There is something about a simple diner that is always so appealing to me. Im always drawn to simple, tasty food, with no frills (although paper doilies and continental parsley garnishes do pop up in places like these). This joint happened to be right around the corner from the little guest house I was staying in, so naturally once checked in, I asked where the closest tasty food was. I was pointed into the right direction then sniffed my way through the cold slushy streets, patted a few cats on the way, and finally stumbled through the doors of Imren Lokantasi. It was warm inside, and the air smelled of the rotisserie beef kebab that was being shaved with a loud electric carving knife in the front window of the shop. There were a couple of loud Canadian ladies in the back corner, but locals ate in silence with un-interrupted focus on their food. This is the kind of micro-focusing skill that I have great respect for, especially when said people are so tuned into their mid-morning meal.
The set-up at the front counter reminds me of a ‘Raan Khao Gaeng’ (lunchtime joints back in Bangkok that serve many kinds of pre-cooked curries and simple dishes that go with rice). A plate of pilaff rice speckled with cooked orzo is dished up, and the game of point and scoop begins: I choose stewed mutton, spinach, and beans cooked in tomato sauce. Then before my stomach scolds me anymore, I’m back at my table, spoon in hand, shovelling down different combinations of meat, rice, and vegetable into my gob. I suppose here texture isn’t as big a priority as in say Thai cuisine, but I am comforted by the warmth of the well-seasoned stews that perfectly with the pilaff rice that is glistening with butter (mmm… butter).
There must be so many strange reasons why I feel comforted in this totally foreign situation. Every table is generously set with a huge basket filled with fresh baguette to soak up the stewy goodness at the end of the meal. This is home food for people who can’t eat at home. This is why I am briefly taken to my happy place after a long day of travelling, then only to be woken by the loud tourists in the corner.
Pazarbaşı Mah. Miroğlu Sok. 10/A Üsküdar,