Eating seafood by the water in Karakoy, Istanbul -- such a cliched tourist experience. But Istanbullu eat seafood by the water in Karakoy too. And because of these fish, these fried hamsi (anchovies), we found the best spot in the city from which to listen to the call to prayer.
On a gauzily bright afternoon last January we walked through the small fish market at the northern end of the Galata Bridge. We like the little restaurants there. They tout a bit and a menu may be waved in front of your face, but there's nothing overly aggressive about the salesmanship.
Prices are clearly marked, and reasonable -- especially if you stick to what's in season (and avoid prawns/shrimp). The service isn't to white tablecloth restaurant standards, but if you've dined at white tablecloth restaurants in Istanbul you might think that's not a bad thing. (Our tolerance for snooty waiters is pretty low).
The food is basic, and good.
We walked to the "restaurant" at the very end, the one with tables right on the water. We sat in the sun and drank in that view that's impossible to tire of. We ordered hamsi and a mackerel-y type fish and a salad. After many trips to Turkey we still marvel that a beautiful salad is so easily had no matter where in in the country you find yourself.
The fish arrived griddle-fried and crispy outside, moist and sweet within, accompanied by big fleshy leaves of peppery rocket and wedges of lemon. Our salads (greedy for the tangy pickled red cabbage that's a component of this tri-color assemblage, we ordered one each) were dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon juice we squeezed on top.
We ate whole anchovies, leaving aside only bits of head, and picked flesh from mackerel bones and soaked up lemony olive oil with chunks of bread, and felt absurdly lucky to be there, dining outside comfortably in the middle of January and drinking in one of the world's most beautiful skylines.
After lunch we hopped on the small ferry we'd watched chug back and forth between our "restaurant" and Eminonu, on the opposite bank. We could have easily walked across the bridge, or taken the train. We could have stayed in Karakoy; we had no reason or desire to be in Eminonu.
But it seemed right, after a simple meal of fish and salad by the water, to ride close to its surface on an old-fashioned ferry. So we paid the ridiculous foreigners' price, equal to almost half the cost of our cheap lunch, and climbed aboard.
We sat outside and let the wind slap our faces as we listened to the ka-chug ka-chug of the motor and the hollow punch of waves against the boat's wooden sides. It was a short ride, less than five minutes, and if we'd had the nerve we would have asked the gruff boatman if we might stay on board for a few more back-and-forths.
But we didn't, so we didn't. Instead we alighted in a parking lot with a perfect vantage of Galata tower just as the loudspeaker of a mosque nearby began to crackle.
It started there, and then marched up the hills behind us as muezzin at other mosques joined in. Then morefrom the opposite side of the bridge. We by the shore as the call to prayer bounced and echoed all around us, a cascade of rising and falling male voices.
When the last bit faded away we walked to Eminonu pier and caught a ferry to Kadikoy, just to be on the water.
Fish restaurant at the Karakoy fish market: if you're at the Galata Bridge facing Eminonu the fish market is on your right. Walk through it to the very end, to the tables on the water. The menu is basic: fish and salad. About 20 Turkish lira for two fish plates and a big salad.