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Aheste won my heart with her food and her service. But it wasn’t until the third time I was there that I realised the dining area in the back is what makes Aheste’s atmosphere majestic. As you take the three steps down into the narrow and long, exposed brick, dimly lit restaurant you get the feeling you are entering a place independent of time and space. The dark black drapes and candle-lit tables make you forget the crooked sidewalks of Beyoğlu and the people rushing about.
Within that heavy air of coolness, there are waiters skipping around the tables in a calculated hurry, carrying plates of reimagined Turkish fare. By virtue of its menu, Aheste is among the top modern restaurants in Istanbul that reflect a cuisine in an unorthodox format. Their goal, in my opinion, is not to modernise Turkish cuisine, but rather create a menu that reflects local ingredients and a local gastronomic background in a modern format, with flair.
Nice cocktails and a decent wine menu not shy of locals. Aheste is either a bit too much for a first date or perfect for an anniversary or for impressing your partner’s parents.
What to order: Aheste’s menu changes slightly but it has staple dishes that would not be missed. Among those my favorite is the one that has the least “refinement”. A simple disc of kokoreç. The kokoreç is perfectly cooked with a crisp exterior and a soft and well-rendered fatty interior of uykuluk. The seasonal mushroom plate is another well-made, umami-heavy plate. The staff will not miss out on upselling the Iranian-inspired rice with four types of rice grains and deep fried shallots. Frankly this dish is fun but lacks the gravitas of some of the other dishes. It’s a nice accompaniment to the actually heavy hitters.
What to know: Ask for a table in the dining area in the back for high-arched ceilings. It's a special atmosphere.