Turkish Delight: Istanbul Turkish Cuisine

For chowhounds like me, the opening of Mexico City’s first Turkish restaurant is welcome news. A few months ago, three friends, Burak Ozsalman, Cenk Oba and Ozkan Alkan, arrived from Turkey with little more than their suitcases and a good idea. The result is Istanbul Turkish Cuisine, a comfortable, unpretentious place with an outdoor seating area a few blocks north of Reforma, serving authentic Turkish food. A large Turkish-speaking family occupied one of the tables during our last visit--"real" people are always a good omen in a foreign restaurant.

Turkish food is characterized by the use of lots of fresh vegetables, smaller servings of meat or fish, and the judicious use of herbs and spices; some diners used to spicier Mexican food might find it bland, but I found is subtle and savory. Like Mexicans, Turks like to spend a lot of time over their meals, which are served as a big feast, with many plates set on the table at once. Meze (small appetizers) are the specialty here, and Istanbul offers over 150 varieties of them, although only 7 or 8 are featured at any given time—the menu changes with the seasons. I liked the maydanoz salatasi , a salad similar to tabouleh, made with parsley, cracked wheat and good olive oil. The patlikan salatasi, a smoky, roasted eggplant dip, and the manca, spinach in yogurt, were fresh and flavorful.

A dozen main dishes are on the menu, including kebaps and parrilladas (grilled meats) - mostly lamb, which is unusual in Mexico. There are several fish options, including a roasted fish of the day - all served with vegetables or salad. Under platillos caseros, you will find coban kavurma, chopped lamb with tomatoes, onions and green pepper, fragrant with cumin, served with rice. Desserts such as the postre de chabacano estilo turko (dried apricots in caramel sauce, served with rich, eggy home-made ice cream) or baked rice pudding, are well worth the calories.
This is home-style food, nothing fancy in its concept or presentation, but undoubtedly
authentic. Prices are reasonable, and the service is friendly. Both our Mexican waitress and one of the Turkish owners were very helpful in explaining the menu and style of eating Turkish food. Istanbul is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding restaurant scene here in Mexico City.

Istanbul Turkish Cuisine
Río Pánuco 163, Colonia Cuauhtémoc
Tel. 5511-2482
Open daily 11:30-1AM
$200-250 per person


  1. I love Turkish food and was delighted when this restaurant opened up right on my corner...however after visiting once I have not been back - food good quality but prices far too high and portions far too small plus pushing the most expensive wine was unwelcome...plus eating in a garage?? It has a number of things to fix before I revisit...

  2. I like Turkish food but experiencing it in Mexico would add a whole other dimension! This sounds like a great place to visit.

  3. i love turkish food and this restaurant looks really nice, cheers

  4. i've had lunch there a couple of times. the chef owner is cute and interesting, but married. the food is delicious and, like he said, more subtle and better combined than lebanese, albeit with the same ingredients. and their idea of the sultan's palace at the entrance! they do have a wild imagination.

  5. I tried this place based on your recommendation-what a HUGE disappointment. No lamb, no pan arabe, no baklava. This place was Turkish in name and nothing else.

  6. Ate there some months ago. Food was good, not spectacular... Can it be that in Mexico we're too used to Lebanese cuisine and therefore find the Turkish bland?
    Big dissapointment was dessert. It was a traditional, turkish dessert- don't recall now- which would have been delicious hadn't it been for the Hershey's syrup drizzled all over it. You'd never find that in a Lebanese restaurant here!...

  7. This place was really good, but it went out of business!