An unexpected gem: Hole-in-the-wall kebap diner

Sometimes one of the best things are found after we put our maps away, wander the streets, and then discover a totally unexpected gem. It was our last night in Istanbul and we already had dinner earlier in the night along the lively street of Nevizade Sokak before getting a round of drinks at the local pub. The word "late" never really means anything in Beyoğlu since the night is always young with Istanbullus out and about walking the streets even past midnight. We had an intense craving for good lentil soup after having an excellent bowl at Karaköy Özsüt a few days earlier. Well, the night is always young in Istanbul, right? So we decided it wasn't quite time for our last sleep in Istanbul just yet and went in search for lentil soup. We turned onto the narrow street of Asmalımescit, another cobbled stone alleyway popular for its meyhane (tavernas) and pubs. The most inconspicuous place on this street is a hole-in-the-wall kebap restaurant with the most unattractive facade. An employee stood outside gesturing us in and speaking Turkish to us. We then asked "Lentil soup? Soup?" He replied to us in Turkish and based on his facial expression, we gathered that they either did not have lentil soup or that he didn't quite understand us. He then wildly waved us in to take a look inside. The enthusiastic man went right into the open kitchen, removed the lid from a huge metal pot, proceeded to ladle up what was in the pot, and then showed it to us while saying these three words in English, "It's very good". They had soup and it looked close enough to lentil soup. We looked into the kitchen and the chefs were grilling kebabs on iron skewers on the open grill. Yes, we were sold. The kebap place is tiny with only 3 low tables. The open kitchen was literally just there as we walked in.

The soup was ever so delicious. T and I later figured that it was probably red lentil and bulgur soup. The ufta kebap was especially tasty for a late night meal but the highlight was undoubtedly the very large metal tray that came with 8 types of sides to go with the kebap. The sides included chopped parsley with spices and oil, grilled tomato with spices, pickled whole baby yellow peppers, sliced cucumber and tomato, raw onion slices with spices, tomato and onion salsa mix, and raw garlic cloves. Oh my goodness. The kebap came with thin sheets of flour wrap. We sliced off some meat, placed it onto the piece of wrap, added the side(s) we wanted, rolled it up, and ate. Then repeated with a different combination of sides with the remaining meat and wraps. We sat on the low wooden stools at the low tables, ate, and just watched the Istanbullus walk by outside either on their way to or from the pubs along the street of Asmalımescit. Absolutely the best way to end our night in Istanbul.

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