It’s a classic… Pandeli…

Try to enter the 450 years old legendary Spice Bazaar (or Egyptian Bazaar) located in Eminonu district of Istanbul from the front gate towards the sea. Once you cross the Bazaar’s heavy duty iron gates immediately turn left and you will see the stairways covered with Iznik style tiles at the walls leading to the Pandeli Restaurant.

The owner of the restaurant (Pandeli) was actually a local Greek from Central Anatolian region of Turkey. He came to Istanbul and started to work in a meatball restaurant as a dishwasher, then after he opened his first small restaurant in 1926 in Eminonu district of Istanbul and moved to this legendary place inside Spice Bazaar by some governmental aids in 1956 after 6 – 7 September incidents.

You can see Galata Bridge and the rush of Eminonu from the main saloons in the restaurant, the other saloon at the entrance has some small historical windows looking at directly the Spice Bazaar. I have to remind that Pandeli Restaurant is only open during working hours of the Spice Bazaar, so this means that there is no dinner service here…

All the side walls are covered by Iznik style tiles, the tables are set by white covers. Due to the Easter holidays plenty of tourists are visiting the restaurant within these days so we are quite minority in the restaurant.

I look at the menu… Classical Turkish dishes are very common in the menu. As a starter we order for mixed vegetable plate cooked with olive oil (15 TL). I ask for a glass of white wine to accompany our dish (10 TL). For the main course I decide to go with Lamb’s shank with vegetables (28 TL) and my wife decides for Lamb stew served on mashed eggplant (24 TL).

I found the bread quite standard for this restaurant which would be a missing point for me. I may understand that the habitudes of such restaurants are usually the same especially for the breads however; I wish that there would have been some 1 or 2 alternatives for the bread.

The mixed vegetables plate consists of stew of dried beans with olive oil and onions, mashed eggplant, stuffed eggplant cooked in olive oil, green beans and stuffed grape leaves with olive oil. The best dishes are certainly the “eggplant” ones for me. The matter here is that the quality of the eggplant seems to be so perfect that there is a significant intensity and fullness in it. You really feel it!

Stuffed grape leaves with olive oil have not the shape (like fingers) that we used to eat everywhere. The shape is more likely to a square pack which I have seen and tasted for the first time. Even though I respect traditions, I usually prefer to have some innovations especially in the gastronomy, so I may say that I liked the stuffed grape leaves. May be I may only say that the rice would be cooked a little bit more “al dente” type with a touch of some acidity. I actually prefer to add some acidity while cooking the dish instead of adding onto the dish on the plate…

I order for two glasses of red wines to accompany our main courses (10 TL). They only serve Doluca Antik (a Turkish brand) as red wine in the glass which is a convenient choice for me actually. It’s a nice wine. At this point I may say that there are not too many choices for the wines here (like many other restaurants in Istanbul) but in any case it’s really a nice option to drink some wine at this fantastic environment.

I’ve got mashed eggplant, mashed spinach, mashed potatoes, okra, green peas and also some eggplant dish on the side of my “Lamb’s shank”. It is easy to guess that the lamb has been cooked very slowly where you feel the texture of the meat so soft and easy to separate from the bone. However, to my mind the real star on the plate is the “mashed spinach”. Certainly cooked in butter, may be some béchamel sauce inside. I believe it is the first time I see“mashed spinach” served as a very similar to “French cooking style”, here in Istanbul.

My plate has been turned to “mixed vegetables cooked with butter” from “olive oil” because all the side vegetables are cooked with butter which creates a very high bodied dish…

I check my wife’s “lamb stew served on mashed eggplant”… It is the same eggplant dish as mine. Very soft and creamy and buttery. The lamb is also cooked very slowly which I may say very Ottoman style.

Of course there are many other savours to taste in Pandeli… I wonder their pastries even their “doner”  plates (in Turkish we call it “Doner” a kind of grilled meat dish on vertical charcoal fire)… There is also an eggplant pastry with together with “doner” which seems to be an interesting choice. When I check other tables, some tourists go for typical Turkish grill plates, some of them go for “steamed sea bass in paper” and some of them go for the same dishes which we chose.

I may only complain about the toilets in the restaurant. OK, I understand that the building has a history of 450 years, but this should not be the same for the toilets, of course! It is certainly quite easy to organize more hygienic and better toilets for this restaurant…

In any case, as a result, Pandeli is a must culinary experience in Istanbul… I highly recommend this restaurant for these stunning classical dishes…

About Murat Mumcuoglu

Crazy about wine & gastronomy... Chef & Owner of Istanbul's smallest tapas bar "Hola Panini & Tapas" located in Moda district...
This entry was posted in Doluca, Istanbul, Restaurants, Turkish Wines. Bookmark the permalink.

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