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Root Down does Istanbul

February 16, 2010

A few wise words (and dope restaurant tips) from DJ Yakuza on his recent adventures in Istanbul alongside Rainer Truby for the Root Down party at Babylon. There was a lot of eating going on, a bit of drinking, oh and at one point they actually played some records. My kind of weekend – extra large ups to the man like Yakuza!

A guided tour of Asmalimescit with The Liverbirds aka Dj Yakuza and Rainer Truby.

Friday, 8pm

Every proper night in Istanbul needs to start with a proper dinner. We met with Rainer at a small “Meyhane” called Ya-Re to kick things off in style. The “Meyhane” is actually a restaurant where you can sample all kinds of Turkish “meze” for starters and finish off the dinner with either fish or meat. To wash it all down I recommend either Wine or “Raki”.


Meyhane: No proper translation, place to get good food at a reasonable price.

Meze: Roughly, Turkish style tapas (recommended: Feta cheese, Eggplant salad, Calamari, Octopus salad) if you feel adventurous try the “Lakerda”, fish cooked in salt, a true delicacy of Istanbul.

Raki: The ubiquitous Turkish spirit, made of grapes and anis seed, to be drunk carefully though cause if you are not used to it, you will feel it.. Mix it with water and ice.

There are a few places I would definitely recommend for this culinary experience: Refik, Yakup 2 and Ya-Re, all 3 places run by the same family, reservations a must especially on weekends. The meal usually starts with your waiter bringing a large plate showcasing all the “meze”, pick and choose your fancy, no menu to speak of, then order the hot “meze”, the main course and finish off in style with dessert and Turkish Coffee…

Staying true to tradition, we had all of the above, Rainer had 1 glass of Raki then opted to switch to white wine, which now that I reflect was the better choice, I on the other hand, had too much Raki as usual…

Stumbling on towards the venue we walked through the neighborhood which nowadays is always full of funky peeps looking for a good time. You are guaranteed to find a place to your liking in Asmalimescit be it food or music.

Some notable establishments are:

Otto: Pizza place turning into nu-disco and electro pumping joint, there are 2 different locales quite close to each other called Otto and Otto Sofyali.

Lokal: 3-storey bar/club showcasing local talent.

Nu Pera: posher, musically a bit more commercial bar for a slightly older crowd)

11-11: full on club with huge sound system, post-2 o’clock hang out

Babylon: mixed up live/dj music venue always with a great programme with possibility of eating at the Lounge side

Novo: tiny tiny bar for that 80’s 90’s fix

All this and many more restaurants, bars and clubs within 5 min. walking distance, nice!

The night itself as far as I can remember went very well, all the usual suspects were there and Rainer played a great set, as he usually tends to do. A mix up fix up of Brazilian beats, house, tech house and disco-boogie that went down very well with the Babylon crowd.

Just to give you a glimpse of the wonderful sound that was played on the night I’ve asked Rainer to compile a top ten for the night, here we go…

RT´s Root Down meets Babylon 10

1. Mike Monday – Grace (Justin Martin Mix)
2. Ogris Debris – Miezekatze
3. Eddy Meets Yannah – This Is Love (Rainer Trueby Mix) (Compost)
4. dOP: Mambo Jumbo – Guy Gerber Mix
5. Young David – Bubble (Universal Vibes)
6. Hiro – What Are You Trying To Say (SSOH)
7. Michel Cleis – La Mezcla – Charles Webster Rmx.
8. DJ Yellow – Sur La Terre
9. Lovebirds – My Man (KiKN Rmx) (Freerange)
10. Lindstroem & Christabelle – Baby Can’t Stop

The Ogris Debris track is the one to watch out for in my opinion, crazy track, sure to do lots of damage in the coming months worldwide..

A couple or more bottles of wine later we finished the gig, high on the music and that feeling of a gig well done and decided to, well, have some more food!

The great thing about Istanbul in general is that you can get proper food at any time of the day. We headed on to a small place specializing in food from the Black Sea region called Karadeniz Pide Salonu. The food is on display at the entrance, just a matter of pointing out the ones you want and sitting down.. Easy as can be, and finish the meal with a proper glass of tea. Notable guests of this establishment include Ben Westbeech, Bugge Wesseltoft and many more.

Stomachs full we popped in 11-11 for a nightcap, checked out the music which at this time was a blend of tech-house and some progressive touches added for good measure. (Around 4). Had a small “discussion” with the waiters and bodyguards regarding the record bags and was asked if I was planning on going on a trip. We resolved the situation amicably and decided to put said bags in the cloakroom.

After about half an hour we decided to call it a night and as we walked Rainer back to his hotel I tripped on my record bags and fell down, which is something I usually tend to do.

The ride back home was uneventful, another great thing is that you can find taxis around the clock and the fares are quite reasonable.

Saturday 2pm

We met again the next day with Rainer for a relaxing day off of music exchange and food. This is quite a new trend with dj’s coming to Istanbul, play one day relax the other and back to business (can be the other way around too.)

We met at the Hotel which is called Richmond, bang on Istiklal street (the main artery connecting Taksim to Tunel), and walked down towards the Tunel area, where Rainer and I decided to have “Lahmacun” Turkish style mince meat pizza. Definitely give it a go if you come around..

The weather being a bit chilly we hopped in my car and drove to my house to chill out a bit before dinner, exchanged them tunes and I made reservations to a great fish restaurant called Poseidon in a whole different neighborhood called Bebek overlooking the magnificent Bosphorus.

Albeit quite a bit more expensive than the “Meyhane” the Turkish fish restaurant is a superb experience where you will be pampered and treated to all kinds of great “meze” and seafood, good Turkish wine (I currently recommend the Egeo range which is to quote Rainer, very good) or you can go for “Raki” which is the local way.

A few pointers, take your time, expect to have dinner for at least 3 hours. Salad wise go for the roquettes and tomato one. The most important thing though is to choose your fish before sitting down. Any respectable fish restaurant will have all the fish on display at the entrance, take a few moments to get to know them, ask the attending waiter for the seasonal fishes, price per kilo, have him weigh the one you chose to check if it will be enough for your party and have him put it aside for you.

The next step is the most crucial one! Decide on the cooking style. I would recommend grilling the fish (they usually do it on a charcoal grill) whole (tell them not to overcook it) and have it served at the table where they will do the work for you. For smaller fish frying is an option but if a fish is bigger than say your hand, grill it!

Lexicon 2:

Grilled: Izgara

Fried: Tava

After having properly restored ourselves we decide to hit Lucca which is a cozy bar in the heart of Bebek where I am, humbly, the musical director. The drink of choice in Lucca is called Satsuma which is a Vodka based cocktail mixed with Tangerines grown in the agean area of Turkey. I then proceeded to convince Rainer to spin a few tunes which was quite easy. A few glasses of wine later we stumbled out of Lucca, caught a cab and dropped Rainer back at his Hotel. He had to catch an early flight on Sunday but thankfully a guide from Babylon was there to pick him up the next day.

Well, this is it from me, I hope I was able to give you a glimpse of the life in this wonderful city that I call my home. A glimpse because there is so much more to do and see here than cannot possibly be written in a few pages. Museums, sights and sounds, the Bosphorus..

Istanbul is also the European capital of culture 2010 so, this is the perfect time to come and visit this haunting city.

“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.”

Alphonse de Lamartine

Peace – DJ Yakuza