December is one of my favourite months of the year. I can't help but get caught up in the festive spirit. Every winter, I set out to explore the delights of the city and often discover a hidden gem. This year, I discovered Karakoyum, lovely restaurant with a terrace that boasts a view that takes in Topkapı Palace and the Galata Tower. Karakoyum opened a year ago and is run by Seniz Lakay. Before this, she ran the cafeteria at Pabetland for 17 years.
From Maslak to Karakoy
Lakay was in her late 40s when she began working at Pabetland. It was her first job. Lakay explains, "I entertained a lot at home. I would plan my parties a week in advance. Pabetland was established by friends of mine and they asked me to help out. Everything just developed from there. Back then, Maslak was in the middle of nowhere and I never really enjoyed working in the area. So, when a friend of mine asked me to open a cafe-restaurant Karakoy, I was intrigued." Haldun Dormen, Hamit Belli, Ishak Alaton and the Koç family are some of the illustrious names that Lakay has entertained in her home.
Karakoyum serves the best spring rolls in town.
One could easily spend hours at Karakoyum watching the colourful buildings around Galata Tower. In additional to serving international fare, Karakoyum is the only restaurant in Istanbul to serve Ashkenazi food.
Potato "borek" and chicken with apricots
This past September, Istanbul celebrated the European Day of Jewish Culture and Heritage. To mark the event, Karakoyum began to serve Ashkenazi fare. Seniz Lakay and her kitchen staff attended courses on how to prepare dishes from the Ashkenazi kitchen, which was created by central and northern European Jews. The dishes were so popular that Lakay kept them on the menu. They include chicken with apricots, potato 'borek', borscht soup and desserts soaked in honey. All Ashkenazi dishes are, of course, kosher.
Whatever you have for a main course, make sure that you have the lemon meringue for dessert. December is a great time to go to Karakoyum, if only for the turkey with orange and chestnut rice stuffing. If you've had it with fast food and want to treat your taste buds to a delicious feast, then head to this oasis in Karakoy. While you're there, make sure to ask Seniz Lakay why she refuses to use microwaves and ask for a few tips on entertaining at home. She says the best thing to do is to cook what come naturally.
Address: Kemeraltı Cad. No:4 Bankalar Han Kat: 6 Tel: 0212-244 68 08
By The Gate Magazine
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A terrace in Karakoy
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