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Istanbul Modern Dining

I'm going in November, so Changa should be open and perhaps the terrace at Milka won't be open for use because of the colder weather?

Sep 12, 2013
stanshep in Europe

Istanbul Modern Dining

Food nerd here looking for the best modern take on Turkish food. Usually I'm scared away by dining in hotels given the lack of atmosphere and markup in prices.

1) Gile
2) Milka
3) Changa
4) Mimolett
5) La Mouette

Other suggestions? Which place is the most edgy?

I already have meyhanes and lokantas picked out, so just looking for something different here.

Sep 11, 2013
stanshep in Europe

The food tourist's dilemma

This may go without saying, but I had great success using to sort through the many dining options in Paris (and beyond). Sure you'll see/hear other English speakers at many of the places they've reviewed, but they've also reviewed many restaurants that English speakers might not otherwise know about. And I find their prose to be highly entertaining.

Jul 16, 2010
stanshep in France

L'Agrume walk-in?

My first-hand experience in early June is that there are no walk-ins at L'Agrume. We had a 9pm reso and two groups tried to walk-in around the same time. While there was room at the raised table with stools the server in a very polite manner said they could not accommodate them. It could be they only have enough food for the number of resos on the books each night. Also, the space is so small that more people in your party, the more unlikely a walk in would be.

Jul 15, 2010
stanshep in France

Report: Regalade, l'Agrume, Josephine, Comptoir du Relais...

Thanks for everyone’s input on my Paris dining itinerary. Below is a ranking in order of preference of the meals we had over eight days. Without a doubt, Paris is my favorite city for food. I’ll be back.

#1 La Régalade Saint-Honoré: First class all the way. Favorite meal the trip. We stumbled into the new Regalade outpost on a whim and never looked back. Lunch spot for a well dressed, beautiful crowd. Sat next to Icelandic food critic and his photographer. Would have been ecstatic if lunch consisted of only the terrine and cornichons. But then came the shrimp bisque, followed by the dorade (sea bream) with fennel, lardon and olives. My dining companion feasted on salmon crudo on a bed arugula, followed by braised veal shoulder with tomatoes. Dessert consisted of an outstanding (and generous portion of) riz au lait with caramel sauce and a chocolate pot de crème. At 33 Euros per person, can all this goodness be for real? Top it off with efficient but extremely personable service and you have a legendary meal.

#2 L’Agrume: Good things do come in small packages. No more than 8 tables and only 1 chef at this tiny gem. Could the female server have been more of a doll to us? Tasting menu was phenomenal. True to its name, our dining experience started with a pomelo tartar of bar (bass), followed by a medley of warm asparagus, zucchini, carrot, and potato, poached John Dory with leeks, and duck breast with raisins and olives. Top it off with the best dessert of the trip, cherry soup (really, compote) with a giant puff pastry and rich cream. What a find.

#3 Joséphine Chez Dumonet: “Ooo la la” said the waiters when they saw what we had ordered! “Ooo la la” we all said when we tasted it: decadent morels stuffed with veal, artichoke salad, white asparagus with béarnaise sauce, rich beef bourguignon with a side of egg noodles, perfectly roasted barbue (brill), and a grand marnier soufflé to share. Staff were very knowledgeable about wine pairing. This place doesn’t mess around. Congratulate the chef when he comes out to greet you at the end of the night.

#4 Comptoir du Relais: Fresh, clean, original. Get a table on the sidewalk for lunch. Outstanding people watching. Little gem salad, followed by smoked salmon with citrus cream and dill, delicious pavé of beef with tiny spring vegetables, roasted ½ chicken with crispy potatoes, giant raspberries with chantilly for dessert. Probably your best bet anywhere along Blvd. St. Germain.

#5 Benoit: Classic, formal, but unfortunately with laughable service. First night in Paris, a Sunday, and it generally didn’t disappoint. Rosé champagne, cassolette of peas, lardon, carrots and cream, escargot, “cookpot” of spring vegetables, sole with lobster sauce, salmon with béarnaise sauce, chocolate gâteau for dessert. Sipping an outstanding chablis throughout it all.

#6 Cristal de Sel: Hit and miss. Tandoori gambas were outstanding, the crab and apple “lasagna” touted by the server was not. Grilled bar with leeks and asparagus was terrific, the dorade on squid ink risotto was less so. Cheese plate for dessert was a home run.

#7 Cave Beauvau: No frills, but earnest food. Duck confit and steak au poivre were solid. Not a destination in its own right, but delivers an honest lunch if you’re nearby.

#8 Ze Kitchen Galerie: Average. Can find 12 versions of this restaurant in California. Outstanding service made up for limited menu and lackluster food: scallop sashimi, grilled squid, thai lemongrass broth, tempura of crab and langoustines. Artwork on the walls is circa 1998.

