Written by on March 28, 2012 in I Eat Turkey, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(No website found at time of publishing) – Taksim Square, Istiklal Street in Istanbul, Turkey 

How I heard of this place: My friend Aycan put me in touch with her sister Sevcan when I told her we would be in Istanbul for a few days. This was one of her recommendations for the best baklava in town!   

Type of cuisine: On their menu, Saray explains the history of their enterprise: “Desserts from Ottoman kitchens have an entirely different place on our palate. It is a unique pleasure which gives a tremendous satisfaction to produce these wide selection of pastries and puddings in their varieties. As can be seen, since 1935 this important culture has been handed down from our forefathers to our family elders who have carried out this profession and will remain to do so. And in order to bring to you from the Ottoman kitchens the finest desserts, as represntatives of Saray, since its formaion in 1949 in Beyoglu we carry out this tradition with pride. Today and always…

Ambiance: One of the recommendations we were given by a local friend of mine was the Saray Muhallebicisi, established in 1935. Walking down Istiklal, we easily recognized this baklava shop. The dark wooden exterior, framing the huge window spaces gave view to the plethora of baklava and sweet pastry options. Two layers of glass shelving towards the bottom level present cakes, custards, and tray upon tray of baklava. Just above, at shoulder-height for the passerby, and waist-height for the employees inside, trays of baklava, piled high and dripping with sweet, gooey goodness tempt the eye…and the stomach! Inside, the small downstairs space looks grand and opulent. The gold- and cream-tiled floors, lead from yellow wall to glass-front displays with milky cakes and fruity or chocolate-covered pastries. An amber-toned chandelier sits in the raised ceiling space amidst the recessed lighting. Each square table, seating four, is draped in an antique mauve tablecloth, topped with glass. A security man stands guard at the foot of the stairs towards the back of the establishment, and each server is dressed in a white, button-up top and black bowtie, with crisp, long, black apron. Patrons from all walks of life, old and young, couples and families, find a third home at Saray.

What I ordered: To start, Chris was feeling the Turkish vibe of a coffee with his desserts and selected a cup of unsweetened Turkish Coffee (4.50TL). I opted for one of my all-time favorite beverages: Portakal Suyu (freshly squeezed orange juice 5TL). Having taken a quick look around at the beautifully arranged, brightly colored baklava selection in the glass-front displays, I chose the Durum (8.50 TL), a sweet pastry wrap filled with crushed pistachios (sweet, like baklava), and Saray Burma (5.50TL), rolled baklava with walnuts and sprinkled with grated pistachios. Chris chose two very different desserts. The first, Tel Kadayif (7TL), a shredded wheat textured sweet pastry filled with pistachios, and a milky cheesecake-like dessert topped with lightly sweetened, stewed sour cherries.

What I loved: My favorite of all four options was a hard decision between the Durum (I love pistachios!) and the Tel Kadayif, uber-sweet yet muted with the hairy pastry.

Why I loved it: Homemade, daily, with a tradition of excellence, passed down from generation to generation, in a touristy spot with only locals in the know as patrons.

Cost: Average to high (3-8.50TL per dessert selection)

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