I was tricked! I love lamb, as long as I’m not eating it in the U.S. (for whatever reason it never seems to taste good there). I went out on the town with a Turkish friend from U-M and he was showing me all the best bars and eats on İstiklal. He asked, “Do you like lamb?” and I said “aw hell yeah!” (the conversation may or may not be slightly paraphrased) and took me to a restaurant that’s famous for it’s kokoreç called Şampiyon.
Later his friends asked me if I knew what was in kokoreç and were laughing a little to each other… oh no, probably nothing I’m going to be happy about. Sure enough, after I said to go ahead and tell me (I’d already eaten it, after all) they said it was lamb intestines in there, not lamb meat. Hahaha, well, no stomach problems ensued and it actually tasted good so no harm done. My host dad tells me that the place I went to has the best kokoreç and that they clean them out very well there (so don’t worry mom)… though he said afterward that he’s heard the dirtier inside it is the tastier it is. Um, no thanks (still not sure if he was joking).
After the kokoreç we had midye dolma (aromatic rice-stuffed mussels). Just, SO GOOD. You squeeze a little lemon on then scoop out the rice with the other shell and pop it all into your mouth. The rice tasted a little sweet… not sure what spice it was though.
Through couchsurfing (a website for meeting fellow travelors, you can also find a free place to stay for a few days) I heard about a free concert being held last night on Istiklal. Umut, the guitarist and one of the singers of the band TakaTuka invited me to a club(?) called Araf. You walk down Istiklal from Taksim for a while then turn left on Balo street and walk almost to the end. It’s a ramshackle building and you have to climb up another 7 flights of stairs to get to the club/bar – I felt like I was going on a quest trying to find this place. Dark and smoky atmosphere – perfect for the music I was about the hear.
Umut said what they play is mostly Balkan music with Turkish, Spanish, and other influences. It was my first time hearing Balkan music and I reeeeaaaallllyyy liked it. Mom, you would have loved to listen too, there were so many different instruments and the beat was just infectious! There were bongos, a guitar, mandolin, bass, accordion, irish flutes, bass drum, a Turkish clarinet (which he said was in G rather than B flat… I think I got the keys right), and lots of cool percussion. There was a trombone too, Davey! They play every Monday at this club so I plan on going to see them again – maybe I could bring the au pairs with me next time.
The videos are taking a looooong time to upload so eventually I’ll have three uploaded into this post so keep checking back if you’re interested in hearing TakaTuka’s music. I didn’t realize that when I zoomed in the sound would cut off so sorry about the random silences. I also tried to awkwardly zoom in on the clarinet but it looks like I just zoomed in on Umut’s legs (this is the second video, I think). Enjoy! (eventually)