#9 Chez l’Ami Jean: Off-base food, with rushed, sarcastic service. I would have been all right if the meal had stopped after the fromage blanc, charcuterie basket, and the girolles (all exceptionally good). However, the meal went off the tracks. Inedible sardines inside a fried doughnut (highly touted by the server) followed by tough lamb (also highly rated by the staff). Did we just visit on a bad night?

#10 Rech: Unforgivable food at unjustifiable prices. Just about everything had been cooked in advance and reheated prior to serving (or, if cold, had sat in the refrigerator for 12 hours). Even the XL éclair was stale.

Jun 21, 2010
stanshep in France

Report: Jean-Marie Amat, Brasserie Bordelaise and La Tupina (Bordeaux)

Eating in Bordeaux easily rivals Paris and is not to be missed. Granted we were only there for 48 hours, but we managed to squeeze in 3 outstanding meals.

Restaurant Jean-Marie Amat - Prince Noir: Worth a trip to Bordeaux alone. Housed in a converted château. Beautifully crafted and very seasonal menu. This man can cook lobster. Contemporary, sleek dining room. Huge glass windows overlook an illuminated forest of trees below. Richard Avedon photos adorn the walls. Phillipe Starck furniture dots the room. Very well dressed crowd. Professional service but with personality. The Chariot de Fromages is killer.

Brasserie Bordelaise: Nothing like Balzar, Lipp or Bofinger. Locavore cooking. Not an empty table to be seen at lunch time. Fun, loud. Get a seat at one of the large communal tables and eavesdrop on your neighbors. The wine selection is out of this world.

La Tupina: Had my doubts, as I read that Rachel Ray did a TV show from here. But the food was outstanding. You just can't get southwest cooking like this in Paris. The suckling pig gets the blue ribbon in my book. Finish off the meal with a glass of armagnac and you'll be loving life.

Jun 19, 2010
stanshep in France

Report: Arzak, Etxebarri (San Sebastian)

Just came back from four days in San Sebastian and had a few gem meals.

Arzak: The experience of eating at Arzak is unlike any other I've had. I loved it. Everything from the avant-garde amuse bouches, to the poured-concrete walls of the dining room, to the leather apron of the sommelier, to the spins on Basque (and non-Basque) ingredients were fantastic. From the outside, the restaurant doesn't look all that interesting. It's on a busy road in a bland neighborhood. But once through the sliding glass door to the dining room, you find yourself in a completely different world. We opted for the tasting menu, starting with a bottle of Jose Pariente Sauvignon Blanc, moving on to a bottle of Gran Reserva 904 from Rioja. Everything just seemed to fall into place without any effort. There was no excessive formality in the flawless service. Some of my favorites from 16 courses were the caldo de alubia con manzana (shot of black bean soup with apple), antxoa con fresa (achovy with sliced strawberries), huevo con temblor de tierra (runny egg with breadcrumbs), rape marea baja (monkfish), pinchon con chia (pigeon with little sprouts), sopa y chocolate "entre viñedos" (exploding warm liquid chocolate spheres swimming in a berry soup), and finally hidromiel y fractal fluido (a dessert consisting of two liquids that when poured together made a fractal design). And, as is the sign of a good restaurant, Maria and Juan Mari each came out to visit with the different tables, switching between German, Spanish, French and English effortlessly. The only downside to the entire meal is that I'm still paying off my credit card bill ($600 USD for lunch for two).

Asador Etxebarri: The food at Extebarri gets the top billing, as the decor and the service are not in the same league. As everyone comments, the setting of this restaurant is nearly picture perfect. The mountains above the town of Axpe are breathtaking. The town consists of little more than the stone building that houses the restaurant, a church, a fronton court, and lots of sheep. We opted for the tasting menu which was so straighforward and simple: one ingredient at a time, and that ingredient is either grilled or smoked. The simplicity of the cooking really worked well and was unlike anything I'd had before. Some of my favorites were the grilled prawn, the grilled mussel, the smoked egg, and one of the stragest courses I've ever had, smoked butter with sea salt. Litterally, you ate this smoky, rich, smooth butter with your fork and knife. I supposed you could have also added it to your bread, but the point really is to taste each ingredient separately. The piece de resistance in my book was the grilled steak, and a simple green salad on the side. Again, no sauce, nothing fancy. Just beef. On the downside, the decor is pretty spartan, and the red rose on the table a little dated. The dining room is quite large so if there are only a few diners, the place feels a little lonely and can be painfully quiet. The service was efficient and the servers got the job done. However, they seemed rushed, not taking the time to stop to talk when I engaged them in conversation (in Spanish). Overall, great food in a beautiful setting. However, I wouldn't say it is worth a trip to San Sebastian or Bilbao just to eat here. Arzak is a different story...

Jun 19, 2010
stanshep in Spain/Portugal

Reporting back: L'Agrume & KGB

Just out curiosity, when was your reservation for L'Agrume and how far in advance did you make it?

