Bitez Dondurma

Ataturk Caddesi 48 A/3-4, 48400, Turkey • +90 536 480 47 24 • bitezdondurma.com

Unless it has freezer burn or fell off of your cone onto the ground, ice cream is seldom a disappointment.  But as mood-altering good as it is, the Turks take it to a whole other level. Sure, the Italians have them beat with gelato, but what they don’t have is Tutti Frutti, which sort of tastes like Panettone in ice cream form. Granted the Italians created Panettone, so checkmate on that one.

Several other flavors shine at Bitez Dondurma as well (which means Bitez Ice Cream- Bitez being a town in the south of Turkey where the company is originally from before turning into a big chain), from their rich, creamy chocolate to nutty pistachio and hazelnut. In fact, you really can’t go wrong. And truth be told, the best way to go is layers, like how your mama told you to dress in the winter, only at Bitez they do it with thin layers of killer ice cream (pictured). It has the total opposite effect your mother was intending, but it sure tastes a lot better than a wool sweater.

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Bella Sombra

Bagarasi Cad. No:24, Golturkbuku 48400, Turkey • T +9 0252 377 6100 • bellasombrahotel.com

Secrets, contrary to conventional wisdom, are better shared than kept. Obviously not all secrets, however. Like “I have another family” or “I’m actually a man” or “It’s not your baby.” But when it comes to restaurant finds, I lean towards letting the word get out. Sure it will make the place more popular and harder to get into, but it beats the alternative of no one ever hearing about it and the place disappears. This is a fate I would like to save Bella Sombra from.

As the name implies it is VERY “bella.” The setting when you walk down those steps toward the pool courtyard is breathtaking. Stone villas flanking it on all sides. The glow from the water, the moon and the lanterns on the steps luring you deeper into the seduction. And as you make your way around the pool, you will come upon the dining area, which is set apart by greenery and charmed with strung lights (pictured). The bar next door enjoys some of the same, but with a very spacious, more casual vibe. Almost done like an amphitheater of chaise-like sofas all facing the wooden bar meets hut in the center of the arena.

Sadly though, it is all wasted, because the crowd is not just virtually non-existent. It’s actually non-existent. We were the only table of the night. There were more stray cats than people, that’s how dead it was. On the upside, service was great. How could it not be?

So maybe it’s the food that’s killing them? Not really. I actually found most of the dishes to be quite worthy (not to mention large). The best dish being an inventive eggplant starter that tasted similar to baba ghanouj only better. The other winner was the paella for two, made with sucuk for a Turkish spin (resisting the temptation to make a dervish joke here).

In the middle for me would be the vegetarian sushi that tasted a bit like red lentil kofte. And the only miss was the manti. I get what they were trying to do, similar in some ways to how it is done at Limon. But in execution, it comes off like chickpeas and yogurt with Cheez-its stuck in it. So a pretty mighty miss in retrospect, but not enough for me to lose confidence as a recommendation. In other words, please go. It would be a shame to see this place disappear.

Pizzeria C’e

Türkbükü Mah. Gaffur Kaynar Cad.88 Sok. No: 11/A 48400 Bodrum, TK • +90 252 3776066pizzeriace.com

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Never more does one have to trek all the way from Turkbuku into Bodrum for a decent slice. And while I’m not exactly sure they are as good as Vespa, they are a hell of a lot more convenient. That’s assuming you can get a table, of course, because it’s cok kucuk (Turkish for “very small”). Granted that’s also part of its charm. And the good news is that if you can’t get a table, you can always do take out.

Part of what makes the pies as good as they are is that the husband and wife who own the place took a trip to Italy specifically to learn how to make kick ass pizza! And I can’t think of a better reason to go to Italy, so props on the mission accomplished.

Of the three pizzas we tried, the sausage with chili peppers was the clear winner, getting a hefty boost from the heat delivered by those home grown chili’s. Look out though, because it’s WAY hotter than the typical red pepper flakes you get at your other pie places.

In second I would score the margherita. You really taste the freshness of all the ingredients from the crust to the sauce to the cheese and even the garden basil leafs on top. It’s not anything that would ever rival New York, but it has some game.

In last for me would be the pear and gorganzola white pie. The miss really coming from the lack of sweetness in the pears, which is supposed to cut the stank savoriness of the cheese. But it faintly shows up and leaves you with a clump of blue cheese on a crust, more or less.

Other things worth mention are the arugula salad with dried cranberries and walnuts and manchego. It was good, but more so as an accompaniment. Would never suggest it as a main event.

