Hamsi or Black Sea Anchovy is an innocuous little fish with a big personality and taste. You cannot call yourself a citizen of Istanbul until you have eaten this freshly cooked delight. The dropping of leaves and temperature in Istanbul signals the Hamsi season, as the waters of the Black Sea, cools, so these culinary delights proliferate. Having a home in Istanbul, you will have seen the enthusiasm and joy other members of this city greet Autumn, maybe even wondered about it? No more. The answer is Hamsi. I assure you there is nothing quite like eating Hamsi at one of the waterside restaurants on an evening with friends. Eagerly awaited, you will see the fish haggled over in markets and at the quayside. Restaurants all over the city will be busier than usual will families out to enjoy the salty goodness of this little fish. Everybody has their own favourite Hamsi restaurant but here are two suggestions to start you off.
Not quite ‘one’ restaurant but many. This area is redolent with history being a former Ottoman, Greek and Armenian fish district. Close to the Sea of Marmara, south of the Grand Bazaar this area is popular, lively and great fun to visit. The six streets converge onto a plaza, and outside dining is the norm, even in winter! Travelling musicians entertain while you dine. Enjoy the experience of Kumkapı but a word of advice, take a set price meal and watch your bill for any unrequested items. The area has a ‘bit’ of a reputation with regards to bill construction! A visit to the opposite side of the road will bring you to Kumkapı Fish Market – restaurants not as fancy but a view of the harbour as the sun goes down is worth sitting in a plastic chair!
Now living and having a home in Istanbul you will know that Sultanahmet is a popular tourist area, but there are some little gems hidden away here. Now, we are not talking fine dining, but in Hamsi season this great fish restaurant is the place to go. You will find it opposite the Dede Efendi, dervish lodge and it’s simple menu offers great meals for reasonable prices and is certainly a place to enjoy Hamsi cooked in a variety of way, but you will find it busy, with locals, not tourists!
Fish restaurants abound in the district of Beyoğlu, and you can certainly find one to suit your budget and style. But if you want traditional Black Sea style Hamsi then go along to Hayvore restaurant. Hayvore, meaning, ‘I am here’ in the Laz language of the Black Sea area, is a one of the best restaurants selling Black Sea cuisine and their Hamsi dipped in cornmeal, then fried is delicious. Black Sea cuisine has a slightly different style to it than other Turkish food and is certainly worth sampling. Once tried you will most definitely want more and this little restaurant, with its home-cooked style and reasonable prices can offer you that.