Full Disclosure: I was invited as a guest and received a complimentary meal. All opinions as always, are my own.
There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
– George Bernard Shaw
Staying close to a city like New York has a lot of benefits. One of the perks is getting to experience so many different cuisines without ever leaving the city!
Last week I got a chance to visit Cafe Istanbul located in Astoria, Queens. Astoria is famous for its Greek as well as Mediterranean restaurants and it’s one of my favorite places in the city to get a fix of this delicious cuisine.
About Cafe Istanbul
The owner Sonny Sheikh is originally from Mumbai, India who came to the United States at a very young age. He is a really hardworking man and is very passionate about bringing the best food to his customers by using the freshest ingredients in his restaurant.
Cafe Istanbul is a Hookah Lounge but even if you’re not into Hookah, this place is great to just hang out with friends and have good food and have a lovely time.
The vibe of the restaurant is pretty chilled out and relaxed. They have maintained a perfect balance of being upbeat without it being overly loud which can be off-putting to a lot of people, especially for people who just want to catch up with their friends or who want to unwind and relax after a stressful and tiring week at work.
We started our dinner with a refreshing lemonade which had just the right amount of sweetness.
They have an array of hot as well as cold appetizers. Sonny was kind enough to give us a customized platter of a few of their signature appetizers which included – Hummus, Baba Ganoush (made from eggplants) and their very delicious house salads.
The platter also included this dish called – Cigarette Borek which had chicken mixed with a few spices and wrapped in phyllo. The ‘Cigarettes’ are also available in cheese and lamb filling.
I loved the freshly made flavors of the Hummus and Baba Ganoush, but I must admit that the ‘cigarettes’ were truly one of a kind and delicious.
For the Entrees, we really wanted to try out a lamb dish and Sonny suggested that we should try out their lamb chops
The dish was unbeatable with juicy and bold flavors.
But the evening was to get even better with our second entree!
For our second entree, we got the Swai Fish Fillet in our entree which Sonny recommended to us – and let me tell you this dish was phenomenal.
Now I’ll be very honest with you – when it comes to seafood, I generally avoid ordering fish in restaurants and stick to things like shrimps or lobster as I often feel the fish is not seasoned as per my liking.
I tried the Swai Fish for the first time and loved it. The fish in itself has a mild flavor but the way it was seasoned – oooh…I could just go on! Amongst a myriad of exotic flavors, the flavors of crushed coriander and chili were prominent that made this dish extra special.
I have never had such a unique dish anywhere and if you are someone who appreciates good seasonings and are open to experiencing different flavors, you will definitely enjoy this dish.
Save the Best for Last
After our dinner, we decided to try out their Hookah. Although we don’t smoke, we have tried Hookah a few times before.
They have a lot of exotic flavors including ‘Kolkata Paan’ flavor that we tried. For people who have never had ‘paan’ – it’s generally eaten as an after meal mouth freshener made from betel leaves and is very common in South Asian countries.
The hookah was really enjoyable and I could see why people really enjoy coming to this restaurant.
To finish off, we tried their Sulemani Chai (Tea) which had hints of spices in it.
A perfect end to a perfect evening.
We were there for almost 3 hours and honestly, I could have easily waited for another hour or so. The only reason we left was because it was already past 11 pm and we had other plans the next day.
Very few places make you feel the way Cafe Istanbul made us feel – warm and welcoming and a desire to prolong your stay. Next time, we’re definitely going there with some of our close friends to have an even amazing time.
If you’re looking for a place to chill out and relax and take away your worries, Cafe Istanbul is the perfect place for you!
Address: 25-47 Steinway Street, Astoria, NY 11103
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