As travel shows go, the many incarnations of Anthony Bourdain’s philosophical and very real take on food, yes, but more than that, culture, is definitely a must.
Though Brasserie Le Halles, the now New York staple he used to helm (where my boyfriend was very sweet to have taken me), did not live up to expectations as far as steakhouses, we religiously watch old episodes of No Reservations shot in places we’re going so we can choose a few spots for our own map of places to check off our bucket list du jour.
Turkey: Uphill and Soggy Buns
Turkey, for example, was especially interesting. We decided our first night in Istanbul that we were going to walk to Durumzade, a small spot where Tony swears the Adana kebab was the best. It was quite an adventure as we did not know that we had to walk uphill to the restaurant. We walked until we finally gave up and hailed a cab a block from the place and got to our goal: Anthony Bourdain’s recommended kebab. It was new for me and I did not know what to expect. I have not had kebab until then. It was very good, and I must say that it was the start of us tasting very good meat during that trip.
It was also in Istanbul where we had gone hunting for the infamous wet burgers. Although highly regarded as one of the city’s best street foods, I was very hesitant about soggy buns — burger buns soaked in tomato sauce. We found them in an area called Taksim Square (featured photo), served warm and very affordable. My boyfriend was the only one who tried them.
The one thing we were intent on trying was the lahmacun, similar to a pizza and topped with minced meat. It took us a while to find a restaurant that serves this and I was almost sure that we were going to leave Turkey without having tried it. We had it for lunch in a restaurant along a side street, and it had a spicy taste to it which I liked very much.
Rome: A Happy Accident
No Reservations: Rome was a great episode. It was black and white, mysterious, and locating that un-named restaurant became a mission. So during our trip to Italy, I had done my research and gave my boyfriend the task of navigating us there. I had to have cacio e pepe, that pasta dish that Anthony was so secretive about.
So when we finally got there, by walking, of course, which is how we get around most of the time during our trips — the restaurant, a small pizza place (?!?) was closed, and open only for lunch. We were so disappointed!
Luckily, we found a restaurant a block away called Meo Pattaca. They weren’t open yet (another thing we learned: unlike in the US, they eat dinner much later in Rome), but the wait staff was very nice and let us in so we could sit and relax. The decor was quaint and interesting, and the food was delicious. I had my cacio e pepe, a very simple cheese and pepper pasta, perfectly cooked and balanced which wasn’t even listed as a special but we later learned is a uniquely Roman dish.
It was truly a misadventure and a happy accident, as we found delicious food anyway. I am sure that as we continue to travel we would be consulting other travelers like Bourdain and see where they have been.