I am off to London and then Ft. Meyers Florida for the next two weeks, so this will be the first and last post for the month of January.
Unsal Balik—The Best Fish Soup Around
My love affair with a particular fish soup started six years ago, when I started frequenting Termal, a steamy thermal spa across the water from Istanbul that dates back to Roman times. Good friends of ours stumbled upon Unsal Balik in the seaside town of Yalova, and with one taste of their fresh fish soup, a winter weekend tradition was formed.
Unassuming it its design and location, this co-op fish place is just on the banks of the Marmara Sea, and only a ten-minute walk from the ferry port. Upon arrival, you are greeted by chirpy waiters who guide you to the display of abundant fresh fish caught by local fisherman. After making a selection, you are whisked away to a table where the food arrives prompt and fresh. Our good friends, who have since moved back to their home in Nova Scotia—people who know fish—were regulars before our first meal there. Me pregnant with twins, and all of us hungry after a long soak in the Termal hot springs in wintry weather, we welcomed a steamy bowl of fish soup. Delicate and brimming with plump, snowy-white fish meat, topped off with a squeeze of fresh lemon, this soup is worth crossing the Marmara for. In fact, this soup is so good, one time I went minus my husband but was sent with a thermos to be filled to the brim with this heavenly concoction. The waiters were tickled and dutifully filled the vessel with piping hot soup for my koca.
Eating there is always a joy, especially once they started to know who we were, and most importantly, why we were there (the fish soup of course). Warm, smiling faces greet us on our approach, followed closely by the question: “fish soup?”
You can of course, also order a whole fish, and fried calamari, which we usually do. If you catch them on the right day, they serve a tasty shrimp stir fry in a sauce that beckons the fresh, pillowy white bread piled high in the basket. The salads are as alluring as the fruits di mare, green and vibrant and sometimes sprinkled with fresh Marmara shrimp.
In addition to a delectable fish soup, expertly grilled whole fish, crunchy calamari and crisp salads, they serve a signature dessert--baked cinnamon and carrot topped helva. On one visit there with aforementioned friends, at the end of the meal we ordered dessert, and the waiter smiled saying, “I put it in the oven when you arrived.” They know fish, and they know their customers.
So it isn’t only the fish soup that keeps us coming back. The service there truly is service with a smile, quick and efficient to boot, and the price is right. In fact, those dear friends who found it years back, have made several pit stops to Istanbul on their way to Syria, and guess where they go each time?
This is a restaurant not to be missed.