Istanbul eats: Metropolis in Sultanahmet
I never finished telling you about Istanbul! So much has happened since then… Green apple muffins, upside down cranberry cakes, blueberry scones, office politics and resignations. Istanbul feels like a lifetime ago! But I’ve been looking through my pictures and they helped jog my memory a little. It was my pictures of our dinners at Metropolis that inspired me to write this post.
There were a couple of posts about food that didn’t impress me in Istanbul (like the kofte place and the colorful sticky candy) but we still managed to find a few great restaurants. During our short stay in Istanbul we ate at Metropolis twice! It’s a small restaurant in the Sultanahmet district, on Akbiyik Caddesi not far from the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi. Restaurants and cafes line the street with waiters standing outside insistently calling out to tourists, trying to lure them inside.
What particularly annoyed me was the lack of boundaries in Turkey between tourists and vendors/waiters. It seems like some tourists have put up with, and maybe even encourage, unnecessary physical contact and inappropriate comments over the years that this behavior has now become commonplace. At times, I found it really irritating. Below is a picture of a waiter who pestered me until I took his picture.
I came across Metropolis on Tripadvisor and at the time it ranked the #1 restaurant out of a thousand in Istanbul. That sealed the deal for me, I knew I had to try it. The restaurant was easy to find, once we manoeuvred our way past the pushy waiters. We braved the cold and sat outside the first time we visited the restaurant. The staff was attentive and cooperative, they turned up the space heaters after noticing how cold we were. We did have trouble with our server though, his charming persona quickly turned into unbearable nosiness. My sister and I couldn’t talk to each other without him interrupting our conversation with recommendations, questions, jokes and stories. I almost asked him to pull up a chair and join us!
As we waited for our food to arrive, our waiter brought us delicious hot bread with olive oil and a little dried thyme (za’atar). I had no idea that this Middle Eastern herb was popular in Turkey, too. The za’atar was a little bland compared to the varieties from the Levant, but I could have eaten that bread plain.
We ordered an artichoke potato salad, fried cheese rolls and Iskendar kebap, which turned out to be one of the best dishes we had in Turkey. The salad was average and not really to our liking, but the cheese rolls were piping hot and crispy stuffed with soft white cheese. Iskendar Kebap is a meat dish from northwestern Turkey. Flat bread is used to line the plate and then thinly sliced lamb (döner kebab) is heaped on top and covered in a thick, aromatic tomato sauce served with cold yogurt on the side. Just writing about it and mentally constructing the dish is making me hungry! We barely had room for dessert at that point, but I was determined to try their kunafa and although we barely made a dent in our dessert, I was glad we ordered it. It was the perfect ending to our meal.
We weren’t as luck with th food on our second visit to Metropolis. We had to send a shrimp dish back to the kitchen because it was grainy and didn’t taste right. Our salad was colorful and fresh but the vegetarian pastry was not special.
We clearly ordered all the wrong dishes! I was watching flaming steaks on other tables in envy. There were also several dishes cooked in clay pots that I wish I had tried (I couldn’t find them on the menu!). With a loud crack, a waiter would break a sealed clay pot over a plate, the steaming contents come tumbling out as the wide-eyed guests oohed and aahed. Or in my case, snapped pictures in an excited frenzy.
What really bothered me about the place though is how they falsely claimed that most tables were reserved (outside) to generate passersby interest. The first time we went to Metropolis we did make a reservation and got a table without any problems. Yet on seeing how most of the tables remained empty we went again but without calling in advance. We were told that the place was practically all reserved and we were seated inside, in very close proximity to other guests – when there were other tables that were clearly available! It was really infuriating to see that tables remained unoccupied all night and guests without reservation were ushered in.
With the exception of the Iskendar Kebap, I wasn’t very impressed with the service or the other dishes we ordered. Metropolis was just very close to where we were staying and therefore a practical choice. The food was generally good but I wouldn’t call this the #1 restaurant in Istanbul, it’s a hit and miss menu.