Istanbul Hawaii – Honolulu, HI

Been wanting to try Istanbul since they opened over a year ago…did they open pre-pandemic? Gosh, I can’t keep track. I think I fell into the trap of wanting to try a new trendy restaurant, those never work out for me. I end up thinking, why didn’t I just go grab take-out elsewhere. Istanbul is a mother-daughter owned restaurant and for that reason alone, had to give them a try! Decided to treat a friend to dinner and I think the food was good! Service was alright, a whole bunch of young folks running around with their hipster leather aprons on. We dined indoors and it is so loud in there that you can’t really hold a conversation and any question I asked the waiter was answered wrongly, he thought he was being helpful telling me his favorite dishes when that is not what I asked at all…anyway, onto the food!

Meze Platter | $28.00
humus, muhammara, babaganush, su borek, spanakopita, peynir & karpuz, pita (all mezes are hand-made by mom chef Nili)

Let’s break it down:
Humus: organic chickpea, tahini, turkish spices & EVO, garlic, pita
Muhammara: roasted bell pepper, walnut, cinnamon, turkish evo, pita
Babaganush: smoked waimanalo eggplant, black garlic, turkish EVO, pita
Su Borek: moist traditional filo, fresh cheese, ma’o parsley
Spanakopita: crispy traditional filo, turkish feta, ma’o spinach
Peynir & Karpuz: turkish feta & cured olives, watermelon, aged balsamic

I really enjoyed this appetizer platter! If I could, I would order this dish as an entrée all on its own! Would I do that next time? Yeah, I no care how piggie it makes me look. I’ll rank the dishes from most favorite to least favorite: spanakopita, peynir & karpuz, humus, su borek, muhammara, and babaganush. Maybe I would rank spanakopita and the watermelon dish first, I really really enjoyed the watermelon dish.

Pirzola | $45.00
kea’au grass-fed lamb chops, turkish harissa, yesil fasulye (green beans)
accompanied with turkish saffron pilav & tzatziki

We knew we would be pretty stuffed with the appetizer so we decided to share a dinner entrée. Can’t go wrong with lamb, one of their signature dishes. The lamb was cooked nicely, the accompanying pilav looked nice but was kind of bland. I mixed the pilav with the green beans after and it tasted really good.

Antep Baklava | $12.00
40 layers of filo, turkish walnut, honey syrup, house-made cream fresh dondurma

Ah, dessert! Seeing that this was my first and (possibly?) last visit, I wanted to also try their Turkish delight. Alas, my luck was not there since they were sold out! It’s okay, my original intent was the baklava and boy did it deliver. I really really enjoyed this dish. It’s drenched in honey syrup, how could I not enjoy it?

One last complaint about the restaurant, I really dislike their payment system. This is not the first time I’ve seen it and I hope this is not the new trend. They come to you with the bill on this handheld electronic device, you hand them your credit card and the server stands there holding the device as you sign off on it. And well, the gratuity screen is there to see and they have the preset percentages (starting at 18%!) and then if you no get shame, you can select custom tip as the waiter stares at you while you change it…and then you sign. Well I gave 18% but I don’t appreciate the pressure to pay like that…being watched!

Anyway, as I said, the food was super good but I feel like I could just grab Greek take-out and get the same type of dishes and be satisfied. That sounds bad…but I guess I’m just not too picky.