I went to Yirmibir the first day it opened when I was a high school student. It was probably their first service. Since that day it has been my favorite kebap place in Istanbul. The owners are from Diyarbakır, the major Kurdish town in Southeast Turkey where meat is an artform. They used to send their meat to Istanbul after marinating it for three days - don’t know if that’ still the case but it’s still delicious.
What to order: I specifically suggest the shish liver, the çöp şiş (diced lamb cubes) and Adana kebap. The leading gourmet of Turkey is in love with this place’s kemikli kuzu, lamb with bones, a more refined kebap that is also good.
The mezes here are not the best in town, but they can be used as complements to the kebap dishes. The girit ezmesi (cheese and herbs paste) is a good cold spread and zahder (wild thyme salad) is refreshing and sour. Perhaps the best lineup starter would be the humus with pastırma (cured, spiced meat) and the hot eggplant with yogurt and spicy butter. You should definitely finish with a katmer, the most delicious and crispy filo dough-pistachio-clotted cream dessert in Istanbul, with a scoop of milk ice cream.
What to know: Try this place on weekdays as it has gotten quite popular. On weekends if you haven’t booked ahead, they take you to their second place across the street, equally yummy but less authentic, more faux-chique, named Kevok (after the word for “dove” in Kurdish).
The service is quick, casual and the waiters tend to be more friendly than formal. Great for groups. Take the terrace or under the tree in the passage. Or right by the grill (ocakbaşı) if you can handle the heat.