The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
The Road to Istanbul

Yesterday was a travel day and that means fewer photos. We did arrive safely in Istanbul around 4:45 in the afternoon, collected our bags and caught a cab to the Acra Hotel in Sultanahmet, the old quarter of the city. The tiny cobbled streets wind everywhere and the area is so confusing that even our taxi driver had to stop and ask for directions to the hotel.

All's well that ends well, though. They had our reservation, they served us tea and a cold beer while they processed the paperwork ... and the air conditioning in the room worked well. It seems strange to be in a hotel after so much time in our own spaces, but it's nice to be able to walk to restaurants and most of the sights we want to see.

We'll save that exploration for tomorrow, though. Tonight we just wanted to get a bite to eat and get some sleep.

Our hotel is a block off a major concentration of bars and restaurants which made it easy. On the way in we both noticed a restaurant on the corner whose awning talked about a wood-fired brick oven. That sounded more authentic than most so we checked it out. When we got to the Rumist Cafe, we were greeted on the street by Ibrahim, a George Clooney look-alike who spoke excellent English. Turns out he lives in Washington, DC nine months out of the year and returns to Istanbul every summer to help in the restaurant and visit family.

The original idea was a wood-fired pide, but we found several items on the menu that looked more interesting. The football-sized bread is a puffy lavosh from the wood-fired oven. Think of it like a thin pita with all crust and nothing inside. Margene had cheese straws to start while I went for the lentil soup. Very different spicing than I am used to and quite good. Then we split a dish called sac taver, rather like a lightly spiced stir fry of chicken, tomatoes, red and green peppers with the standard rice pilaf. Genie wants to come back for it again before we leave.

We passed on dessert but Ibrahim insisted we accept some fruit tea as his gift. Margene had the strawberry, I had the kiwi. It was an interesting taste, rather like hot kool-aid with an attitude! Then they brought the magic box, I gave them the magic card and we headed back down the street and around the corner to bed.

The happy campers at Cafe Rumist. After dinner, Margene and Ibrahim -- doesn't he look like George Clooney? -- swapped stories in the street which by now (9pm) was jumping. Friday night in the big city and all. But once around the corner, it quieted down. The night was pleasantly warm, the moon was full and all was right with the world.

Big day tomorrow, though. Stay tuned.

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