YASEMİN SİM ESMEN
ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News
A cluster of entertainment and dining venues are sprawled at the end of the busy and bustling İstiklal Street in an area near Tünel known as �Asmalımescit.� Although historically the area has housed traditional Turkish drinking houses, or �meyhanes,� frequented by artists, writers, and photographers, the last couple of years have witnessed a change in the clientele and, along with it, the restaurants in the neighborhood.
As younger, �hipper� crowds became the new customers, restaurants have started opening offering more �worldly� cuisine to fit the tastes of a younger and more traveled clientele.
One such newcomer in the neighborhood is �Balkon,� or �balcony� in English, which is located just a couple of doors down from the winter nightclub favorite Babylon. Its name is fitting of its location -- on the rooftop of a historical building.
Luckily there is an elevator. Although a bit bizarre, with a small triangular shape that would surely attract the interest of architects and designers, the elevator saves a long walk all the way up. Off the elevator and up another floor on foot, Balkon reveals itself as busy place on a Friday evening in summer.
The restaurant has a small enclosed space along with two different levels of open space that are connected via a wooden staircase. Needless to say, the tables outside are much more popular than the inside ones. The venue's location at the top of a building allows a slight breeze to cool off customers who have been lucky enough to find a place outside.
Unlike many other venues that offer the same great view, Balkon has a relaxed, cozy atmosphere with small wooden tables and no tablecloths. The dress style is also relaxed, with many customers preferring jeans and t-shirts. This may be because the crowd that frequents the restaurant resembles a �who's who� of the expat community of Istanbul, or at least those between the ages 18 and 30. One is surrounded by numerous languages, with English being the most widely used.
The food is befitting of the cholesterol levels of a younger clientele: Deep fried potatoes, sausages, böreks (fried pastries with meat or cheese inside), or hearty, juicy, lard-fully delicious hamburgers attract attention both on the menu and on the plates on tables.
It seems though that there could still be some improvements. The service falls short of being attentive and timely, and if customers expect the well-meaning waiters to know all the items in the menu, they are sure to be disappointed. One waitress had a hard time explaining �caipirinha,� one of the five or so cocktails in the menu, and was confused when reminded that what she had just described was a �mojito,� another cocktail on the menu with similar ingredients. But to keep things simple, there are still wine, beer, and soft drinks on the menu that one can sip while enjoying the view, which proves to be intoxicating in itself.