Also the bottle of cabernet we shared was quite good and decently priced, granted at three lira to the dollar, virtually every restaurant in Turkey is a bargain these days. I guess while military coups aren’t great for tourism and the economy, they do bode well for foodies. #silverlining

3 teeth

Macakizi

Bağarası Mh. • 48400 Göltürkbükü/Muğla • +90 252 377 6272 • macakizi.com

macakizi-hotel-bodrum

The setting is worth the price of admission alone. And that price ain’t cheap. A heavily art directed jungle meets contemporary meets Bodrum waterfront dining. The Turks have a knack for making the most of waterfront property as rule, and Macakizi is no exception. In fact, of all of the restaurants and hotels in Turkbuku I think they have done it the best on an aesthetic level.

As for the food, it’s neuvo American as opposed to Mediterranean, which seems to be the kiss of death for many a Turkish chef. They overreach too far out of their element when they start messing with things like risotto and foie gras. And as a result, this has an incendiary effect on you and your wallet, because you’re going to pay through the nose for dishes like these, so ideally they should be is amazing. Nothing is worse than a big check at the end of an underwhelming meal. Not that many an inflated haunt doesn’t exist in New York, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay there either. I’m an equal opportunity griper and I’ll bitch and moan from sea to shining Mediterranean Sea to make sure people know what’s badass and what’s bogus. Sadly, apart from the setting, Macakizi is closer to the bogus end of the spectrum. So my advice, just go for a bottle of Ala Raki and call it a night.

2 teeth

The Ultimate Octopus

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Pearl & Ash – New York, NY

If you’ve ever had spare ribs at a Chinese restaurant, than you already have a glimpse into the brilliance that’s behind this dish. One bite of these tentacles and you will be placing your second order of them on the spot. Sorry, pork ribs, you just got schooled.

Animal – Los Angeles, CA

This restaurant is all over my Ultimates list and for good reason, they do a lot of things unbelievably well. And among them just happens to be some of the best pus you’ll ever put in your puss. Marinated in a seeded mustard sauce, then served up with a medley of peppers, onions and taters. It’s the heartiest octopus since Ursula in The Little Mermaid.

Garo’s – Turkbuku, TK

If it’s one thing the Turks know how to do well, it’s seafood. Case in point, Garo’s. But in true Turkish tradition, they don’t get cute with it. They tend to like their fish clean and simple. So, there’s really no opportunity for me to gush about the preparation, sadly enough. But there’s plenty of room to gush about the dish itself, because this octopus, while large, is served up so tender and warm you’d swear you were eating the movie Milo & Otis.

Gato – New York, NY

It would seem that Octopus is very en vogue these days, painting quite an amusing mental picture of an octopus vogue-ing like Madonna with all eight appendages. Well, joking aside, Bobby Flay is serving up some serious pus at Gato. Roasted (not grilled) in a tangerine vinaigrette with oregano and bacon, BACON, BACON!!! So tender and scrumptious I even used the word scrumptious against my better judgement.

Garo’s

Menemene Mh., 83. Sk, Göltürkbükü • (0252) 377 6171

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While Garo’s got the short end of the stick in terms of location in Turkbuku, they make up for it in mezes (Turkish small plates). Some of the best in town. The best of the bunch easily being the grilled octopus. They also do a nice zucchini blossom dolma and the levrek in mustard sauce (basically a branzino ceviche brined in mustard as opposed to citrus).

Others that make nice complements, but aren’t exactly the belles of the ball would be the mash with yogurt, the fresh feta and kovun (honeydew melon), the seaweed with garlic and the spicy red pepper and eggplant thing.

And then there’s the grilled whole fish, which you can choose right from the case. Usually we do as the locals and stick with levrek, but another solid choice is the laos. Skip the swordfish kebab. Although it’s perfectly cooked, it’s woefully shy on seasoning. But the net, net is that these guys know their fish, so whichever looks better and is size appropriate to your party, you really can’t miss here. It’s always fresh and always cooked to perfection.

While you’re busy getting your Turkish on, you might as well go all in and get yourself some raki (anise booze) to go with the meal. Most places serve Yeni or Tekirdag. But if you want to really pamper yourself, ask for Ala. It’s a very smooth, higher end, higher priced raki and it’s worth it. So smooth you can almost hear Sade singing with every sip. Well, that or you’re getting drunk because it goes down too damn easy.

Last but not least, dessert. Whatever you do, do NOT get the “homemade” baklava. It is embarrassingly bad. I’ve had better at airport restaurants and food courts. “Homemade” is apparently the dead giveaway, meaning AKA not made with filo dough. Meaning bok (shit). Better to stick with the pumpkin dessert when in season. It’s not amazing either, but it’s a solid good.

As for service, while friendly, it has trended a tad toward the snootier and snootier side as Turkbuku becomes more and more posh over the years. But compared to New York, they still have a long way to go.

3 teeth