My dad and sister Megan have always been adventurous when it comes to food as they will try almost any dish at least once. I used to be picky like my mom and my partner (they are the same and they eat nothing), but I started branching out and tasting new foods a couple of years ago and now I’m the same as my dad and Megan! Because of my newfound excitement for trying new meals, Megan and I recently took dad to Istanbul Hawaii for a belated Father’s Day dinner just the three of us. Istanbul has been in Kakaʻako for a few years, but none of us had been there before. Their outer flora decor with lavish seating is welcoming for all guests and the interior dining area is even more beautiful. However, the most important aspect of the restaurant is the food and Istanbul does it all perfectly!
We started with the Meze Platter that comes with homemade humus, muhammara (hearty roasted bell pepper, walnut, and baharat dip), babaganush (made with smoked aubergine and black garlic), su borek (water poached filo, fresh cheese curd, and Ma’o parsley), spanakopita (crispy traditional filo, Turkish feta, and Ma’o spinach), peynir & karpuz & cilek (feta, olives, watermelon, strawberry, and aged balsamic), and loads of soft, warm pita. The Meze Platter was absolutely delicious and every dip was creamy and thick. I lathered my handfuls of pita up with each smooth dip and my favorite one by far was the muhammara. It had the perfect layers of sweet and savory bits with a hint of smokiness. The spanakopita and su borek were crispy and light with salty creaminess from their cheeses!
Since the platter was so filling, we shared a Pirzola, which came with lamb chops, asparagus, saffran pilav, and tzatziki and Chicken Tenderloin Shish that included organic chicken breast, Turkish spices, Mediterranean salata, saffran pilav, and tzatziki. Each dish came with tiny Le Creuset dutch ovens full of fluffy saffron rice so we didn’t have to order any extra side dishes. The lamb chops were on the smaller side, but they were delicately cooked medium rare and the herb crusts were crunchy and full of flavor. I especially loved the mixture of lamb and house-made tzatziki, which cooled any saltiness on my tongue. The chicken was juicy and tender—the perfect morsels of chicken breast that left me wanting more. I don’t often like chicken breast because it can be dry and stringy, but the shish were delicious and the opposite of that.
For dessert, we shared the Antep Baklava with 40 layers filo , Turkish pistachio, Rare Hawaiian honey, and Turkish pistachio ice cream. I will admit I was shocked that the baklava were so small for the $13 price, but each bite was flaky, gooey, and full of sweet sugar. The Turkish pistachio ice cream made the dish for me as it was chock full of chopped pistachios and the ice cream tasted like creamy vanilla. I loved how the baklava melted into the smooth ice cream with each bite.
If you’re looking for a quick, cheap meal, then Istanbul is not the place for you. I’d recommend it for anyone who truly loves enjoying food full of seasonings and flavors unique to the Mediterranean area. I’m used to eating gyros whenever I want a Mediterranean meal, but Istanbul is so much more than that. Go for the Mezze Platter and enjoy all of the delicious meat dishes and fancy desserts that spread across your table. You won’t regret it!