2017-02-08 / Restaurant of the Week

Café Istanbul

Don’t let the name fool you. You’ll not only find healthy, delicious Turkish cuisine at Café Istanbul, but you’ll also find a host of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern delights, all prepared fresh, on the spot, and nicely presented with pride.

Café Istanbul opened just a few months ago as a casual eatery amid the diverse array of ethnic restaurants on Steinway Street. Café Istanbul is the dream of its owner, the very friendly “Sonny,” who originally hails from Mumbai, India. He wanted to open a casual restaurant where one can try the best in Turkish and Middle Eastern dishes while you relax with a game of backgammon, or even puff on a hookah water pipe in the loungey atmosphere glowing with low lighting from the wall sconces. The menu features dishes from Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and continental dishes too. Soothe yourself with a copper pot of hot mint tea and perhaps a hookah water pipe scented with fruit or citrus, while you anticipate your delicious appetizers. We were presented with a large, dazzling platter of Mediterranean appetizers that included creamy homemade hummus, eggplant babaganoush with smoky flavor, and vibrant tabouleh parsley salad. Next to that was a generous portion of Turkish salad, composed of chopped tomato, cucumber, onion, and parsley with chunks of creamy, tangy feta cheese. On the edges of the platters delicate “cigarette” shaped pastry called “bourek” were arranged. These flaky, irresistible pastries were filled with cheese and mint, or mildly spiced lamb. This is a great platter to share for 4 people as a first course and there are plenty of vegetarian options at Café Istanbul. Other appetizers include Turkish style stuffed grape leaves, crispy fried calamari, fried eggplant with garlic, and an Egyptian and Lebanese dish called “foul mudammas.” Pronounced fool-moo-dahmas, this healthy, delicious spread is made from fava beans, garlic, lemon, and olive oil and dates back to Biblical times. Warm up with a bowl of lentil soup on these cold winter nights, and everything at Café Istanbul goes well with the warm pita-style bread brought to your table.

Classic Turkish kebabs sizzle with flavor here, including shish kebab (lamb), kofta kebab with minced lamb and mild spices, chicken kebab or the spicy chicken Adana kebab. Rice or potatoes and salad are served with these kebabs or you can have them piled into a sandwich ($7.95). Lamb tagine is a Moroccan dish, cooked in a clay pot, while “fatta” is a rich, Egyptian stew, ideal for winter. We shared a gorgeous rack of baby lamb, cooked until rosy pink inside and served sizzling on a cast iron skillet, flanked by spears of baked potato ($20.95).

Seafood is popular at Café Istanbul too, with rave reviews for the shrimp with red peppers we had, swimming in an aromatic tomato-based sauce with mild spices. The shrimp were very plump and juicy, and we soaked up the sauce with more bread. Shrimp can also be made in the tagine clay pot, or grilled on a skewer if you wish. Ask about the fish of the day which might be red snapper or striped bass.

For dessert, Turkish style baklava hits your sweet spot and if you’re daring, you might order a rich, thick Turkish coffee, or go for an espresso or cappuccino. Cool, creamy almond pudding, crème brulee, and chocolate mousse complete the list of desserts. We noticed lots of orders going out for delivery, so take advantage of free delivery and bring all this delicious food in.

Café Istanbul is open seven days a week for late lunch or dinner from 2pm to 2am. They can also cater your party in their restaurant or at your location. Visit their website for tantalizing photos and information.

Turkish Mediterranean Cuisine
25-47 Steinway Street
Astoria  718.278.2233


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