What do Kylie Minogue and Istanbul’lu have in common? Nothing, but she must have been well liked by the staff at the newest dining addition to Teele Square as she played throughout dinner. It was a great indicator of the atmosphere at this traditional Turkish bistro, which doesn’t take itself too seriously.
A storefront eatery with about ten tables, which are all cafe style and jam-packed together, Istanbul’lu is not somewhere my date or I would call very romantic. You can literally rub elbows with the other patrons.
After a little consultation from the open and friendly staff, we ordered a round of Turkish Tapas ($4-8) – traditional appetizers of hummus, Dolma (grape leaves), in addition to bread and a red pepper sauce, all of which were delicious. The Tapas were spot on Mediterranean starters, the flavorful Dolma coming with fresh tomatoes and a dollop of Turkish yogurt, the hummus a standard yet well done option. The standout was the red pepper sauce that was provided by the house; it was slightly spicy, tangy, thick and matched perfectly with the hummus.
Undoubtably, the best part of Istanbul’lu is the food, like Sultan’s Delight (~$15) slow roasted lamb floating atop a sea of pureed eggplant and topped with more Turkish yogurt, an incredible and very hearty meal. On the lighter side there is a wide selection of sandwiches. A standout is the Tavuk ($7), a juicy chicken breast with leafy greens, and you guessed it, more Turkish yogurt, placed between two fresh pieces of crunchy bread. The sandwich was delicious, something I wish I could get at Dewick…
The only “misses” of the night were the dessert and drinks. Upon suggestion, we ordered Ayran, a yogurt based drink that was questionable at best, and a shredded Philo dough roll filled with caramelized pistachios. The overly salty and bitter milky drink did not help the dry “mini-wheat” style dessert, which seemed like the only item we received that wasn’t freshly prepared.
Overall, Istanbul’lu delivered yet another unique dining experience in the Teele/Davis area. With its bright décor, eager to please staff, and great food, it’s an easy recommendation to the foody population of Tufts. I would suggest a lunch time trip or a weekend jaunt to this small Turkish Bistro.
Istanbul’lu – 237 Holland St. Somerville, MA 02144
Recommended: Sultan’s delight, all Tapas, Tavuk sandwich
All major cards accepted
Hours: 10am-10pm, closed Monday