May 25, 2010
stanshep in France

Substitute for Yam'tcha

I tried to make a reservation at Yam'Tcha and was told to call back three weeks before the date I wanted to dine. I did as I was told but today was informed they had no availability. Not sure if I was given bad advice the first time I called, or if others beat me to the punch earlier today. In any event, no hard feelings, but wanted to know what suggestions others had. Not necessarily leaning toward something Asian per se, but want wanted something unique (only in Paris...). Thoughts?

May 12, 2010
stanshep in France

Paris suggestions for dinner - special but not necessarily starred! Chateaubriand?

The link above is broken. Can you re-post the link to the Guardian article?

Apr 29, 2010
stanshep in France

Any updates on the Cortland Marketplace?

I wish them luck. It's going to be hard to compete with the likes of Good Life and Avedano's. Their selection is just a fraction of what others on the street have.

235 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

Etxebarri: Best day/time to go?

I want to visit Etxebarri when the dining room is full and has energy. Many pictures I've seen on the web show a dining room with only one or two tables occupied. My general experience is that this makes for a rather depressing meal (no matter how good the food is).

I have a reso for dinner on Saturday at 10pm. I know the Spanish eat dinner very late compared to many other countries. But I also know the Spanish eat their big meal of day in the afternoon. Will the place be happening or more of a snooze?

Apr 21, 2010
stanshep in Spain/Portugal


Is Chateaubriand open for lunch? Le Fooding is a bit confusing. Under "Horaires" it says it's only open from 7:30 to 11pm. But then it goes on to say "no bookings at lunch". Does that mean no reservations for lunch or closed for lunch? I'm guessing the latter.

Apr 20, 2010
stanshep in France

Please critique my Paris eating itinerary

Thanks for all the input. With an eye to moderating how substantial the food on my original list was, I propose the following instead:

Sun: l'Auberge Bressane
Mon: ZKG
Tues: Chez Dumonet
Wed: Rech
Thurs: Papilles
Fri: Yam'tcha
Sat: CAJ

Apr 18, 2010
stanshep in France

Please critique my Paris eating itinerary

Thanks for the clarification on CLJ. I have seen it described as Basque cousine many times. Not like Au Bascou or Afaria is what you're saying?

Apr 18, 2010
stanshep in France

Please critique my Paris eating itinerary

Going to Paris for a week in May and want to have a well-rounded dining experience. Tend to like traditional, non-fussy bistro faire, rather than tasting menu cuisine. Ambiance also counts a lot in my book. I'd rather it be loud and crowded, than formal and staid. I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater, but I draw the line at ears, feet, and cock's combs. Here's what I'm thinking for dinners:

Sun: l'Auberge Bressane
Mon: La Regalade
Tues: Chez Dumonet
Wed: Aux Lyonnais
Thurs: Chez l'Ami Jean
Fri: Chez Denise
Sat: Chez Janou

Any first impressions? What am I missing? After Paris, I'm heading to the Basque Country (both in France and Spain). So, if I were to switch out any of these meals I'm thinking Chez l'Ami Jean. Also, I'm on the fence about Chez Dumonet because I don't want to get stuck in the "tourist room" I've heard about.

Other contenders are L'Agrume, L’Epigramme, Jadis, Papilles, Rech, La Gazzetta.

Apr 18, 2010
stanshep in France

Le Fooding article (New Yorker)

After the finishing the article, I still couldn't figure out what Le Fooding was...

Apr 13, 2010
stanshep in France

Le Fooding article (New Yorker)

If anyone missed the article on Le Fooding movement in the New Yorker last week, here is the link:

l'Ami Jean, la Regalade, le Comptoir, Yam'tcha and Frenchie are all mentioned.

Apr 13, 2010
stanshep in France

Quick Trip to Bordeaux

What about Chateau Lafite Rothschild while in the Northern Medoc? Worth a visit?

Apr 12, 2010
stanshep in France


Is it true they stop serving dinner at 8pm? That seems incredibly early, even for SF.

NYT: Underground Paris

Did anyone see this article in the NYT this weekend? I guess these won't be "private" anymore if half of America has read about them.

What reviews does anyone have of Chez Nous Chez Vous, Hidden Kitchen, or O Chateau?

Mar 29, 2010
stanshep in France

Emailing Chez l'Ami Jean?

Using the email address on their website, I emailed Chez l'Ami Jean last week for a reservation in early June and haven't heard back. Do you know whether they take reservations via email? Is now too early to make a June reservation?

Mar 24, 2010
stanshep in France

Has anyone used

Is it reliable for making reservations at restaurants in Paris? My worst fear is to get there and find out the restaurants have no record of the reservations I've made. Thanks.

Mar 11, 2010
stanshep in France

One dinner in Bordeaux

Going to Bordeaux in June and have time for one dinner. I think I've narrowed it down to Le Chochon Volant, Les Noailles and La Tupina, but am open to others if the food is good. I want a busy/lively dining scene with good people watching (no hushed conversations, please). Looking for younger (30s and 40s) French clientele, rather than English speaking pensioners on holiday. What are your thoughts?

Mar 11, 2010
stanshep in France