Istanbul Restaurant is somewhat of an anomaly. Located on the north end of 82nd Street between an Instaloans and a cigar shop, the restaurant isn’t exactly occupying prime foodie real estate.
The subtle location gives Istanbul Restaurant even more charm, though, affording it a ‘hidden gem’ status that Edmonton’s food-loving population so love to discover.
And yes, it truly is a hidden gem.
The first thing I noticed about Istanbul Restaurant was the décor – distinctly Middle Eastern, but with an abundance of Evil Eye talismans. Known as a nazar, the round blue amulets are traditionally used as protection against the Evil Eye…eerily unsettling, because the talisman itself looks like an eye. I first came across these decorations at a pub in the UK (called Evil Eye, no less), even though the pub itself primarily served south-east Asian cuisine.
Aside from the relief borne from the knowledge that you aren’t going to die a dreadful death by evil stares, the rest of the décor is lovely, with bold red elements and shiny, coppery ornaments.
As for food, Istanbul serves a variety of Middle Eastern specialities, including hummus, shish kebobs, kofte, and barbecued Turkish-style lamb chops. However, if you’re dating/dining out with someone who’s not-so-adventurous or picky about their food, the restaurant also offers some Westernized dishes, including pepper steak and Pacha-getti (spaghetti with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese).
I started my meal with a glass of Jackson Triggs Cabernet Merlot and the P.I. Mussels, which were rich, tasty, and so spicy that I broke a sweat. For $12, they sure do load you up! Taken out of their shells, the mussels are cooked in a rich, spice-filled sauce that offers just enough creaminess and plenty of herbs and vegetables. To be honest, I probably could’ve gotten this appetizer as my main course and been full. The mussels themselves, along with the side of pita bread, were plenty. I’d recommend them, but only if you like spicy food (and seafood, of course).
For my main, I had the Adana Beef Kebob, made from spiced ground beef and lamb and served with bulgur, salad, hummus, and fresh baked pita bread. The beef was spicy and tender, the pita bread fresh and warm, and the rice packed with plenty of heat. My fellow diners tried the Adana Chicken Kebob and the Pan Fried Sole, both of which were full of flavour and spiced to perfection.
The service was wonderful, with plenty of water refills to soothe our seared mouths. Entree prices range from $15 to $30, depending on whether you’re in the mood for spaghetti or rack of lamb. For two people without drinks and with appetizers, the bill will come to approximately $60, which is very reasonable for a taste of true Turkish cuisine.
I’m a huge fan of spicy food, so I’ll be sure to return to Istanbul Restaurant. I appreciate the fact that they’re so generous with their spices – the restaurant stays true to Turkish cuisine and doesn’t seek to temper the heat of the food or change it to suit a blander palate. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t bother with this place. If, however, you’re like me and crave the food of other continents, exotic spices, and something slightly out-of-the-ordinary, get yourself to Istanbul Restaurant post haste. Şerefe!
12918 82 Street
Edmonton, AB T5E 2T2
Mon to Sat: 11am to 10pm
Be sure to stop by for belly-dancing Saturdays!