With just two days left until the end of Ramadan, it's time to reflect on the past month; the abundant spread of food that covered tables across the country. Now, the zesty tastes of iftar (fast-breaking) dinner are popping up for the final days of the holy Islamic month. Here are a few last-minute suggestions for you to experience a memorable iftar on one of the last nights of Ramadan in Istanbul.
My first recommendation is Spago, a restaurant located on the top floor of the St. Regis Hotel in Nişantaşı. This world-class, famous restaurant of Wolfgang Puck boasts a full menu adapted to reflect local Turkish tastes. I adore such culinary adaptations by worldwide franchises such as this one. Spago Restaurant Manager Deniz Zengin is a real expert in the sector and this venue features lovely tables arranged on a spacious terrace overlooking Maçka Park that offer a relaxing ambiance. Here, you will experience the ultimate pleasure watching the sun set and hearing the sound of prayer recited in the open air. When it comes to the restaurant's décor, Spago's ambiance is as eye-catching as its food is mouth-watering. A self-portrait of Andy Warhol stands at Spago's entrance, an indication that you are entering an A-Class venue. A number of walls at the restaurant are adorned with the works of esteemed painters, as well.
As for the zesty tastes of Ramadan available at Spago, breakfast lovers will enjoy the rich assortments available for iftar. I particularly loved the Turkish cream and chestnut honey. If you're a pita lover, a special, spicy version of pita is available here and it is fresh baked in a stone oven.
For the best Ramadan appetizers, on the other hand, the baba ghanoush (mashed eggplant) and buttery hummus are absolutely decadent. For the main course, the menu includes organic chicken with caramelized cauliflower and Szechuan-style grilled entrecote which are delicious. I particularly loved the Shiitake mushrooms served with grilled beef. For those with a sweet tooth, the desserts here are sure to satisfy you. A delicious cake made of dates is available here and I highly recommend that you try it. You should definitely stop by Spago for an extraordinary iftar dinner before Ramadan ends. By the way, I must say that there is a good likelihood that you might even run into a few celebrities here, as the venue is quite popular. You can also enjoy local tea, considered a staple of every iftar dinner in Turkey, at the Brasserie Café inside the hotel. The café offers a wide variety of teas and a rich spread that completes the presentation.
Another venue I recommend is the Aila Restaurant inside the Fairmont Quasar Istanbul Hotel, a brand new hotel which is the latest of foreign tourism investments in Turkey, has made a big statement upon entering the industry and will certainly continue to make a name for itself. The Fairmont group has over 70 hotels and ongoing hotel development projects outside of Turkey. It also includes hotels that can be regarded as masterpieces; namely, The Plaza in New York which is one of the most iconic hotels in the world. Further, the Savoy in London, Fairmont's The Palm in Dubai, the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai and the San Francisco Fairmont. Now, in Istanbul, in the location of the former Galatasaray stadium, the fantastic Fairmont Hotel Mecidiyeköy boasts an incredible restaurant. I recommend that you drop by Aila before the end of Ramadan. The Spice Library offers colorful spices of the Spice Bazaar as well as a special snack bar.
Also, the fireside views, stunning architecture and intricate traditional motives make Aila a force to be reckoned with. The cuisine, established by Chef Umut Karakuş, offers world-class, zesty flavors that must be experienced in the last days of Ramadan. Situated on the garden floor of the hotel and offering seasonal delicacies, Aila is one of the most popular restaurants in Istanbul.
The snacks on the menu are quite eye-catching. You must try the Antakya tabbouleh, the muhammara, the mashed flat beans (fava), the Nazuktan, the boiled ox tongue and the hot, spicy tomato dip of Gaziantep. The Kars geese, a delicious goose dish that is slow cooked for 24 hours and the pit-roasted lamb that is cooked for 36 hours, as well as the "testi kebab" (kebab cooked in a sealed clay pot) are examples of the most delicious main dishes available.
Experience the tastes of Umut Karakuş, the world-renowned chef who holds a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Le Grand. Also, remember to have your photo taken as a reminder of Ramadan in the oriental atmosphere of the Spice Library.
My last recommendation is the incredible Four Seasons Bosporus Hotel, which hosts guests as meticulously in Ramadan as it does year-round. The iftar menu at the Aqua Restaurant in the hotel includes a wide range of options ranging from delicious iftar dishes to sherbets and traditional olive oil dishes to barbeque varieties. If you enjoy music, on the other hand, I found the venue's selection of Ramadan music to be quite enjoyable. The venue also features performances of live, traditional classical Turkish music (known as fasil) which are so nostalgic the performances literally take you back in time. My favorite dish is the homemade meat pastry (Turkish-style ravioli) as well as the pastry cooked on an iron plate. On the other hand, the dessert buffet offers some traditional tastes such as rose pudding with pomegranate and şekerpare (small cakes with syrup). Boat owners can also enjoy easy access to the hotel by docking their vessels at the hotel pier. If you fancy a unique iftar experience with a Bosporus view, then make your reservation before the end of Ramadan.