees of hers. We chatted amongst the bustling in the kitchen and talked to the chef who seemed sort of awed as Dilara explained my blog and told them about the club where I worked. As for me, I made myself busy by snapping photo’s of the hard working and
looking crew.
Nothing better then being amongst your kitchen compatriots rather than with the high heeled crowd outside.


Later, walking through the streets, Dilara stopped to introduce me to a chef whom she said was the inspiration for her own innovative twist on Turkish cuisine, Ece Aksoy. Dilara took me inside his small sparsley decorated dining room and showed me the tiny kitchen from where comes what she called Turkish comfort food. As Dilara chatted with Ece, I spoke with one of Ece’s  guest sitting at her table and described where I worked and what I was doing in Istanbul. Dilara told me we have to come here the next time I come back, it’s on my to do list.

Later that evening we met Dilara’s friends where I met some interesting people including an oud player and a documentary film maker who had traveled by camel caravan for 15 months along the silk road.

The evening was now morning as we made our way back through the insanley crowded roads filled with night club reveler traffic back to Arnavutköy. Dilara reminded me as I walked her home at 3 am that I had brunch at The Sultanahmet at eleven on my schedule with James Beards double!


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