Dining on the Princes’ Islands is tough. Up until very recently, diners had to chose between the mediocre food of boisterous water-edge restaurants or the mediocre food of the büfe. So, it’s no wonder that Büyükada residents have welcomed HiLe Balık. The small restaurant is a great alternative for those who want to avoid the overpriced, neon-lit, cafeteria-looking (more so with every renovation) restaurants that line the shore of the island, just to the left of the iskele (port). While some may consider the name an unfortunate pun – the turkish “hile” meaning “trick” in English – the name a combination of the owners’ names: Hilmi Bey, usually the gentleman at the front of the house, and Leman Hanım, the chef.
HiLe is a small, intimate place. During the off season, there is usually only one loud, laughing table of diners, so it may feel like you are intruding on someone else’s dinner. But the feeling only lasts a second before the team (usually at that table) welcomes you, invites you to join their table and, then, seats you. HiLe has by far, one of the most light hearted (and patient) staff on this island.
Unfortunately, you can find many of the dishes here at other nearby restaurants: salads (arugula, seasonal, and çoban), hot and cold mezes (haydari, fried eggplant, acılı ezme, calamari, and so on), and fish. HOWEVER, every bite is worth every kuruş spent. The salads are fresh, the calamari is not rubber (and they will grill it if you ask them nicely), and the fish – the fish – is cooked simply, but perfectly. If you are feeling adventurous, ask for Leman Hanım’s recommendations. We’ve never regretted asking for it, either. Everything that the HiLe team puts on your table is a delight. The restaurant only serves what’s in season, so do not be disappointed when palamut is not on their summer menu. Trust us, it’s for your own good, too.
HiLe is great for groups, but because of the size of the restaurant, do yourselves a favour and call in advance. It’s also a nice option for a casual one-on-one dinner. While the restaurant may be just as expensive as those around it, there is no competition when it comes to the quality of every dish.
Karides Güveç (shrimp cooked in earthenware pot)
Nizam Mahallesi, Şehit Recep Koç Caddesi No. 2
Büyükada, Adalar, İstanbul