Around every corner, down every alley, and through every doorway Istanbul reveals a surprise. If you walk far enough and long enough the city will open to you in delightful ways. Neighborhoods play peekaboo with tourists and residents alike unfolding sidewalk cafes, vintage clothing stores, and record stores holding treasures that are all but extinct in my corner of the world.
Life is lived outside here and meals, all meals, are affairs to be leisurely affairs to be lingered over. Breakfast, or Kahvalti as it is called here, is by far my most favorite meal. Down one of the winding roads of Moda, I have discovered the breakfast lover’s treasure trove of cafes. If you blink while passing, you’ll miss it. But search and find, and your efforts will be rewarded. I have tried a number of breakfast spots, but this is by far my favorite. It is here that I gather with three or four friends and order enough food for six or seven friends. The spot is called Mod Van. I have tried various combinations of dishes and after extensive amounts of research I believe that I have stumbled upon what I believe is the perfect combination of savory Turkish delicacies that will satisfy even the most sophisticated palate.
I hesitate to describe the extent of our greed when ordering, but no matter how disgustingly greedy we are, the bill is always extremely reasonable: no more than one might pay for a traditional Kahvali. What these breakfasts lacked in alcohol, they made up for in sumptuous, decadent regional specialties from all over Turkey.
The menu is split into a number of sections such as menemen, fried eggs, shallow frying pans, omelets, pastries, and regional specialties. Embarrassingly, I have sampled numerous times from each category. This article is dedicated to the best and most flavorful dishes that I have been fortunate enough to try.
Our fist visits to Moda Van always included the traditional Van Kahvalti breakfast platter with different cheeses, olives, a boiled egg, vegetables, and clotted cream and honey. Most Turkish people order this breakfast on a regular basis. When I was new to Moda Van I always insisted on the Breakfast Plate of Van. It was a fairly standard, and wholly delightful breakfast plate which consisted of a number of cheeses, clotted cream and honey, sesame paste, olives, a few vegetables and one hard boiled egg.
Being American, I have chosen to eschew the traditional breakfast in favor of the more savory, fattening, and heart clogging delicacies. For those of you interested in the health of your arteries, the Van Kahvalti might be a good idea. For those with a more adventurous side, below I’ve described my favorite Moda Van dishes.
Lets start with the sucuklu menemen it is the best I have ever encountered. Spicy Turkish sausage scrambled with menemen composed of eggs, tomato, pepper, and cheese. It is a perfectly balanced flavorful dish that is enhanced by the amazing bread basket served with every meal.
Next let us discuss the flavor explosion that is the Tin Overalls Cheese. It may be tempting to get the fried halloumi cheese, but don’t make this mistake. The fried halloumi cheese is tasty, but the Tin Overalls Cheese is nothing short of spectacular. At first glance, one might be disappointed in the dish, but the first tentative dips with bread revealing the cheese in all of its stretchy stringy glory will allay any doubts. The flavorful-ness of the cheese is nothing short of awe inspiring.
Endless bread baskets serve to shuttle menemen and cheese to your mouth acting as a conduit for artfully crafted breakfast sandwiches and ensuring that your summer bikini will never fit. Truthfully though, the Tin Overalls Cheese is the devil. My creativity is often piqued by the numerous selections on the table. Crafting the most original and flavorful breakfast sandwich is something of a personal challenge.
This is where the Gozeleme comes in. While crafting a breakfast sandwich from bread is amazing, crafting a breakfast sandwich from pasty is poetic. Gozeleme is a thin pasty stuffed with different options: minced meat, potatoes, spinach, and cheese. I like to take the gozeleme in all of its glory and top it with melted cheese, yogurt, and egg . . . . mmmmmmmmmm.
In lieu of vegetables, my friends and I often, in our eternal wisdom opt for the veggie omelet. While this may seem like news to some, I always stress peneryie (cheese), because heaven forbid a dish grace our table with out a more than healthy portion of cheese.
Last but not least, the poached eggs in yogurt. This dish may sound bland upon description, but the view of delicately fluffy poached eggs in a bed of yogurt, topped with red pepper and butter is nothing short of beautiful. Once you break the eggs open and watch the yellow yolk flow out onto the beds of fluffy yellow yogurt – the dish becomes obscenely sexy. At this point you haven’t even tasted it yet. Once you actually taste the dish, all bets are off. Making breakfast sandwiches with the Tin Overall Cheese, the Cilbir, and the spicy Balkan sauce have ruined me for lesser brunches.
Soooooooooo . . . as an American from an urban area, this is one of the most perfect brunches that I have ever encountered. Tucked away down an enclave on Moda Cad. Moda Van is a brunch lovers dream. Even so, I have one important side note regarding brunches as a whole in this city. Brunches in Istanbul, and probably Turkey as a whole are missing an important component, alcohol. Whether it is in the form of mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, or beer, amazing opportunities are being wasted. Brunch isn’t the leisurely U.S. endeavor relegated to the weekends. Brunch is an everyday things that people feel justified in lingering over for several hours . . . during the work week. So the absence if libations at the brunch hour is a mystery. One starts asking existential questions regarding the absence of alcohol and how the universe could have gone so wrong as to allow such an amazing brunch to be unaccompanied by libation.
All joking aside – Boozy Brunches – Turkey get on that, it will change your life.