Ah, işkembe (not sure what it is? See Cornucopia 20). A true divider of people, between those who revel in its warming silkiness and efficacy as a hangover cure, and those who are horrified at the slippery texture and faint whiff of wet dog. Istanbul Arts Diary has its fair share of tripe-lovers, so we've taken it upon ourselves to give a little rundown of selected işkembecis in the Beyoğlu area. There's no particular order to this list, other than that we happened to stumble into these on our late-night wanderings - there'll be more to follow over the coming months as we widen our net. We promise it'll be offally good...
1) Lâle Işkembecisi. A lesson in how not to do it. On first seeing the soup, it looked like we might be onto a winner: thick swirls of butter, a lovely white colour to the liquid, topped off with a potent whiff of garlic. On actually taking a spoonful of it, however, all our dreams were shattered. The consistency of the liquid, which should be slightly creamy, was unpleasantly watery, and this in turn highlighted the greasy thickness of the melted butter. Likewise, the garlic smelt good but added nothing except a slightly chemical aftertaste. Worst of all, the meat - which should have come in wonderfully melting squares the size of postage stamps - had been cut far too small and then overcooked, resulting in a chewy, tasteless slurry. If we'd eaten this to remedy the effects of a heavy night out, it would just have made us sicker, and that's surely the definition of a poor işkembe. For a place which actually calls itself an işkembecisi, and which has been going for more than half a century, this was a mightily disappointing experience. 4/10.
Tarlabaşı Bulvarı no.13, Beyoğlu, Istanbul. Tel: 0212 252 69 69.
2) Nizam Pide Salonu. This place, on the other hand, gets it right every time, as shown by the steady stream of happy punters at all hours. The işkembe is rich, thick, and delightfully cut through with the lemony tang of a proper terbiyeli (egg and lemon) sauce; the meat comes in large chunks which slither across the tongue and down the throat; the garlic and vinegar have a real kick; and, if you're very lucky, it'll come with hot, slightly chewy pide (buttery bread) fresh from the oven. This is exactly what is needed at the end of a long evening on the dancefloor, but it is just as satisfying at any time of day. For those whose appetites cannot be satisfied by soup alone, Arts Diary highly recommends the deliciously fatty kıymalı pide (bread topped with minced lamb), preferably served yumurtalı (with egg), and for those with a sweet tooth the sütlaç (rice pudding) is not to be missed. 7/10
Merkez - Kalyoncu Culluk Caddesi no.13, Taksim, Istanbul. Tel: 0212 249 55 01.
Şube - İstiklâl Caddesi, Büyükparmakkapı Sokak no.13, Taksim, Istanbul. Tel: 0212 249 79 18.
3) Tarihi Cumhuriyet İşkembe Salonu. Situated in the heart of Beyoğlu's non-stop party zone, this is a great place to stop for some nourishment before, during or after a night out. Although the soup itself was slightly too thin for us, the flavour was excellent in combining the burn of garlic, the sharpness of lemon and the very mild sweetness of the offal. Of all three restaurants reviewed here, this one had the best-prepared meat, with none of the strong smell associated with badly-washed tripe and none of the toughness associated with overcooking. So smooth was the meat, in fact, that it felt like part of the liquid around it rather than a textural counterpoint; but on taking a bite into a piece it gave that faint, satisfying crunch which only the best tripe can offer. 6/10
Dudu Odaları Sokak No:25 Balıkpazarı, Taksim, Beyoğlu. Tel: 0212 292 70 97