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Where Chefs Go: Istanbul

Sunday in Brooklyn's Jaime Young explores Turkey’s eclectic city with a local chef.
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Jaime Young is the executive chef and partner of Sunday In Brooklyn, a beloved Williamsburg mainstay, which he co-owns with Todd Enany and Adam Landsman. The trio’s bustling three-story restaurant near Domino Park draws perennial crowds with oozing maple cheddar biscuits, tall stacks of malted pancakes and seasonal cocktails (like “Ugly Sweater Weather,” “Ski Lift” and “Dude, Where’s My Sled?”).

When the Eleven Madison Park and Atera alum isn’t serving the Brooklyn masses, Young takes off to explore new places. In the fall of 2018, he and a group of chefs visited Maksut Aşkar—chef and partner of Neolokal—for a week in Istanbul. “I had such a blast,” says Young, who was also joined by chef Taku Sekine (of Michelin-recommended Dersou in Paris). “I don’t think I ever ate that many kebabs or drank that much raki in my life, but I loved every minute of it.”

Young recommends Kral Kokoreç for an epic lunch spot. (Photo courtesy of Kral Kokoreç.)
Young recommends Kral Kokoreç for an epic lunch spot. (Photo courtesy of Kral Kokoreç.)
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From browsing fresh bonito at the market to the beauty of the streets themselves, Young fell in love with Istanbul’s enchanted way of life and exceptional food. For breakfast, he recommends you keep your eyes open for flatbread “with minced lamb baked in wood-fired ovens and served with sumac and dried herbs.” For lunch, Young recommends Kral Kokoreç, where the best order is a spit-roasted lamb intestine sandwich. “The flavor is rich and gamey and it has a crispy texture,” he says.

Of all the kebabs in the city, “for sure the best [he’s] ever had” was at Adana Ocakbaşi. Here, dishes are cooked by one man over an open fire, seasoned with a spice mix of Aleppo, dried herbs, sumac and salt, and served with flatbread, a sour yogurt, grilled tomatoes, raw onion and parsley. “Every part of the lamb is used,” says Young, “from the heart to the testicles.” Young also says to try the restaurant’s signature dessert, a chewy, stringy egg custard dish made with chicken breast. “One of the oddest things I’ve tasted in a while, but delicious.”

(Pro tip: After Adana Ocakbaşi, walk outside and find a man with a small tea shop delivering teas to the locals hanging out on the street.)

Young also recommends a trip to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world dating back to the 15th century. There, find a doner shop called Dönerci Şahin Usta, a favorite of Istanbul locals. While at the market, try to find künefe, “a traditional crispy, sugary cheese dessert [that is cooked] slowly on a round griddle and served with a sugar syrup.” Another must-try are the city’s traditional Turkish meatballs, served with “tons of fresh Aleppo, a thick rich peppery tomato condiment, grilled peppers and bread.” To wash it down, try one of the readily-available yogurt drinks, “a local favorite [with] a sour and salty taste, served with a ton of frothy yogurt bubbles.”

Of his favorite adventures in the city, Young recommends heading to the famous Galata Bridge, “where fishermen go every day and catch mackerel and rockfish.” He also recommends visiting the oldest candy shop in Istanbul, Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir, where “they have been making Turkish delight, halva and other candies for the palace for a very long time.” If you’re ready for a drink, lead your group in a round of Yeni Raki, an anise-flavored liquor that turns cloudy when you add water.

Şerefe!

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