Bar at Biz Istanbul - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Bar at Biz Istanbul

Eat your way through history.  


Having cocktails at glam rooftop bars with glittering Bosporus vistas is a quintessential Istanbul pleasure. But veteran restaurateur Kaya Demirer wanted something more profound for Biz, the restaurant he opened in 2022 on the top floor of Istanbul’s Atatürk Cultural Center, whose former incarnation was a modernist landmark on massive Taksim Square that was demolished and then reconstructed by Murat Tabanlıoğlu, the son of the building’s original architect. 

What Demirer wanted for Biz was a loving, historic homage to authentic Istanbul cooking: a rich blend of minority foodways (Greek, Sephardic, Armenian), vibrant street food, and the sophisticated cuisine of the Ottoman Imperial Palace. To do justice to this complex cultural mosaic of flavors Demirer enlisted local food experts, chefs, and academic historians to consult on the menu, among them pre-eminent Ottoman food scholar Ozge Samanci and Armenian master of wine and cultural historian Levon Bağış.

As a result Biz (which means “us”) is actually several concepts in one sweeping neo-Modernist space decked out by Tabanlıoğlu in warm wood and glazed tiling, featuring a fine dining restaurant with a neo-Ottoman menu, and a lokanta (local style eatery ) with prepared Turkish comfort classics arrayed on its counter. (To learn the history behind each dish, scan the menu’s QR codes.) 

Meanwhile, the horseshoe-shaped bar, illuminated by dramatic circular light fixtures inspired by mosques, is its own concept, with interesting Turkish wines, killer cocktails—and a long menu that riffs on the iconic street snacks of Istanbul, from kumpir (stuffed potatoes) to soccer stadium meatballs to pide (topped flatbreads) baked in the wood-fired oven.

The bar’s cured fish and charcuterie come from the city’s most venerated purveyors: lakerda (cured Atlantic bonito) and mullet bottarga from legendary shops at the nearby historic fish market called Balik Pazari; pastirma (spicy cured beef) and smoked tongue from the Cankurtaran deli inside the 17th century Spice Bazaar in the Eminonu district. 

The menu also includes deep-fried mussels (like the one hawked at Balik Pazari), as well as mussel dolma, a beloved city snack prepared here in the style of Armenian yiayias (grandams) with cinnamon perfuming the rice filling. Moving on to meatier offerings, don’t miss Biz’s take on kokoreç, a flame-roasted offal roll here cleverly wrapped around a lamb chop and served with thyme mayo; and charred sweetbreads on lavash bread under a tangle of shoestring potatoes.  

There’s also Biz’s slightly aestheticized homage to a very iconic Istanbul slider. Called an islak (wet) hamburger, it’s a kind of sloppy-Joe-burger mashup tucked into a small bun with a schmear of tomato sauce and kept warm in an improvised steam bath. It’s a favorite late-night fuel of Istanbul’s party-goers, often scarfed from stalls fringing Taksim Square right below. Only here it’s far more delicious.  

Know Before You Go

The bar area doesn’t take reservations but there’s usually plenty of seating both indoors and on the terrace with sweeping Bosporus vistas.

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April 3, 2024

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