Istanbul Adds Mediterranean Brunch Fare to Weekends in Kaka‘ako
Find kadayif pancakes with date syrup, cilbir poached eggs, shakshuka and more at this indoor-outdoor eatery.
As if I needed more reasons to love brunch, Istanbul—the Kaka‘ako eatery that serves unique Mediterranean dishes—recently added brunch to its weekend menu. Not your usual brunch fare, either. You won’t find benedicts or avocado toast or waffles; instead, you’ll find Turkish favorites with beautiful flavors from half a world away. There are only six items on the menu, so go with a couple of friends to be able to try a few of them. I’ve already gone twice, and I have a hard time naming a favorite.
Pro tip: As soon as you sit down, order the kadayif pancakes ($19) to share (or not). These take about 20 minutes to make, so if you get that started while you decide what else to eat, everything should arrive around the same time.
Kadayif are usually folded like turnovers with fruit, nut or cheese fillings, then deep fried. However, chef-owner Ahu Hettema said that when her grandmother made it, Hettema and her siblings would badger her to serve the beloved dessert immediately. So her grandmother served it like this, in pancake form, topped with fruits and date syrup, to get it on the table quickly.
The kadayif are fluffy but chewy, since they are made with semolina flour. Hey, protein pancakes mean they’re a little healthier, right? The date syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness to make it a real treat.
One of the more unusual dishes is The Delectable Cilbir ($20, pronounced “chill-bur”), three organic poached eggs atop a bed of mint yogurt sauce and olive oil, then topped with Turkish sweet peppers. Eat this with the pillowy house-made sourdough bread and enjoy the luxurious flavors. No wonder this has been eaten by Ottoman sultans since the 15th century.
The sucuklu (pronounced “soochookloo”) kasarli tost and yumurta ($23) didn’t sound like anything special, since it’s just a pannini. But oh, was I wrong! The grilled sandwich is filled with house-made cured, aged beef sausage and kasar cheese—the meat has its own perfect saltiness, a nice match for the unique, savory cheese. But then you need to slice open the accompanying poached eggs and dip your sandwich into them, and all kinds of magic happens in your mouth. I still dream about this dish.
Another shareable item is the simit, sucuk (pronounced “soochook”) and yumurta ($23), which is described as a Turkish sesame bagel topped with that same house-made beef sausage, two local eggs and Turkish spices. The bread is actually fluffy, but the seeds give it a nice crunch. The eggs are cooked into the bread, kind of like a pretty “toad in the hole” style breakfast.
Many people may already have had shakshuka ($22), but Istanbul’s is very different. Usually the dish is a little more tart because of the tomatoes, but here—due to a blend of 12 Turkish herbs and spices—the flavor is rich and deep with or without the eggs baked in.
If you’re more of a festive bruncher, you can get the Grand Bazaar Bloody Mary or liliko‘i mimosa, but I’m not much of a morning person, so I opted for Turkish coffee and tea. And despite all this, if you prefer, you can still order off the regular menu for lunch. Reservations are essential.