"When more than ten locals all name-drop the same spot you know you're in good hands."
I first visited these hallowed hallways when my Airbnb host recommended them as "The best Adana in Istanbul", back in 2018. I remember the flavour of the meat being better than in any other place I had sampled before in Istanbul, including Durumzade and Raif Usta. Some conjuring of old-world spirits was happening at Emme and I wanted more.
The Adana kebab was ordered and a refreshing beverage to take the bite off the intense heat. I watched the locals pour in licking their lips in anticipation. Would it be as good as I remembered? Had my mind played tricks on me?
As the plate glided on occult wings down to my peripheries, I smelled the charred meat and saw the blistered tomato, the bulgur, the fresh herbs, and onions, and let out a slight yelp. This was no time to be polite. I attacked it like a captive set free.
Flavours of the past began to awaken in memory, only this time they tasted better than I anticipated. The meat was more tender, and juicy, the flavours deeper. Perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me and two years of the covid pandemic had diluted the charm of the past, but this was a triumph of ingredients and execution.
Durumcu Emmi is a must-visit on anyone's Istanbul itinerary.
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Tastes are subjective, so take everything with a pinch of salty tears"