If you look for a decent Istanbul fish restaurant and don’t want to commute far you can safely head out to the local fish market. You may not get supreme dining experience there but fresh fish perfectly grilled or fried will be served to you without fail. There are great finds around Kumkapı, Galata, Beyoğlu, Beşiktaş, Sariyer and Kadıköy – all known for their bustling fish trade.
My neighborhood is Kadıköy. It is overlooked for everything including its fish restaurants. People you see at the Kadıköy market either live around or come for the sole purpose of eating at Çiya. I am hardly seduced by Çiya because my mother-in-law can easily compete with Musa Dağdeviren, chef of this famous restaurant, in the knowledge of the Turkish regional home cooking and eccentricity of the ingredients. That’s why when I eat out in Kadıköy I am way more interested in fish.
Guneşli Bahçe Sokak at the Kadıköy market starts with fish mongers’ stalls always busy attending to their fish and customers and then continues with fish restaurants door to door. They often sit merry crowds dressed in yellow-blue jerseys as the area is home to Fenerbahçe, a major Istanbul football team. And even if there is no football match that night rakı drinking public keeps the places busy.
With many Istanbul restaurants and eateries you have the luxury of “looking before buying” and deciding to have a meal or not after you peek inside. You quickly notice that Kadı Nimet Balıkçısı is the only fish restaurant at the Kadıköy market that stays busy throughout the day. They don’t chase you in multiple languages with menu in hand when you pass by. Their selection of delicious unusual meze and a range of options in fresh fish served at rock-bottom prices serve as the best marketing for them.
Following the Istanbul fish restaurant etiquette you want to start with meze. Kadı Nimet Balıkçısı are particular about theirs. Have a look at the ezme, a traditional spicy mix of roasted peppers and fresh tomatoes – they throw in stewed nettle in season. Roasted peppers get wrapped around the large chunks of smoked eggplant, or both are finely shopped and mixed with olive oil. Sun-dried tomatoes are marinaded in olive oil and sprinkled with nuts and parsley. Pickled rock samphire, wild herb growing on the sea coast (kaya koruğu) adds spicy and vinegary note to the meal. Marinaded with olive oil and coriander seeds mackerel adds substance and makes you doubt if you will order the main.
But nevertheless don’t miss one of the traditional hot starters at Kadı Nimet Balıkçısı – prawns fried in the royal amount of butter with garlic and tomato (karides güveç), or fresh calamari and mussels coated in batter, deep-fried and served with garlicky tartar sauce.
The selection of fish at Kadı Nimet Balıkçısı leaves you thinking for a good hour on what to choose because besides the Istanbul fish classics they offer exotic choices too. I always ask for the season specials and this is how you can expand your fish eating repertoire beyond the farmed of sea bass (levrek) and sea bream (çupra). Are you a company of serious gourmets? Don’t miss grilled turbot! For a quick meal alone? Go for the grilled anchovy (hamsi izgara)!
And irrespective to how full you get you can’t miss Kadı Nimet Balıkçısı’s firinda helva. Indulging the paste of crushed sesame seeds mixed with butter, milk, finely grated carrot and seasoned with lemon juice will make you regret you have not left more room for the dessert.
Besides the utterly delicious food Nadı Nimet Balıkçısı is remarkable for their service – always efficient and polite – and their no-tea policy. In such a tea drinking country as Turkey it it’s hard to think of a restaurant that doesn’t serve tea. Because if you really don’t want to bother with making it you can always source it from outside. But folks at Nadı Nimet Balıkçısı know that high turnover of the tables is more important than obeying to the tradition. And I respect them for catering to their clients but knowing where to draw the line.
Finally don’t be shy to ask for the table even they look full. Just like many restaurants and cafes in Kadıköy Kadı Nimet Balıkçısı is much larger than the few small tables you see outside and a dozen more inside. They have three more floors including terrace: I can’t wait feasting there in summer.
Address: Serasker Caddesi, No. 10/A, Kadıköy. Phone. 0216 348 73 89