**Completed for The Guide Istanbul, edited for Istanbites
During the later months of 2015, a restaurant opened relatively quietly in the heart of Beyoğlu. It’s called Mari. The creators, as it turns out, used to operate the kitchen of Istanbul’s beloved Mekan. So, with famed members of the city’s culinary scene, a great location just off İstiklal, and of course great food, it is a bit of a mystery that there has not been more talk of Mari.Then again, maybe they want to keep it that way: a quasi-secret among friends. At least, that was the feeling when we walked through the door.
The host stood at attention and smiled at us, as if to say, “Oh, good. You made it.” The staff is kind, welcoming and above all, patient. They listened when we had questions and gave us informative answers as well as a little background to some of the dishes. We tried the patlıcanlı böreği (aubergine phyllo pastry). I suspected that dish had sephardic roots and when we asked our waiter (an admittedly, seemingly, very random question) about the börek, he explained that it was in fact inspired from traditional Jewish cooking. While Mari offers traditional Istanbul meze – the dishes are great reminders that Istanbul is not made up of a singular demographic – it has never been, nor will it ever be.
Mari, both the restaurant and the head chef, embraces the many different culinary cultures behind the meze. Like other meyhanes, you’ll find popular Greek and Armenian staples like their excellent taramasalata (whipped cured roe) and topik (mix of onion, nuts and currents covered with a tahini paste). You’ll also find Istanbul’s forgotten dishes such as Sephardic specialties like their patlıcan böreği (warm phyllo pastry with eggplant filling). As for desserts, Mari offers some meyhane classics like sıcak helvası (fired, sweet sesame paste) and sütlü irmik tatlısı (sweet semolina dessert).
With four floors and a rooftop terrace, there is plenty of room for groups. In fact, Mari is especially nice to celebrate with those who have a big appetite – their fixed menus include plenty (for an extremely reasonable price). If you cannot make it for dinner, Mari and her team also serve a great lunch.
Over the past years, we saw great established meyhanes, restaurants and institutions struggle in the Beyoğlu area, most of whom were forced to close their doors to the public. There is a genuine sincerity at Mari that hits you when you walk in, one that is often absent around the busy side streets of Istiklal. And, you just know that it’s coming from the kitchen.
Return again and again for:
Taramasalata (whipped egg roe)
Topik (mix of onion nuts and currets covered in a tahini paste)
Tahinli közbiber (roasted red pepper with a tahini dressing)
Nar Salatası (pomegranate salad)
İstiklal Caddesi, Orhan Adlı Apaydın Sokak No.3
T: (0212) 244 46 46