It would be inconceivable to visit NYC without having a rare steak, Rome without digging into a heap of spaghetti alla carbonara, or Istanbul without feasting on succulent grilled meats. I have my favorite spots in all of these cities and while the NYC and Rome locations (Prime Meats and Da Danilo, respectively) are hardly secrets, Kenan Usta Ocakbaşı in Istanbul manages to fly under the radar.
This grill house is so good that I regularly travel between continents for its perfectly spiced and prepared meat and offal. My boyfriend lives on the Anatolian side of Istanbul and therefore we must traverse the great throat of water to Europe where, after nearly an hour’s journey, we arrive at Kenan Usta near Taksim. Then we order two of my favorite dishes on the planet: külbastı and uykuluk, both cooked on an open charcoal grill. To be more accurate, we order two of each.
Külbastı is made with liberally spiced tender beef, which is accompanied by a plain lavaş (a thinly rolled bread) and a crispy wafer that has been soaked in fat and toasted on the grill. The three distinct textures and flavors are executed perfectly every time. Kenan Usta does have silverware but why wouldn’t you eat this with your hands?
The uykuluk (lamb sweetbreads) are served on skewers, all rich and popping hot. I get in there with my hands here, too, and pull the grilled bits of glands off the metal skewer using a thin leaf of lavaş as a glove. The fatty juices inevitably drip on my hands and down my wrists, necessitating an expanded definition of finger licking good.
Kenan Usta Ocakbaşı
Kurabiye Sokak no:18, Beyoglu
Check out some other Istanbul dining tips here.